NFL Security Head Shares Leadership and Learning Guidance
Cathy Lanier, the senior vice president of security for the National Football League (NFL) and former Washington, D.C., chief of police, discusses lifelong learning, mentorship, and honest leadership in this bonus SM podcast, part of a special series on management and leadership from the ASIS Mentoring Committee, part of the ASIS Professional Development Council.
Lanier spent the first 26 years of her career as a police officer in Washington, D.C., working her way up from a foot patrol to the chief of police, a position she held for 10 years. In 2016, she left the D.C. police to join the NFL as its chief security officer.
In the podcast, she outlines the necessity for leaders, supervisors, and managers to master good communication to both subordinates and superiors about resources, tasks, and processes. She also describes how mentorship shaped her career path, either from mentors she sought out and studied or those who noticed her drive to succeed and pushed her further.
“Life is all about learning, and you should always be learning,” she says. “There’s no better way to learn than from real people.”
Lifelong learning is a personal mantra for Lanier, who started her law enforcement career with a 9th grade education but pursued educational opportunities throughout her tenure, earning two master’s degrees. “The only thing that scares me is what I don’t know,” she says. “So when I don’t know about something, I go and learn.”
She recommends that new entrants to the security profession diversify their portfolios of education by looking beyond security or criminology courses, instead pursuing skills and majors that could serve them well as they advance in their careers—such as management.
For emerging leaders, she advises that they strive to be themselves, rather than mirroring a leadership theory. Lanier would try to adopt the traits she most respected from leaders in her career, but it always boiled down to being herself, being transparent, being honest—even when honesty is not comfortable, being able to admit mistakes, and being able to change her mind.
“Continue to push yourself; don’t be intimidated by things,” she adds.
Past Leadership in Action podcasts with Jacobs' VP of Global Security Joe Olivarez on influence and SANDIA National Labs' Basil Steele on mentorship are available in the Security Management podcast archive here.