Which kind of security professional are you?

Much has been said and written about the arrogance prevalent in the computer industry, especially that of gamers and security professionals.

A well-known female gamer recently felt compelled to launch an anti-harassment support network after being harassed online, being subjected to doxing and bullying, and receiving death threats over the internet. Other women have withdrawn from the gaming industry altogether.

(Some) security professionals are arrogant, too. For those unaware of this, just google “computer security arrogance.”

Since I became a part of the industry, I had to decide what kind of a security professional I wanted to be – humble or arrogant. When new to a community or a group, you look up to the leaders – the supremos – for inspiration. Fortunately, I came across recognized and very humble security professionals, and I then knew what I stood for. Whether or not I have achieved the desired level of humility is a different story, but what’s important is that I’m willing to work on it.

Arrogance is defined as “having or displaying a sense of overbearing self-worth or self-importance. Marked by or arising from a feeling or assumption of one’s superiority toward others.” Arrogant individuals are also called haughty, disdainful, supercilious.

What does your inner voice say? Which kind of a professional are you? Are you arrogant, haughty and superior? Or humble, modest and respectful?

To help you decide, here are a few indicators. You are arrogant if you avoid eye contact, interrupt conversations frequently, have an answer for everything, drop names out of context, arrive consistently late to meetings and don’t apologize, use condescending phrases and put-downs, have a dominating body language when you walk into a room, always ahead of the other person, bad-mouth competitors and blame someone else for your mistakes.

Some believe that humility is a sign of weakness and arrogance a sign of strength. However, the world has seen leaders of all kinds. Let’s delve a bit into history, politics and philosophy.

The humble one
George Washington was a humble leader. He considered his role of president of the United States as that of a public servant rather than a mighty ruler. A living example of humility is José “Pepe” Mujica – the president of Uruguay since 2010. He has, in fact, been described as “the world’s ‘humblest’ president”, due to his austere lifestyle and his donation of around 90 percent of his monthly salary to charities. He also believes a president is a civil servant and not a king.

The arrogant one
One of the most acclaimed leaders in the history of the world was Alexander the Great, a young Macedonian king who believed that ability, focus, and determination would enable him to conquer the world. By age twenty he became king and by twenty-six master of the entire eastern half of the ancient world. But, each successive conquest along with the power and wealth that came with it bred arrogance in him instead of caution, moderation, and reflection. 

The one who acknowledged the problem

Benjamin Franklin – writer, politician, scientist, and the connector of people and ideas, went on a quest for “moral perfection” and found that humility, however elusive, proved worth the effort even though he didn’t succeed at perfecting it. To make himself seem more humble, he used phrases such as “I conceive” or “I apprehend” rather than “certainly,” “undoubtedly,” etc.

Some critics argue that he was mocking the 18th-century optimism, which promoted the belief in the perfectibility of man, while others seemed convinced his efforts were genuine. Either way, Franklin seemed to be clearly aware of the humility vs. arrogance problem.

Even if you’re not a leader or a CIO or a CISO, you need to acknowledge the problem and strive to achieve humility. Think about what you want to be known for and inspire others by your actions. Great leaders or professionals don’t need to act tough as their confidence and humility serve to accentuate their toughness.

It is very important to remember there is a difference between confidence and arrogance. I believe this quote sums it up well:

“Some say there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance; I think just the opposite. Confident people are secure with themselves while arrogant people are insecure and have to boast to get acceptance from others.” – Kamari aka Lyrikal

Here is a great source that explains the difference between false humility, true humility and pride.

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