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Illustration by iStock, Security Management.

Aim for Authenticity at CSO Secure Horizons

Last year at GSX, the conversation among CSOs focused on what the new normal after the COVID-19 pandemic would look like. This year, these executives will home in on how the current global threat landscape has turned security leadership on its ear.

In response to the changes brought by artificial intelligence (AI), geopolitical challenges, supply chain complexities, and more, CSOs need to be informed, confident, and clear communicators, says Lida Citroën, an award-winning branding and reputation management expert who will be leading a group of security leaders in a weekend of education sessions, in-depth discussions, and thought-provoking case studies as part of Secure Horizons—an exclusive CSO Center event before GSX kicks off.



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“In the past, perhaps, in all industries, we’ve relied on technical expertise,” Citroën says. “You had the competency, you had the credentials; that should infer a level of responsibility, authority, and influence. But in the work that I’ve done, we know that across industries that doesn’t give it to you anymore. Especially when we think about influence—it isn’t compliance, it isn’t coercion. It’s really building support, building community, and having people trust you when you say something and not go and verify, fact-check, and be skeptical.”


“What we’re building for GSX are really tools to help them position themselves not necessarily with the competency piece but with the presence piece—how do you communicate through storytelling, through narrative, through networking and relationships, through confidence-building tools with how you carry yourself,” she continues. “These are nuances to leadership that have been talked about in other industries a lot, but perhaps they are more needed today than ever in the security industry.”

Citroën participated in CSO Center programming at GSX 2022, and something about GSX and ASIS International keeps bringing her back.

“There is something about ASIS,” she says. “What I’ve realized is: these are fabulous people who are so passionate about the work that they’re doing, and that’s the type of place I want to be. I’ve had conversations that have continued throughout the year. What I’ve experienced at GSX in particular is that the people are really paying attention. When I’ve had follow-up conversations with people I met there, they refer to something I said or something they experienced in the exhibit hall or another session, and the information is really sticking. And that’s a unique experience that ASIS is providing.”

Secure Horizons 2023 was designed with input from Citroën, CSO Center members, and ASIS International staff to give CSOs the opportunity to practice skills with peers and industry experts to help the information sink in while building long-term relationships. This year’s two-day intensive program will focus on building executive presence, managing reputation, leveraging strategic storytelling and effective communications, and leading through credibility crises.

“In my experience in the work that I do, I think most people are overconfident about their trustworthiness and their self-awareness—which probably goes hand-in-hand,” Citroën says.

But trust is a precious commodity, and people have less of it than you might assume, Citroën says. During a crisis, leaders will not have the luxury of time to have trust-fostering conversations and build authentic relationships—they must already exist to serve any positive purpose in an emergency. So, CSOs need to invest time and effort in early outreach and nuanced communication that connects with their audience in a genuine and memorable way.

“It’s not about perfection, but it absolutely is about consistency,” she notes.

Citroën will be working with CSOs at the event to identify storytelling techniques that work from the frontline to the boardroom. This doesn’t mean telling fables or “once upon a time” tales, but instead crafting an effective message that frames key takeaways in context. These techniques will enable listeners to remember and accurately retell security’s message.

“Storytelling involves the structure of communication, how you organize your idea and your message, and also being really sensitive and aware of the person you’re speaking to,” Citroën says. “Do they have all the information? Are you speaking five steps ahead of where their knowledge is? How do they feel about the information? Is there a bias or a misperception that you’re trying to communicate through and not even realize? How much credibility do you have in trying to communicate that story? These are soft skills, but they are critical to being able to lead in any kind of organization.”

Along with her work on Secure Horizons, Citroën will present “Power Up Your Personal Brand: Grow Your Professional Influence,” which is open to all GSX attendees at the Career HQ Stage on Monday, 11 September, at 12:30 p.m.

Learn more about Secure Horizons on its event Web page. Learn more about the CSO Center and member eligibility here.

Claire Meyer is managing editor of Security Management, which publishes the GSX Daily. Connect with her at [email protected] or on LinkedIn.