On paper, a chief security officer (CSO) may be ranked on the same level as other C-suite executives, as high up in the management tier as the chief financial officer, the chief technology officer, the chief operations officer, and so on. Yet it often doesn’t seem that way in practice. A security executive may be perceived as the firm’s “top cop”–serving a crucial function, certainly, but not thought of as a true business leader in the same way that the company’s other executives are. The CSO may in fact have less business school training than his or her executive peers, which can lead to feelings of insecurity, of feeling like an “other,” in the world of upper management.
But this kind of second-tier status is not a fait accompli for CSOs, not even for those who come into organizations that do not initially value them as executive equals. Security chiefs can reach out, build executive allies, and foster close working relationships that benefit not only the executives involved, but also the company at large, which is more likely to prosper with a tight-knit executive team, management experts say.