10 Must-Have Meta-Skills Every CISO and Cybersecurity Leader Needs

10 Must-Have Meta-Skills Every CISO and Cybersecurity Leader Needs

"Meta skills" refer to higher-order skills that enable a person to utilize and manage other, more specific skills effectively. Meta-skills are overarching abilities or competencies that enable individuals to adapt, learn, and perform effectively across various tasks, situations, and environments.

Unlike hard skills, which are specific, teachable abilities that can be easily measured (e.g., coding, data analysis), meta-skills are often soft skills that are more abstract, less tangible, and harder to quantify. They serve as a framework for using, adapting, and integrating various specialized skills in real-world situations.

These skills are often transferable across different domains and are foundational for leveraging specialized skills.

Here are the following ten meta-skills, including recommendations (books, courses, and  activities) to hone each  of the following Meta-skills:

1. Critical Thinking

The ability to analyze information objectively, evaluate different viewpoints, and make logical and informed decisions. This skill is valuable in almost any context, from business decisions to personal choices.

Books: "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman, "The Demon-Haunted World" by Carl Sagan
Courses: Coursera's "Critical Thinking: Reasoning and Interpretation" or edX's "Analytic Combinatorics."
Activities: Join a debate club, engage in discussions that challenge your viewpoints

2. Problem-Solving

The capacity to approach challenges in a structured manner, identifying the root cause and coming up with practical solutions. This is crucial in both professional and personal settings.

Books: "How to Solve It" by George Pólya, "The Art of Problem Solving" by Richard Rusczyk
Courses: Udemy's "Master the Art of Problem-Solving" or MIT's OpenCourseWare "Introduction to Problem-Solving"
Activities: Participate in hackathons and solve puzzles like Sudoku or logic puzzles

3. Adaptability

The ability to adjust to new conditions or changes in the environment quickly and efficiently. This is particularly important in today's rapidly changing world.

Books: "Who Moved My Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson, "Deep Work" by Cal Newport
Courses: LinkedIn Learning's "Developing Adaptability as a Manager"
Activities: Take on new roles or projects outside your comfort zone, engage in improvisational activities

4. Communication

Practical written and verbal communication skills enable you to articulate your ideas clearly and understand others. This is foundational in almost every aspect of work and life.

Books: "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie, "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" by Robert Cialdini
Courses: Udemy's "Communication Skills: Become More Clear, Concise, & Confident"
Activities: Join a Toastmasters club, practice public speaking

5. Emotional Intelligence

Understanding and managing your own emotions and those of others allows for better interpersonal relations and decision-making, especially under stress.

Books: "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman, "Daring Greatly" by Brené Brown
Courses: Coursera's "Emotional Intelligence at Work"
Activities: Practice mindfulness, engage in active listening exercises

6. Learning Agility

The ability to learn quickly, adapt that learning to different contexts, and understand when and how to apply new knowledge effectively.

Books: "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" by Carol S. Dweck, "Learn Better" by Ulrich Boser
Courses: LinkedIn Learning's "Learning How to Learn"
Activities: Take on projects that require you to learn new skills, teach others what you know

7. Self-Management

Skills like time management, self-discipline, and stress management fall under this category. Managing oneself effectively is often the first step in managing projects or teams.
Books: "Getting Things Done" by David Allen, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey
Courses: Udemy's "Productivity and Time Management for the Overwhelmed"
Activities: Set up a personal Kanban board, engage in time-tracking exercises

8. Collaboration

The ability to work effectively in teams, understand group dynamics, and know how to contribute your skills for a collective goal.
Books: "Team of Teams" by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni
Courses: Coursera's "High-Performance Collaboration: Leadership, Teamwork, and Negotiation"
Activities: Participate in group projects or team sports, volunteer for team-building exercises

9. Creativity

The capacity to think outside the box, see connections between disparate pieces of information and develop innovative solutions or ideas.
Books: "The Creative Habit" by Twyla Tharp, "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert
Courses: Coursera's "Ignite Your Everyday Creativity"
Activities: Engage in creative writing, take up painting or another form of artistic expression

10. Decision-Making

The ability to make choices based on critical reasoning and appropriate data, especially when under pressure or facing complex situations.
Books: "Decisive" by Chip Heath & Dan Heath, "Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely
Courses: LinkedIn Learning's "Decision-Making Strategies"
Activities: Play strategy games like chess and conduct a post-mortem after significant decisions to evaluate the process.


Meta-skills are valuable because they are applicable in various settings and can significantly impact your effectiveness in multiple domains.

Unlike specific technical skills, which might become obsolete over time, meta-skills are often timeless and provide the framework for continuous learning and adaptation.

The key is to engage in a continuous cycle of learning, practicing, and refining these meta-skills.

These meta-skills help perform specific tasks and are essential for navigating real-world challenges' complexities and ambiguities. They are often what sets great leaders and professionals apart from good ones.

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