The CEO, Denial, and Executive Protection
In terms of survival, nature gave us a great gift: our intuition or “gut instinct”. We all can relate to having that innate feeling that something was not quite right. Whether it was the hair on the back of our neck standing on end or that funny feeling in the pit of our stomach, we felt that danger was close-by. Our instinct and senses told us so. People who find themselves in this situation know they only have four options at their disposal depending on the circumstances – freeze (to do nothing), run, hide, or fight. From my perspective, it is the first that causes the greatest risk, yet this is what happens much of the time.
Denial and Rationalization
Author John Leach shares, “Many witnesses attest that victims of a disaster often perish despite reasonable possibilities for escaping because their behavior during the initial moments of the accident was inappropriate to the situation. Frequently witnesses report victims ‘freezing’ in the face of danger.” So, why do people often fail to react to threats by foregoing their intuition? The answer to this question can be found in nature’s second gift; one that often overpowers intuition: Denial! Denial can be an all-powerful force often overriding intuition. Denial can lead us to believe we are safe when we are not. To complicate things more, denial has a strong ally, and it’s called rationalization. Denial provides the seeds for incorrectly and unsafely assessing the situation one finds themselves in and rationalization offers the fertilizer and water for a potentially hazardous outcome.
There are many reasons why rationalization occurs, and denial is one of them. We simply do not want to believe that someone will carry out their implied or specific threats. We can become overwhelmed with this horrible thought and simply do not want to acknowledge the dangers or deal with them. Rationalization comes in many forms especially in response to veiled threats. Excuses are made to explain away the behavior attributed to the individual; comments such as “They were only joking” and “They don’t mean it” serve as prime examples of rationalization and denial at work. Another concern is the ignoring of threats based on one’s personal assessment or belief when they have no training or experience to base this on.
Another form of rationalization is ego and the feeling of invincibility. While I believe in the concept of never living in fear, we need to avoid a cavalier approach that ignores danger signs and the credible advice of security professionals.
Executive Protection and the CEO
While the need for protection can transcend all levels of an organization dependent on the nature of the threat, the perceived figure head or “face of the organization” is often targeted due to their high-profile position. In politics, it’s government leaders who hold office, as evidenced by the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (Louisiana) and others during a congressional baseball practice in Alexandra, Virginia. In the private sector, it can be the CEO. The CEO is the face of the organization and can substantially contribute to the public’s perception of the company’s brand image. It is this position that often garners threats and acts of aggression from inside and outside the organization. These threats can also include the CEO’s family and home. The CEO must always be aware they may not be the only one at risk. Often, risk extends to the organization the CEO is responsible for.
While there is no doubt a CEO is a special individual who has accomplished incredible success, this does not mean they are immune to denial and rationalization. Typical reactions from CEOs considering executive protection can include:
These reactions are justified; but, we know the public, media, government regulators and others do a very good job of taking a catastrophic event and working backwards to determine where the weak link lays; that point during the event’s early developmental stage where a decision was made that dictated a course of action or, in some cases, no response. If the threat and response strategy was incorrectly minimized, then this is where blame and subsequent consequences will be focused.
One benchmark for assessing the validity of the aforementioned reactions is answering one simple question: Should an attack occur, upon hindsight, what could have been done differently? This is where denial and rationalization most often rears its ugly head and sets in motion future heartache and regret. When there is the opportunity to introduce a mitigation strategy that balances overreaction with under-reaction while neutralizing the threat, then denial and rationalization is eliminated and safety enhanced.
Executive Protection: Is it for you?
When considering executive protection for a CEO, their family or other organizational leaders, PRS recommends focusing on the following:
Benefits of Executive Protection
The benefits of EP are extensive and need to be considered when conducting a cost-benefit analysis: Benefits include:
Executive protection and weighing the need for it can be a complicated endeavor. PRS is prepared to assess your situation, offer guidance based on a foundation of reasonableness and objectivity and partner with critical stakeholders to create a safe and productive future. Contact the PRS team for further information.