Learning to Lead in Cyberworld

At another moment in time this would’ve been a big story. But, at this moment in time, it’s gotten buried in all the other ostensibly even bigger stories. Still, it’s a big deal. It’s so big a deal that attention must be paid.

Two days ago, the Wall Street Journal ran an article with this headline: “Chinese Hackers Attack U. S. Navy, Report Says.” Well, I thought, so what else is new? Yet another story about how China got the better of America in cyberspace.

Turns out the item was not in the least routine. Turns out the Navy and its industry partners have been “under cyber siege” by the Chinese, with consequences that threatened, according to the Navy itself, the U. S. standing as the world’s preeminent military power.

How could this have happened? How could one of America’s armed services be, apparently, so woefully underdefended against an attack that frequently was foretold?

I have no claim whatsoever to military expertise. And I have no claim whatsoever to technological expertise. But I do have some claim to leadership expertise. To expertise in how to educate, train, and develop leaders. Here then is what struck me.  The Navy’s own review of what happened is “especially scathing in its assessment of how it addressed cybersecurity challenges.” Naval officials “were faulted for failing to anticipate that adversaries would attack the defense industrial base and not adequately informing those partners of the cyber threat.” (Italics mine.) In other words, in my words, naval leaders are still learning the old-fashioned way. They are still being taught to focus too much on themselves, and too little on everyone else and everything else. In the third decade of the twenty first century this antiquated approach to learning to lead has got to change – lest Americans continue to be played for suckers.

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