By: Maggie Downs

Think you don’t need to be concerned about cybersecurity? Think again.

Research from the University of Maryland found that a cyber-attack, (which includes ransomware issues, data security breaches, phishing attempts, and malware infections), occurs every 39 seconds. By 2025, such attacks are estimated to cost companies worldwide about $10.5 trillion.

This should be a real concern. After all, much of our data lives in the digital space, and we entrust business leaders and people within our households to keep our information secure.

In today's interconnected and digitalized world, where cyber threats are rampant, certain leadership styles can be a cybersecurity advantage, while other leaders can put your organization at risk. No matter if you’re the head of a company or CEO of your own side hustle, you can elevate your knowledge on the topic by taking courses in UCR University Extension’s program in Applied Cybersecurity, which can help you stay informed, protect your home or business, or even kickstart a new career.

Here are some ways to consider how you might leverage your personal leadership style to an advantage when it comes to combating cybersecurity:

  • Cybersecurity is not solely the responsibility of IT professionals; it requires a collective effort across all departments. Collaborative leaders promote cross-functional communication and cooperation, breaking down silos that may impede the sharing of crucial information. This open communication facilitates a more comprehensive understanding of potential threats and vulnerabilities, enabling a more robust cybersecurity strategy.

  • One leadership style that stands out is transformational leadership. Transformational leaders inspire and motivate their teams to achieve beyond their perceived capabilities. In the context of cybersecurity, this style encourages a proactive approach towards identifying and addressing potential threats. Leaders who foster a transformational environment instill a sense of responsibility and accountability among team members, promoting a collective effort to safeguard sensitive information.

  • Transactional leaders focus on setting clear expectations and providing rewards or consequences based on performance. In the cybersecurity landscape, adhering to established protocols and compliance measures is paramount. Transactional leaders ensure that team members follow standardized security practices, reducing the likelihood of human error and exploitation of vulnerabilities.

  • Are you the type of person who adapts your approach based on the specific challenge at hand? You might be a situational leader. In the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats, having leaders who can quickly assess situations and make informed decisions is invaluable. Whether it's a sudden breach or a sophisticated attack, situational leaders guide their teams through effective crisis management and response strategies.

  • People-first leaders can contribute to a strong cybersecurity posture by prioritizing the well-being and development of team members. Leaders who embody this philosophy create a positive and supportive work environment, fostering loyalty and commitment among employees. In the context of cybersecurity, this can translate to a workforce that is more vigilant and committed to upholding security best practices.

However, it's essential to recognize that no leadership style is a one-size-fits-all solution. Every style brings unique advantages to the table; employed thoughtfully, this can foster a cybersecurity-conscious culture, empowering your organization to navigate the complex landscape of cyber threats with ease.

Keep in mind that while strong leadership is an asset for organizational success, it can also pose significant cybersecurity risks if not properly managed. Leaders, irrespective of their intentions, can inadvertently become a liability for an organization's digital defenses.

  • One prominent risk lies in the lack of cybersecurity awareness. If individuals are not well-versed in the evolving landscape of cyber threats and the importance of security measures, they may inadvertently overlook critical vulnerabilities. This ignorance can lead to poor decision-making, such as neglecting to invest in robust cybersecurity infrastructure or underestimating the potential impact of a cyberattack.

  • Leadership can also be a cybersecurity risk when there is a failure to prioritize employee training and awareness. If leaders do not emphasize the significance of cybersecurity hygiene and provide ongoing training to employees, the organization becomes susceptible to human errors.

Phishing attacks, for example, often exploit the lack of awareness among employees, and leaders play a pivotal role in shaping the culture of cybersecurity within the organization.

  • In some instances, leaders may be the target of cyber threats themselves. Cybercriminals may exploit the trust and authority associated with leadership roles to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information or initiate fraudulent transactions. Thus, leaders become not only potential points of vulnerability but also lucrative targets for digital adversaries.

  • Another aspect to consider is the impact of leadership decisions on cybersecurity policies and practices. If leaders prioritize business goals over their own security, they may inadvertently weaken the organization's defenses. For example, pushing for rapid introduction of new technologies without adequate security assessments or relaxing security protocols for the sake of convenience can expose the organization to unnecessary risks.