The Balancing Act Between Soft and Hard Skills:

EP MindsetWhat Every Executive Protection Pro Needs to Know

Security is a legitimate concern for politicians, celebrities and high-profile executives. These days, many turn to executive protection professionals to navigate threats and keep them out of harm’s way.

These protection agents come from diverse backgrounds; some have law enforcement or military experience, others do not.

Which should you consider when hiring? That depends on your preferences and beliefs. Clients may view those with military or law enforcement experience as overly aggressive, opting instead for a candidate who they assume will adopt a softer approach to their safety.

When it comes to personal protection, the best approach often includes a mix of the soft and hard, regardless of background. But it can be a delicate balancing act.

Practicing the art of avoidance  

Let’s review hard and soft skills to better understand the need for balance.

Some hard skills are obvious. Professional protectors must be physically able to protect the client and have the necessary training regarding firearms and defense to keep the client safe against immediate threats.

But they are more than just muscle. Protectors do everything in their power to avoid problems by conducting risk assessments and taking precautions or countermeasures to mitigate or limit exposure to especially harmful situations. We call this the “art of avoidance.”

For example, executive protection professionals routinely scout locations in advance to define optimal arrival and departure points and employ route analysis to minimize risks for vehicle and foot traffic. Preparation and planning trump brute force, which is often viewed and used as a last resort.

Another benefit to planning? The protector’s preparations can often maximize time for the benefit of the executive. Time for all of us is a valuable commodity, especially for those who require protection.

The priority, then, is to create a productive environment for the client to live and work safely, with a much-reduced need for the application of force. Strive to establish a clearly defined protection program focused on avoiding problems before they become problems. Doing this can even reduce liability.

Risk assessment, advance work, intelligence activities, surveillance detection, and physical security processes are just a few disciplines that may be defined as soft skills.  Qualified protection specialists are familiar with all of these, plus many more.

Don’t overlook the obvious 

There are other traits that are often overlooked but equally important. These so-called social skills include the ability to communicate effectively in both oral and written formats, and its importance should not be discounted. To know the audience and to communicate appropriately is essential. In many circumstances, a soft and pleasant tone as opposed to a gruff and authoritarian manner is the most effective means of communication.

The actions of the professional can affect the success of the protector/client relationship as well. Professional protectors work best when they are seen when needed, and not seen when they are not. The protector should strive to blend in around the client, drawing attention away from themselves, the executive and the environment.

It’s no secret why the best protectors are compensated the most. The operations they manage are seamless; the details they oversee run smoothly. Not only do they perform the tasks at hand, but they go the extra mile: Cars are always there, luggage is always picked up on time, the elevator is always waiting, planes are always prepped, and drivers always know where they are going. These too, reduce risk, but also add value, as the client sees these preparations as ways to save time and money.

Follow the Scout Credo

Lastly there are certain recommended soft skill traits I like to refer to as the “Scout Law”: be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Each of these traits apply in the protective mission of protectors. Each has a value clearly applicable for protectors.

Protection agents are more than just guards or sets of eyes. These trained professionals require a broad-based skill set in order to be effective. Striking the right balance between soft and hard skills is the necessary first step to a successful protector/client relationship.

Jerry Heying, CPP, PPS, CST
International Protection Group
International Protective Service Agency
Executive Protection Institute

Ethics and Traits of the Personal Protection Specialist

ProvidingExecutiveProtectionVolumeIIIt is with great pride and humility that, as you read this chapter, our first volume, entitled Providing Executive Protection, originally published in 1991 is now available in the third printing. Very exciting world events with security implications have come upon the stage, completed their performance and moved on into history. The names involved and the activities engaged in are added to our memory banks and improved protective performances become more obvious. Although the names and events are different and many are variations on the protective services theme, the need for professional personal protection increases and that is a growing concern.

We must never loose sight of the main theme, in the perspective of personal protection, that it is a person to person activity. The activity is initiated by someone having a need for a trained person to protect them and the protection is planned and provided for by another “someone.” The key point of course is “trained” with the training being built upon a foundation of ethics and traits possessed by the protector. This foundation of ethics and traits are what all instructors at the Executive Protection Institute credit our success to. This is the crucial base to build upon for all men and women who seek to serve as professional Personal Protection Specialist-the internalization of a canon of ethics and traits for this “Fifth Profession.”

We live in interesting times. Honor, which was once the notion of virtue, now means only merit, as in belonging to an Honor Society. The aspects of not lying, cheating or stealing appear no longer to be included as they were in the original definition. Where are our proper role models today? On the opposite end of the good and evil scale even major organized crime figures who once prided themselves on a “code of honor,” now bemoan the fact that there is no longer any honor, only greed and viciousness.

In merely a few decades we ass a society have shifted messages to high school and college graduates from, “find your path to success through honor, ethics, virtue, values and discipline; and becoming a worthwhile contributing member of society,” to one of, “go out and get your share of the pie.” What pie? The pie of consumerism, high pay for low work standards and no concern whatsoever for others or society. The continuing philosophy of, “It’s not my fault if there is a problem, incident or accident. Don’t blame me, it has to be someone else’s fault. I can’t be accountable and I refuse to accept any responsibility.”

This all too often contemporary message coupled with the belief by many that today’s students are being educated beyond their intelligence level and ability to comprehend even the purpose of an education, are obstacles in need of solutions. Each of us possesses personal power. The power of choice, to choose what we do with what we are and how we will allow events to affect us. (“The power of mind is infinite while brawn is limited.” – Koichi Tohei)

For the balance of this chapter I would like to explore the valuable traits and the ethical considerations needed to succeed in the profession of Personal Protection Specialist.


“It’s easy to be successful-just do the right thing all the time…”

R.W. Kobetz

Traits are marvelous things. Subject to individual interpretation, and of course, all of us believe we possess the necessary traits for success in our chosen endeavors. How could it not be otherwise? On the other hand, what specific traits are needed for success in providing personal protection for a principal. This is one of the first discussion points focused on by many who wish to enter into the work. And work it is, though many fail to understand the full definition of “halls and walls,” long lonely nights on an outdoor post and the individual effects upon judgement from sleep deprivation, the reality of fatigue combined with stress.

I commend to your reading the complete magnificent Message to Garcia, written by Elbert Hub bard in 1899. When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastnesses of Cuba-no one knew where. No mail or telegraph message could reach him. President McKinley must secure his cooperation and quickly. Someone said to the President, “There is a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”

Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How “the fellow by the name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oilskin pouch, strapped it over his hear, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot and delivered his letter to Garcia-are things to be described in detail elsewhere. The point to be made is: President McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he?” “Where do I get a boat?” “How do I eat?” “When do I sleep?”

It is not book-learning, nor instruction on various topics, but a stiffening of the vertebrae that is needed to cause successful people to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies; do the mission'”carry a message to Garcia.” The successful person receives his/her assignment and is capable and qualified to do the task. To become capable and qualified is the person’s individual responsibility. To anticipate assignments which they have placed themselves in position to receive holds them accountable for their successful conclusions or why are they posing as someone who is qualified to perform the task if they have no idea of what is expected of them or what they re to do with the task? Tasks are specifically detailed more often than not but your job is much broader in context. It is the entirety of your position. The “how” of the profession-that umbrella thought process of everything which must be considered to make things work. In contrast to the specific “what” of an assignment, which can be learned through steps, checklists and guidelines. This is the biggest shortcoming for wannabees in the Personal Protection Specialist profession. The failure to grasp the “how” of the world and only seeking out checkpoints of knowledge for the “what” of the world.

It is difficult to grasp non-specific job responsibility over specific task activity. Many people believe for example that ego in itself is detrimental in this field. Not so at all. Ego is like cholesterol, there is good ego and there is bad ego. All people in protective positions must believe they have the capacity to protect others and that when called upon to perform they will do so successfully. You must believe in yourself and be at the same time prepared to do what needs to be done,-block an attack, render first-aid for an accidental injury or avoid and embarrassment for your principal. This is all positive or good ego.

“The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.”

Bruce Lee

Bad ego comes from those who believe they are prepared to do personal protective work because they have performed in another security or enforcement position and have never taken the time to learn what up-close personal protection really entails. It comes from those who have already made up their mind that they can perform the services of a focused and dedicated Personal Protection Specialist when they suffer from one of the most common infliction’s in our society today-being a PWOC (Person Without A Clue). There are still others who believe we can divide the world into persons who suffer from one of a combination of attitudes on protection: stupidity or naiveté.

Fortunately the bad ego is curable through proper and specific training followed by entry level professional positions and an individual acknowledging that they do not know all there is to know nor is there one specific solution to all problems encountered. The lack of a “bottomline” in security positions contributes to the problems in a contemporary sense. In other words the lack of a commonality of achievement and performance where people can approach a position equally with everyone having an equal background of education, training and valid experience. For example, if a group of qualified, medical doctors are discussing a specific medical technique, there is a common acceptance of a “bottomline” regardless of which medical school the doctor attended or where their internship was performed. This “bottomline” having been established, there is now a genuine professional approach to discussion of the medical technique.

We find in providing personal protection as in the provision of the majority of security services, the individual proclaims competency based upon service in another occupation with other trait and skill requirements. Somehow this combined, more often than not, with minimal levels of general training has the individual honestly believing that he/she can perform the services which they advertise. In fact, most of the brochures and letterheads in the security or protective services industry list numerous areas of expertise, many of which individually require lengthy training periods combined with hands-on experience. Remember, it is extremely easy to have a business card, stationery, or brochure printed or do it yourself on a personal computer; calling yourself anything you wish or offering any services. Little wonder that in the eyes of the consumers of these services, the security field must be view with some skepticism.

Who People Are…

Who They Really Are…

What They Say They Are…

What Others Say They Are…

What They Say They Can Do…

What They Really Can Do…

These traits, or lack of same, are sincere concerns in the fast growth fields of security and protective services. Traits are individual and difficult to clearly and specifically isolate in their sense of value to this field. Many believe that the A B C traits alone (agility – bravery – courage) are all that are necessary to succeed in the field of personal protection. All three are important, of course, but no guarantee of total survival as a professional in this field. Many traits are required, but here, for example, are some of the most important ones.



Able to adjust to changing environments. If you are not comfortable in some environments, learn to be.


You will accomplish much more for your principal and gain respect for yourself.


To your responsibilities


Not because you are told to do it, but because you see it has to be done and you do it.


Set a high standard for how you conduct yourself.


The ability to accept change and respond properly.


Being truthful, doing right and knowing wrong; performing your duty.


To your principal.


Able to place your needs and wants subservient to your performance obligations.


Be focused. Do what you must do and what you say you will do.

Many men and women employed in the field or attempting to enter the field will never know why they can not make it. A careful consideration of this list will reveal that there are many dimensions of performance within these traits. They are not “bumper sticker” definitions but require serious thought. If dependability for example is an important trait, and it is, than every action you take will be judged, not merely those that you determine to be important. Also remember that “man,” is the only creature on earth, who can talk himself into trouble. (Control your emotions or they will control you. – Chinese Adage)

Ethics and values

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment…”

Lao Tzu


Ethics: the principles of morality, or the field of study of morals or right conduct.

Principle: a general truth; the primary source from which anything proceeds; a basic doctrine or tenet.

Morality: conforming to the principles of good conduct.

Values: the qualities, customs, standards and principles of people regarded as desirable.

Virtue: a praise worthy quality or trait.

Situational Ethics: a contemporary re-definition which lie to defend your integrity.

With respect to ethics and values within the protection profession we face the dilemma of personal conduct, that of definition and interpretation. If we can agree on specific definitions then we can limit the interpretation or judgement of our conduct within narrower parameters.

The very essence of providing personal protection is service, the service of providing safe passage for our employer, the safety and security in all dimensions of the protection function. If we were merely concerned with the mechanical aspects of movement and physical protection, we would not be concerned with conduct. Conduct is governed by behavioral attributes which may be directed by our values, those beliefs that we have internalized into our thought processes which guide our behavior. It is most important for all of us to understand the solid foundation of ethics and values in the influence upon our role behavior as protectors.

How the protector performs his or her role is clearly as important in many instances as what is accomplished. A code of ethical conduct, which is our own internal self-governor, helps us to:

    • Conduct ourselves only in the most professional manner at all times.
    • Strive for personal excellence.
    • Demonstrate high standards of personal integrity.
    • Protect and respect the privileged information revealed to us in the course of our duties.
    • Avoid activity or interests which are in conflict with the performance of our responsibilities.

In the Hallcrest Report II’s chapter on Ethics and Values, we have a reference to Ethics: discipline dealing with what is right and moral duty and obligation; as a set of moral values; or as the principles of conduct governing an individual or group. Ethics has developed as man has reflected upon the intentions and consequences of his actions.

Obviously our contemporary society has experienced a few incidents which cause serious concern about the “current state of the art.”

    • Scientists admit in an experiment of skin graft from one kind of mouse to another-that they used a felt pen to fake the results…
    • C.I.A. employee selling secrets…
    • Sex scandals abound with ministers and priests…
    • Political scandals involving all levels up to the Presidency…
    • Insider stock trading revealed…
    • Industrial espionage and bribery by major defense contractors…
    • Pharmaceutical companies lying to Food and Drug Administration…
    • Medical wastes dumped into oceans…
    • Sugar water packed for babies as apple juice…
    • U.S. Savings and Loan financial embezzlement…
    • Leading business schools now realize the importance of teaching ethics to students…
    • Approximately 70& of business managers agree ethics of corporations should be as important as profits…

In the military model of management style a total body of management philosophy and techniques are used to achieve compliance to direct orders. Soldiers are trained to internalize goals of protecting their territory from invasion by armies and preserve the liberties of fellow citizens. The model makes use of a more focused technique for controlling and directing soldier behavior toward common goals through integration of the goals of management with those of the soldier. In addition to behavioral control induced by simple threat or fear of sanctions, soldier discipline is also obtained. Implied is the idea that there is “one best way” for individuals to behave in pursuit of goals. Discipline has a clear identity and is elaborated in well defined codes and procedures.

In the civilian world of professional protective performance we depend upon the values of the individual as developed by training, education, background, family members, friends, peers and adopted social values. These values and developed ethical views are difficult to change or channel into a pre-determined pattern of behavior. We have not set down performance philosophy and techniques or threat or fear of sanctions. The professional performance is judged in other contexts with no model of behavior or standard of performance. Teaching techniques are presently focused on performance example or role odel behavior. But gradually by properly performing personal protection we will achieve higher standards reinforced by pride in accomplishments and recognized professional performance. Our goal is to obtain a body of knowledge, doctrine and principles which will emphasize “What is right-not who is right.”


“To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the highest skill. To subdue the enemy (attacker) without fighting is the highest skill…”


It is clear that many will be called into the profession of Personal Protection Specialist for a wide variety of reasons. Most of these reasons may be attributable to fantasy, finances or fame, and the excitement of what is believed to be the lifestyle of someone who protects another. Not much thought will be given to the performance requirements; the need to first clearly understand what the discipline is about-and what it is not about. The reality that the first program attended is the first step in a new career direction and the realization that continuing conditioning and education or training will be required for the entire duration of career performance. As in all career attempts there is an arbitrary 10% top and 10% bottom division of ranking within a group of achievers. The majority of candidates fall into the mid-80% scale with a tremendous potential for growth through accomplishments to rise upward within this range.

Those who achieve the top 1% positions in this field have several characteristics in common. They are totally committed to what they do. Their attitude is positive, expressed clearly and recognized by others through their performance. They understand and practice good communication skills by: not reading into another’s words their own personal responses but realize they must consider what the other person means; they listen more than they talk; they ask the proper questions; they never assume that everyone knows what they are talking about. Achievers recognize that without clear understanding there is no effective communication. in personal protection the ability to communicate is extremely important and failure to recognize and practice the rules will cause problems.

Ultimately, it is you who will “make it” and become a success in this very old but now reborn emerging profession. No on qualifies you for success-you qualify yourself. You are in charge and in control of yourself, constantly aware of what could happen and what you are prepared to do about it. The principles of the protection profession were set many centuries ago, but, like old wine in new bottles on the shelves we are constantly re-examining and improving protective measures. Some of the bottles will break, some will spoil but most will be quite acceptable and consumable. What the profession of Personal Protection Specialist seeks is the true top 1% performer who will become vintage, the rare, but achievable level for consumption.

In order to achieve victory you must place yourself in your opponent’s skin.

If you don’t understand yourself, you will lose one hundred percent of the time.

If you understand yourself, you will win fifty percent of the time.

If you understand yourself and your opponent, you will win one hundred percent of the time.

Tsutomu Oshima

Dr. Richard W. Kobetz


Dr. Richard W. Kobetz PPS, CST

Founder: Executive Protection Institute

Nine Lives Associates Member #1

Copyright © 1994, Executive Protection Institute