Working with a VIP doesn’t make you one
One of the best things about having the opportunity to write an editorial column in the pages of The Circuit, is the ability to be able to talk about topics that affect a wide range of individuals in our community. The articles are of course subjective, meaning that they are based on my opinion and not everyone has to agree with them. However with that said, I try and primary speak about things that I am intimately familiar with, which is why the majority of my articles are focused more on what makes the close protection agent “tick” as oppose to which firearm to buy or how to treat a traumatic head injury. While I think all of those are of interest to our readers, in the current and past issues you’ll find writers that speak on those other topics much more definitively than I can.
One thing I’ve always found fascinating in my observations is that as close protection agents, we have a tendency to define ourselves based off of the status of our Principal. Those of us actively working in the industry for a while have likely experienced, or at least witnessed, the following at one point or another (on either side of the coin). The scenario is often a variation of this:
You are a skilled protection agent assigned to escort your client to a public event. Other VIP’s are in attendance, and one is better known than your Principal. You notice that the support staff of host, and event planners, seems to faun over some of the others in attendance to a larger degree. That in itself is not an issue, however you also seem to notice that the other bodyguard, now in a secure environment, seems to be too important to even acknowledge you.
Perhaps the two of you are standing side by side at the perimeter of a large banquet area both with eyes on your perspective clients, and yet any attempts to be social yet still professional, are rebuffed. Of course this could just be attributed to the agent being focused on the task at hand, perhaps his Principal has a higher degree of potential threats directed at him — things you of course would not be privy to. But in some cases the agent simply gives off the aura, intentionally or not, that since he’s with the biggest fish in the room, that means he too has no time for the “little people”. In this case, an Operator with a lesser known client.
Over the years I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with some of the biggest and most recognizable stars in the entertainment industry. (As this is the Internet age, a simple Google search will collaborate this claim.) With that said, I know all too well that if you are around a superstar long enough, human nature kicks in and that sense of “importance” or “entitlement” rubs off on the agent. What I think that we as protectors need to be careful of is that we don’t sour relationships with our peers just because Principal X has more clout than Principal Y.
At the end of the day, how would the client’s finances or fame affect how we go about the essence of our job? The amount of dollar signs in the Protectee’s bank account or the number of blockbuster films under their belt should not have any effect on how we respond to situations either proactively or reactively. They also shouldn’t isolate us or give us a reason to negatively prejudge other agents.
Hubris is an ancient Greek world meaning extreme pride or arrogance as it relates to the overestimation of ones own competence, particularly when the person is operating from a position of power. This word I think sums up the condition some of us have at times found ourselves in, myself included. The key to overcoming this is to try and always be mindful that at some point or another we’ve all been the new kid on the block. We should also be mindful of the adage that tomorrow is not promised. Simply put, you might be with the hottest thing since sliced bread today and later calling up your old contacts searching for more work tomorrow.
Call it karma or whatever you like, but as I write this I can think of a laundry list of Operators who at one point or another were with very prestigious VIP’s and while on the assignment they gave off the impression that they thought a bit too highly of themselves or thought less of some of their brothers-at-arms, simply because of who they were protecting. Stars don’t burn brightly forever, and when those same individuals found themselves without that client, they also found it much more difficult to interact with people who could have helped them in the Executive Protection community as a result of the feathers they had ruffled.
Again, interpersonal relationships with fellow agents might not be as pressing as how to shoot from the prone position, but heaven forbid you one day find yourself talented, but unemployed. Who wants to be that agent sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring and it doesn’t simply because all your peers thought that YOU thought you were too good for them.
by Elijah Shaw
Read Elijah’s column every month with an annual subscription to the Circuit Magazine: