It’s Saturday, November 7, 2020, the day after President-Elect Joe Biden declared victory in the recent US election.
In what is now the norm in American politics, the election itself has illustrated a sharp division in the population, with one side celebrating victory and the other alleging fraud and conspiracy.
As the President-Elect wrapped up his speech, now joined onstage by his extended family, my attention was on the members of the United States Secret Service who were close by. I thought of these men and the job that they were tasked to do. Not knowing them personally, I wasn’t aware of their political affiliations, were they a Democratic like Biden, or a Republican, rooting for the current President, Trump? They, like every other citizen of the country, were allowed to cast their votes, and could have picked either, or none. However, at that moment, on that stage, I don’t think it mattered. These agents, surely knowing the risk associated with the occasion, were focused on the task at hand: The safety of their protective charges, no matter their personal political affiliation.
I don’t think many would disagree with the above analysis, however, my question is, if we can attribute that level of dispassionate professionalism to the member of the USSS, why can’t those same qualities apply to those of us in the private sector? These days, one only has to open up their social media application of choice, and there in the timeline, they’ll find industry colleagues who will make their political allegiances known loudly.
While that in and of itself may sound harmless, what I believe is much more corrosive to the fabric of society on a broad level, but for the purposes of this article, our industry in microcosm, is that the commentary coming from us about politics is ofttimes disrespectful, lacking civility, and more disturbingly, may be filled with misinformation or disinformation. Ours has always been an industry that spoke about a code, and many use the words ethics and integrity, on everything from their business cards, to the signature line of their email address. We talk about the importance of client service, and adhering to standards such as confidentiality, yet we log onto Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and we can’t wait to chime in and let the world know our political stances in the form or post, memes, retweets, and video shares.
The same individuals that will burst a blood vessel if they see a “bodyguard” post a picture of themselves and their client, due to its supposed lack of professionalism, will go online and insult a whole demographic of people in which half of those same clients would fall into. The protectors who play a game of “pile-on” when a new guy entering the industry posts a comment on the message boards without proper punctuation, give no thoughts to filling up their timeline with expletives about why this political party or that politician deserves to be hung. Wait, weren’t we talking about professionalism?
Do not get me wrong, we are all adults, and as such, we can say what we want. We can have views about any and everything, but make no mistake about it, some of those views in a public setting can have consequences. Do not think that the words that go up on your timeline, aren’t preserved somewhere, just waiting to be used against you down the road – even if you delete it hours later. Do not think that decision makers who were considering you for a project based off of your skills are not now weighing the tone of the words and language you are using to express your political viewpoints. This might never be brought up in conversation, instead you are simply passed over in favor of someone who is a bit more opaque in their political passions.
“Grey man” is a term used in our industry to describe someone who blends into the environment, leaving very little wake in his passing. It is a state that many of us actively work to achieve, as it will allow us to more effectively complete our assignment, because by bringing as little attention to us as possible, we gain a tactical advantage. If this is a preferred state, then why are so many of us running counter to that, by actively trying to bring as much attention as possible to our political beliefs? In this new era of political expression via social media, our words and actions are not aligning with the codes we profess to exemplify. As we move into 2021, my question is, will it get better or worse?
Keeping Your Edge: Is Unity In Our Profession Dead?
By: Elijah Shaw
Elijah Shaw is the National Director of the North American Bodyguard Association and the CEO of ICON Global, and International Executive Protection Consulting Firm. Elijah, who has been featured in international publications such as Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, and Portfolio, runs the ICON Academy, an EP Training Program specializing in Celebrity & VIP Protection. He also currently sits on the Board of Directors of Executive Security International (ESI), the United States oldest Executive Protection Training School. His book, An Introduction to Executive Protection & Touring: A Guide to Mastering the Business of VIP Security, hit the Amazon best sellers list, and is available now worldwide.