Executive security is a unique niche within the security industry. Unlike many other types of protection, executive protection involves a close personal relationship with the client. While many correctly see this as something that can be used to increase protection of the client and confidence in the firm, there are certain pitfalls that need to be avoided.
The best in executive protection will take extra measures to be well versed in the following common pitfalls of executive protection, and make sure to avoid putting themselves in a bad situation.
One thing that those protecting executives need to remember is that no two assignments are the same. One way to think about this aspect is that no two clients are the same. Just because you’ve protected a politician before doesn’t mean that you will encounter the same challenges and obstacles you did the last time you had such an executive as your client. Because executive protection is so focused on one person, your plan needs to be also. The best security firms will provide plans and personnel that is 100% tailored to the individual and their exact circumstances.
Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, even when protecting the same client, no two events are even the same! A sense of familiarity with a client or situation leads to carelessness and complacency, both sworn enemies just as dangerous as the real bad guys. This is especially important during long contracts and extended relationships. The threat level to your executive never wanes, so neither should your attention to detail.
Speaking of over-familiarity, that is another one to specifically avoid, right along with carelessness and complacency. Although protective agents are encouraged to foster a relationship with the client that yields trust, it can be tricky to walk the line between trust and over-familiarity. Those that become too friendly with their clients lose sight of their assignment– protection above all else. It’s understandable that when you strike up an engaging and friendly relationship with someone who is famous or powerful (or even just plain cool) that your mind begins to focus on that person or that relationship– it’s human nature. This is why it’s important to not get into that position in the first place. Be a professional. Focus on the task at hand.
In executive protection, things can get dicey very quickly– that’s just part of the job. Equally a part of the job, however, is to react to all situations with a clear mind and a cool attitude. Because protective agents most likely have a background in some aspect of security other than executive protection, it is important to understand the subtlety needed in this niche. Although acceptable in other areas of security, taking an offensive, aggressive approach to threat neutralization may be harmful to the overall mission. Remember, while protecting the person of your client is priority number one, protecting their reputation is a close second. Don’t jeopardize their reputation by acting impulsively and recklessly.
Much the opposite of impulsiveness, indecisiveness can be equally dangerous. The best way to avoid this is to do your homework! Know the client, the event schedule, travel routes, tactically problematic areas ahead of time. The more prepared you are, the more quickly you can react.
Even after doing your homework, it will all be worthless if the protecting agent isn’t paying attention. The best executive security looks passive to the outsider, but inside the heads of the agents, there should be constant activity. A constant awareness and thinking “what do I do if…” keeps your head in the game and lets you think about your potential options before you have to spring into action. If you know what to do ahead of time, all you need to focus on is execution if anything starts to go down.
Having a huge ego is also something that should be avoided at all costs. Although those who serve the industry for years can certainly grow them, any kind of pride needs to be kept in check to remain professional. Over-confidence can blind entire teams to obvious threats and security weaknesses, leaving their clients open to harm. The best only get better when they listen carefully to criticism and apply critical self-evaluation to everything they do. Never be complacent, always be looking for ways to improve!
Finally, all of these pitfalls speak to an overall flaw that the top security firms cannot have in their executive protection agents– inexperience! Everything mentioned in this article has been learned through years of experience in the industry. All too many firms assume that just because an agent has military or law enforcement background, they will excel at executive protection. This is not the case! Executive protection is a niche in the industry that has very specific requirements for success. An untrained agent needs to be well-versed in not only the advice mentioned in this article, but in all other aspects of executive protection. Don’t let your team be green!