Application Essay Guidelines
We aspire to develop engineers and managers who can be leaders in our industry. To help ground so broad a term, the Past President of the SANS Technology Institute, Stephen Northcutt, wrote a Leadership Essay to help characterize and expand upon our definition of leadership. Please read his essay and explore some of the resources he suggests. Then, write two to three single-spaced pages in your own words about your own preferred definition(s) of leadership, some competencies where you believe you have strengths, and also the competencies you would most like to develop. Relate each competency to personal and/or professional experience, or discuss how you intend to use the master's program and your work experience over the next three years to further your leadership goals. Include a discussion of why 'leadership', rather than just 'engineering' or 'management', is particularly important in the information security field at this time.
By Stephen Northcutt
AbstractLeadership is a broad term, open to interpretation. However, it is the core focus of the SANS Technology Institute's mission. The purpose of this essay is to define what we mean by leadership, express the core compencies you will be exposed to in the program, and discuss what leadership means in the context of information security.
Definition of Leadership
A leader is a person who guides or inspires others within an organization or community to achieve a goal. Leadership development begins with the simple realization that you want to be a leader. Life has many opportunities to press forward and take charge of a situation, or conversely, to shrink into the background. This is why we ask prospective students to write an essay about demonstrated leadership when they apply to our school.
Leadership and Competencies
What does leadership mean, how do you measure leadership? One approach is through management and leadership competencies. We define competencies as measurable skills, knowledge, and abilities that identify successful managers in the information security discipline. In your graduate program, you will be exposed to core competencies. They are covered in your required course, ISE 5600: IT Security Leadership Competencies or ISM 5400: IT Security Planning, Policy, and Leadership. Some of the competencies that you will be taught are reinforced by specific course work and exercises:
- Team Development and Relationship Building: This will occur when you attend a SANS conference and interact with fellow students, and as a result of both of your group projects.
- Importance of Communication: The presentation skills course, ISE/ISM 5000 (SANS MGT 305), will help you develop your oral and written communication skills.
- Self-Direction: We will monitor your progress throughout the program, but it will be up to you to register for and complete courses within the allowed time at a proper level of quality.
- Coaching and Training: One of your final degree requirements will be to teach a Security Awareness course in your own community.
- Leadership Qualities: The faculty you will work with are leaders in the field of information security. Look to them to model leadership in the information security field.
- Vision Development: As a graduate student, you will be required to present original, creative work through the research papers.
- Project Planning: You will learn about Project Management Planning in ISE/ISM 5800 (SANS MGT 525) and a project plan is a requirement of one of the group projects.
Other competencies listed below will be taught in your required courses:
- Conflict Resolution
- Employee Involvement
- Change Management
- Motivation of Employees and Teammates
- Leadership Development
- Leading Tribes
- Leading Change
Two competencies are more important than all the others. How does a leader guide or inspire? They have to be great communicators. Therefore, two of the most important skills you will work on are:
- Ability to communicate well orally
- Ability to communicate well in writing
Leaders in information assurance often have different goals. Some leadership roles in information security are similar to other disciplines, others are unique. A few examples of security leadership roles are listed below:
- Manager, team leader or project manager
- The technical "go to" person
- Thought leader, often through writing and speaking
- Instructor, mentor
- Tribe leader, someone that can build a large following to accomplish a goal
- Change Agent, someone who uses their thought leadership position to alter the way we look at technology or process
- Technical tool author who creates or leads the team that develops a security tool whether open source or commercial
What is the difference between a manager and a leader? A successful leader needs all of the same competencies as a manager, but some of the competencies must be more developed. For instance, vision. You can be a successful manager with a minimal capability for vision. In fact, that is something Human Resources may look for in an industry that is based on repeatable tasks. However, you cannot lead without vision. The Security Thought Leaders interview series introduces a number of visionary leaders in the information assurance industry. In addition, you must have power beyond your positional power, the authority that comes with your role or job description. For many students in the MSISE program, this will lead to something called expert power  people will want to be on your team partly because of your knowledge of technical security. Our goal is for you to be able to work at the highest technical level in your organization. The students in the MSISM program will also receive courses and assignments to develop expert power, people will want to work with you because they feel that you have both programmatic skills and a strong understanding of technical issues. They will look for you to be a bridge between management and technical groups in your organization.
Senior Leadership and Statesmanship
One reason to start focusing on your leadership skills today is that leadership is learned over years, not months. The best way to become a senior leader is by studying competencies and having the discipline to make them become habits and tools in your life. We can define a senior leader as someone who attains a highly respected rank, examples include:
- CEO, CTO, CSO, CISO
- Board member, Chairman of the Board
- President, Vice President
- Bishop, Cardinal
- Mayor, Senator, Representative
Perhaps the highest level of leadership is the statesman, a respected leader in national or international affairs, a person that devotes some or all of their energy to public service and to improve the common good. They have mastered the management, leadership and governance competencies and use the experience from a long and respected career to benefit others.
References1.http://resource.udallas.edu/132/bases_of_social_power.pdf link was visited 9/14/2011
Leadership Essay Version 1.8
Other Related Articles in Leadership Lab: Management Competencies
- Leadership Essay - Feb 7th, 2012
What leadership means to me
Leadership is defined by different individuals according to their ways of understanding. The most important is that leadership demands establishment of a following. A leader must command a following. Leadership styles differ, and this results in their subjects seeing them in different ways.
Working and living demand better environments. A leader should focus on bettering both the living and working environment. In our homes pollution and interferences from neighbors are expected, a leader in the community must focus on ensuring cleanliness and mutual understanding in the community. Understanding and purity will guarantee his/her subject a better home environment. At workplaces, leaders are expected to ensure employees are working in the best environment. For example, employees working in hospitals, the leaders must ensure the hospital administration gives the employees better facilities of doing work. The leaders can also bring understanding amongst workers to provide a peaceful environment in the workplace.
A leader must know himself and the subjects. A good leader should be aware of the weaknesses and strengths of the team. Knowing the strength and weakness of your team as a leader gives ideas of how an issue can be approached to get success. The team feels appreciated by knowing that their leader knows their abilities. Production of the team is also improved as every member will be given duties according to his/her ability. Instances of scolding are also minimized to a high level.
A good leader in any organization must be humble, courageous and confident. Leadership can at times be challenging because the leader deals with individuals of varied characters, origin and having different religious and social beliefs. The great diversity of people needs humility to melt them down to do as the leader wants. The leader must learn to step down and occasionally join the subjects in doing their work. Joining the subjects in doing work will improve not only the quality of work but also the relationship between the leader and the subjects. At times the subjects might fear to take some crucial decisions; the leader must be courageous enough to tell people to go on. The courage will convince people that they have a good leader. A good leader must be confident both in front of the subjects and other people. Leaders are expected to exhibit the best face of an organization; anywhere the leader is representing a group the leader must be confident. For example in explaining projects so far achieved by the group and proposals of the group the head must appear to know what is on the ground.
In cases where there is no solution, a leader must be the solution. At work, there can be challenging situations that need critical thinking and fast decision making, in such circumstances the leader is expected to step in and provide a solution. Also at home, there can be conflicts amongst the community members; a leader must help in finding satisfying conflict resolution mechanisms to solve the problem permanently. Good decision making will influence a leader’s subjects to always believe in the leader’s leadership approach.
A leader must be a good listener. A leader is expected to deal with all kinds of situations and provide an effective solution e.g. in providing an amicable solution to a conflict; a leader must listen keenly to both parties involved in the conflict. Since a leader is expected to be a solution to problems affecting the subjects, a leader must listen to the subjects with great wisdom. The subjects will feel the leader values them, and in return, the subjects will respect their leader.
Leadership is good both for organizations and communities, for their success. A leader must have excellent leadership skills to lead effectively.