Emotional Intelligence - CISO(s) POV

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Scientifically, Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflicts.

In our recent episodes on “Security that Speaks to Heart” our expert, Shivani Arni gave a very thoughtful statement saying; “When I am able to recognize my own emotions, I'll be able to recognize the person I'm talking to in front of me, his/her emotions”.

What are the five key elements of Emotional Intelligence?

Self Awareness

Self-awareness means having a deep understanding of self-emotions, strengths, weaknesses, driving factors, and most importantly the effect on others. The ability to recognize and understand your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior.

One can evaluate oneself by introspection and asking questions like;

  • How aware are you of your own emotions?
  • How are you able to identify?
  • Do you have the ability to control your emotions?
  • How do your emotions work for you, does it bring positive or negative change?

Self Regulation

A person's ability to manage their emotions and impulses. It's essentially being in control of how you react to situations and your feelings. It allows you to think before you act. The ability to be aware of your feelings and being able to control them in a way that allows us to take thoughtful actions and decisions, rather than being ruled by your emotions.

You can practice self-regulation by asking questions like;

  • How are you able to handle unexpected situations?
  • Are you able to apply/control your emotions without affecting yourself and others?
  • Are you able to identify triggers when people set you off emotionally?
  • Are you able to reframe the negative thoughts in a more positive light?


It is a key component of emotional intelligence. It is the combination of internal drive and external factors (like friends & family) that push us to achieve our goals, feel fulfilled, and live life meaningfully. I, The word to keep in mind is “achieve”. By understanding and nurturing your intrinsic motivation, you can develop a powerful internal drive that fuels your emotional intelligence and propels you toward achieving your goals.

“Motivation comes from within” adds Shivani. And focusing on a few things and prioritizing can help;

  • When learning new things, focus on “what’s in it for me and the organization” personal and professional goals.
  • Always look out for feedback from the people around you. Ex. improvement areas, things that you are good at, etc.
  • Remind yourself of the deeper purpose behind your goals. What will achieving them mean to you?
  • Feeling overwhelmed by having a BIG goal, the idea is to break this goal into smaller milestones “Having and keeping short-term and long-term goals to achieve will help.
  • Take time to visualize success, imagining yourself achieving the goals will boost your confidence.


The ability to understand and share the feelings of others. To make it simpler, Shivani explains “When we are talking to people, our ability to understand, empathize. You don’t need to put yourself into their shoes and sympathize. However, maintaining the right balance between sympathy and empathy can make a huge difference.

“Motivation comes from within” adds Shivani. And focusing on a few things and prioritizing can help;

  • Do you listen or pay close attention when people talk to you both verbally and non-verbally?
  • Do you let the other person talk and share their thoughts and feelings.
  • Do you imagine yourself in their situation, how do you feel? This is to understand from others perspectives. Try to see things from their perspective.
  • Helping others can be a great way to develop empathy by exposing yourself to different experiences and perspectives

Last but not least;

Social skills

The ability to build strong relationships, communicate effectively, and resolve conflict constructively. It is also recognized as one of the best parts of emotional intelligence. Because, having social skills can help an individual to learn better, communicate better, connect better, and network better.

Why emotional intelligence is important for security leaders?

In today’s fast-paced and evolving world, CISOs and other security leaders should not only have technical expertise but also possess strong emotional intelligence to effectively lead their teams, navigate organizational dynamics, and foster a culture of security within their organization.

With not just limiting this to security constraints. Shivani further explains that, for anybody who holds this level of position where he/she needs to handle a team, faces impulsive situations, and expects the unexpected (cyber incident for example) emotional intelligence can help them in handling the crisis by calming themselves and concentrating on recovery.

Emotional intelligence can help them stay calm in such situations, and help to have a different perspective on any given situation. This can help security leaders stay away from making any impulsive decisions than managing the situation.

Because you never know the intentions of an unknown risk and how and when it could affect you/the organization. When it comes to infosec and related areas, Security leaders are sitting on a hot seat and they will need to be prepared for the worst. To combat such situations, one needs to practice emotional intelligence as it can significantly make an impact on a security leader’s life in both personal and professional ways.

For example - When an unknown situation occurs and we are needed to collaborate and work with different stakeholders what helps is having these 5 skills we spoke about above. We all work with different teams within an organization whether in security or other professions. We need to have good networking skills which helps build relationships with other teams and helps navigate the unknown risks by understanding the perspective of the individual, teams, or processes. Having the right attitude in such situations can help security leaders drive these conversations and situations smoothly and peacefully.

Below are the key reasons why emotional intelligence is essential for cloud and cyber security leaders

Effective communication and relationship-building

CISOs should effectively communicate security risks and strategies to stakeholders including executives, business leaders, board members, etc. Having strong EI enables them to tailor their communication style, build rapport, and gain feedback from a diverse set of stakeholders.

Leading security teams

CISOs sometimes oversee security teams composed of individuals with diverse technical expertise and backgrounds. EI allows CISOs to create a positive and motivated work environment, recognize and appreciate individual contributions, and effectively manage team bonding.

Navigating organizational politics and dynamics

CISOs often operate under political landscapes and complex organizational structures and also have other competing priorities. EI can help them understand the motivations and perspectives of other stakeholders and business leaders, build consensus, and influence decisions without any forceful action.

Managing stress and resilience

Unfortunately, the CISO role is inherently stressful and demands constant vigilance. They also need to have powerful decision-making skills to react to evolving threats and security breaches. Strong EI helps them manage stress effectively, stay calm under pressure, and make sound decisions in challenging situations.

Empathizing with users and stakeholders

Understanding the concerns of users and stakeholders to keep a balance between security measures and business objectives is a must. Strong emotional intelligence allows CISOs to empathize with different perspectives, address user concerns, and find solutions that meet required security measures as well as business objectives.

Building a culture of security

Strong EI allows CISOs to communicate security measures effectively and in return easily cultivate security awareness within the organization. This also engages employees in security initiatives and fosters a culture that prioritizes data protection and threat mitigation.

Adapting to change and embracing innovation

As we all know, the cloud security landscape is constantly evolving, requiring CISOs to adapt to new technologies, threats, and regulations. Having strong emotional intelligence enables CISOs to adapt to change, and learn from their mistakes.

For CISOs, By developing and enhancing your emotional intelligence; you can become more effective leaders, enhance security posture, and contribute to the overall success of your organizations.

Does building the right culture help security leaders?

“Every individual has their way of fostering a culture, and building relationships with others, managing teams, etc” - Shivani Arni

In today’s date, no one needs micromanagement. Keeping this in mind, if security leaders allow their team members to work in their own space for example trying new things, exploring the security aspects of any particular set practice, bringing new ideas to the table, etc can make them feel comfortable and psychologically create a strong leader mindset within themself.

Having this kind of environment will help team members to openly share their ideas, and also mistakes that were practiced unintentionally. This also allows leaders to resolve internal misconfigurations with ease and before any mishaps.

There are times when even security leaders can practice methods that are not suitable for the organization. At such times, team members should feel free and have the courage to comfortably share their honest feedback with their leader and ask for a check.

Team members having a sense of confidence within themselves that their leaders are with them when they start with anything new can help leaders more positively.


Emotional intelligence is a crucial competency for cloud security leaders, enabling them to effectively communicate, motivate, influence, and navigate complex organizational structures to foster a culture of security within the organization. Through strong EI, CISOs become more effective leaders in the ever-evolving cloud security landscape.

You can watch our complete podcast episode with Shivani Arni on our YouTube channel

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