Leadership Theories for Department of Homeland Security Strategy

Since the 9/11 attack upon the U.S., homeland security advanced from a national counterterrorism policy approach to a national strategy to protect against, prevent, mitigate, recover from, and respond to technological/accidental, natural, and adversarial/human-caused hazards and threats (Comiskey, 2018). The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a federal agency instituted to protect the U.S. against threats. DHS scope includes border control, aviation security, port security, maritime security, cybersecurity, and emergency response. I.T. and cybersecurity is one of the top issues facing DHS and presents an evolving phenomenon worth studying. Critical infrastructure is a major aim for cyber-attackers from cyber-criminal organizations or hostile governments, and the impact can be destructive. The recent ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline in May 2021 indicates how cybersecurity attacks can be destructive to the country’s infrastructure. DHS marks 16 segments of the U.S. society and economy that cyber-threats could aim. A fruitful attack on any of the 16 segments could mess up American life for months or even years, leaving the country susceptible to attacks in the process (Chopra & Khanna, 2015). This study explores the management and leadership theories that inform homeland cybersecurity strategy for countering cyber threats that pose potential harm to U.S. agencies, critical infrastructure, and systems. The paper will focus on using Transformational Leadership Theory (TLT) and Contingency Management Theory (CMT) and their application to DHS cybersecurity strategy.


Management/Leadership Theory

Transformational Leadership Theory (TLT)

TLT is a theoretical approach focused on changing the norm of people and social systems. The theory’s primary goal is to create a valuable and positive change in its followers, ultimately converting them into leaders. TLT, in its advanced form, promotes motivation and enhances performance through different authentic mechanisms. It operates by connecting the targeted audience with a sense of identity concerning the organization’s mutual interests. As such, the audience’s needs must be prioritized, and leaders must show high moral values and ethical standards, sacrificing their gains (Bieneman, 2011). The leaders use their power, resources, and authority to influence others to strive for the company’s common goals.

TLT was coined by James MacGregor Burns in 1978. Burns developed the idea of transformational leadership when exploring political leadership. However, the theory now fits most of the studies on organizations today (Transformational, n.d.). TLT involves four principles: Idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration.

Idealized Influence

The first principle, idealization of influence, is the philosophy that organization leaders can only influence others when they practice their advice or what they preach. By acting as role models, the leaders earn respect and trust through their actions and are emulated by their followers (Caldwell et al., 2012). The needs of the followers are prioritized first.

Intellectual Stimulation 

The second principle is intellectual stimulation. Under this philosophy, the leaders promote creativity and innovation, encouraging followers to come up with new ideas, and criticize and correct them privately and not publicly. The leader’s focus is the problem and not blame games (Caldwell et al., 2012). In such an environment, leaders do not hesitate to discard old practices if found ineffective.

Inspirational Motivation

The foundation of inspirational motivation philosophy promotes a consistent mission and vision, and organizational values to members. Transformational leaders know what they want for the company and guide followers by understanding what is expected, challenging them to achieve their best through teamwork and commitment (Caldwell et al., 2012).

free essay typer



Individualized Consideration

Under this philosophy, leaders mentor their followers and reward them for efforts, innovations, and creativity. Their knowledge and talents determine the followers’ treatment. The leaders empower their followers to contribute to decision-making and provide the necessary support systems to implement their creative and innovative ideas and decisions (Caldwell et al., 2012).  

Success of TLT

Various research and tests are conducted to determine the success and importance of TLT (Farahnak et al., 2020; Dvir et al., 2002; Money, 2017). Farahnak et al., 2020 studied the influence of transformational leadership and leaders’ attitudes on their followers and the organization’s success. The result of the study indicated that the relationship of a leader’s innovative behavior influences the organization’s mission’s success. Transformational leadership significantly influences organizational change, has a significant bearing on employee attitudes toward change, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment, and decreases adverse outcomes, including turnover intention and burnout. The transformational leader sets and directs the mode of behavior required during organizational change, including implementing innovative practices to drive the change. Dvir et al. (2002) studied the influence of transformation leadership on followers and performance. The researchers noted a strong positive correlation between TLT and followers’ performance. TLT focus on empowering the followers to achieve their best, and leaders in such settings are morally uplifting. TLT challenges the organization members to own their responsibilities and role models by understanding their strengths and weaknesses. The organization leaders can line up the followers with duties that improve their performance and achieve optimal outcomes. Transformational leadership is a developmental tool where organization leaders subscribe to the philosophy that one can only influence others by practicing what they advocate for such that the audience will learn by emulating them (Dvir et al., 2002). In another study, Money (2017) argued that TLT could raise valence, provide confidence in the team, encourage continuous development, and stimulate efforts beyond expectations. Many scholars have advanced TLT to lodge for efficacy in smaller firms, situational contexts, management-by-exception, and the Laissez-faire model.

Contingency Management Theory (CMT)

Fred Edward Fiedler coined the contingency theory of management in a groundbreaking 1964 article, “A Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness.” The theory emphasizes the impact of the leaders’ personality (leadership style) and the operating situations (situational variables) (Debnath & Mishra, 2017). Fielder and his colleagues studied leaders in different contexts but narrowed their findings mainly in the military, even though today’s theory applies to different organizational contexts and industries. CMT outlines two leadership personalities (leadership style): a) task-motivated and b) relationship-motivated. Task-based leadership style focuses mainly on the accomplishments, achieving organizational goals. Task-based leaders set clear goals, delegate assignments, outline processes, and set deadlines, ensuring that the team remains focused to achieve their goals within the designated deadlines (Procter & Benders, 2014).

On the one hand, a relationship-motivated leadership style describes a leadership approach focused on ensuring success, building and sustaining positive relationships within the organization, eliminating causes of friction, and lifting morale. The leaders trust their subordinates, consider their feelings and respect their ideas. The leaders still trust that tasks must be accomplished, but they trust that work culture is more significant. Leaders who embrace a relationship-motivated leadership style primarily focus on motivating, developing, and supporting the workforce and promoting collaboration and teamwork to achieve the organization’s success (Rüzgar, 2018).

Central to CMT is the concept of situation, characterized by three factors: a) Leader-member relations, focusing on the feelings and general atmosphere of the team, including trust, confidence, and loyalty towards the leader. b) Task structure relating to task clarity and mode of task completion. c) The position power concerns the degree of reward-punishment power the leaders have over their teams (Rüzgar, 2018). The contingency approach to leadership is based on the idea that there is no single best approach to manage, and there is no universal answer to management and leadership questions because people, organizations, and situations vary over time. The leaders’ effectiveness is contingent on whether the leadership style preferred suits the situation at hand. According to CMT, a leader can be effective in one task or situation but ineffective in another (Shao, Feng & Hu, 2016).

free essay typer



Studies have been conducted over the years to establish if one leadership style is better than the other. Nevertheless, most researchers have observed that no single behavior is instrumental to a leader’s success in every situation (Shao, Feng & Hu, 2016; Rüzgar, 2018). The dynamic aspect of leadership dictates that if a leader or manager is effective, they should balance different leadership models applicable to a particular situation. Such involves some awareness levels, and the leader must determine which style they fall under and when it may be necessary to change a style (Shao, Feng & Hu, 2016). If the leader is task-oriented, they must soften up and encourage soft skills such as listening. Even though this may be challenging, it is very critical for success. If leader is relationship-oriented, they must toughen up times, be decisive, and set clear goals and straight standards (Rüzgar, 2018). Many scholars advanced Fiedler’s model to formulate situational leadership like Path-Goal, Hersey & Blanchard’s situational theory, and leadership continuum.

Application of TLT and CMT Theories to DHS IT and Cybersecurity Strategy

TLT Theory and DHS IT and Cybersecurity Strategy

The infusion of transformational leadership models plays a key in DHS cybersecurity strategies, galvanizing the workforce to perform their optimal potential to attain unimaginable goals, detecting and thwarting cybersecurity threats. As public organization leadership’s capacity to generate change is increasingly interrogated, public agencies are pressured to transform and bring innovation into their workplace. The transformational leadership model revolutionizes public sector management, particularly in the technology landscape (Karaca, 2010). Transformational leaders have a critical role in the dynamic of technological advancement and cybersecurity landscapes, influencing and motivating teams to address information assurance (I.A.) adoption in the organizations. It provides a mechanism of priority, making it practical to examine the mutual outlook in a collaborative work setting that spurs the workforce to make a difference in the organization based on their efforts. The workforce needs to understand the significance of adopting a change-motivated infusion of transformation leadership to achieve organizational and personal goals (Porter 2019).

 Corpolongo (2016) noted that the present cybersecurity landscapes necessitate more than debated changes in corporate-government collaborations, encryptions, and add-ons to omnibus legislation. Cybersecurity and information technology advancement requires changes across the organization leadership approach and culture of the technology work. The human element forms the biggest cybersecurity threat. Behind every piece of information and data is a human component, a foe or friend, implying that human nature and relationship-building is a critical facet in any building and implementing cybersecurity strategy (Corpolongo 2016). Transformational leadership is vital for DHS’s effort to unite the workforce towards the shared vision, promote support and encouragement to comprehend the needs and provide flexibility to make intelligent decisions, generating task-based challenges to cover cybersecurity loopholes. If the leadership and the team understand the cybersecurity strategies, including information assurance (I.A.), they will be more likely to champion the strategies as part of the innovation and organizational changes necessary to curb cyber threats (Porter 2019).

Full participation of humans is vital in mitigating cybersecurity risks related to human element DHS cybersecurity strategy (Goh, 2003). Inspired leadership and trust begin with transparency in the face of tackling the ever-evolving cybersecurity threats. Transformational leaders share relevant information and provide necessary feedback. They are also forthcoming concerning the motivation and the intent behind their decisions, developing greater trust in their organization culture (Corpolongo 2016). Besides, they intellectually stimulate the workforce’s creativity and innovation, encouraging employees to develop new ideas and innovations to curb cyber threats (Caldwell et al., 2012). Research has shown that organizations must strive to close the apparent disconnect and trust existing within the workforce today to tackle cyber threats successfully. Organizations must acknowledge that to ensure a mature and robust cyber security posture. They require transformational leadership and related models in their cybersecurity strategy. Leaders tasked with cybersecurity in any organization have the objectionable role in influencing stakeholders, including the executive leadership, board, and the workforce, and impact security culture across the organization. Such may not require in-depth technical skills but require dynamic leadership skills (Cleveland & Cleveland, 2018). With a transformational leadership approach, the DHS can curb cybersecurity threats to the U.S critical infrastructure and the public, leveraging team building and collaboration within the workforce.

CMT Theory and DHS IT and Cybersecurity Strategy

Contingency management theory is a vital tool for DHS’s cybersecurity strategy. Section 3.5.2 of the DHS 4300A Sensitive Systems Handbook provides a contingency management plan, ensuring the availability of critical data and information in all circumstances. DHS contingency plan is designed to provide the capability to respond to and recover from emergencies and resume regular operation as quickly as possible, possibly in alternative points in the event of system failure (Reynolds, Neuman & Officer, 2014). CMT is essential for DHS cyber security strategy in coordinating leaders, followers, and situations based on the contingencies. DHS can adopt a Task-oriented contingency management style, focusing on intelligent hiring to prevent cyber-crime and a quick reaction team for disaster management. The organization can also implement relationship-building actions, fostering good investment to boost the nation’s security infrastructure and economic stability. The DHS should reassess its present cybersecurity risk strategy, focus on functions and services mostly relied on by the citizens, and build a response mechanism whenever such functions and services are threatened instead of focusing majorly on risks to assets and systems (Amanda, 2018). The cyber threat is evolving, and with the recent ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline in May 2021, as mentioned earlier, it is eminent that attackers are shifting their targets from massive infrastructures and systems to critical functions and services.

free essay typer



According to a study by Amanda (2018), it appears that DHS is reassessing its contingency management approach to cybersecurity threats. A statement by the DHS’ National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) assistant secretary, Office of Cybersecurity and Communication, Jeanette Manfra, DHS is relooking at its cybersecurity strategy, rethinking whether it is deploying correct technologies or enforcing the correct security policies to protect against the countries cyber threats (Amanda, 2018). This is a perfect example of the application of contingency management, where an organization is supposed to assess situations and apply the right management approach based on the evaluation. Under the CMT, the overcharging principle is that not a single approach is best to manage situations, and there is no universal answer to management questions because circumstances vary (Shao, Feng & Hu, 2016). With robust situational assessment frameworks, thinking rigorously what is critical for the country’s functions, the DHS can understand cybersecurity issues posing threats to the nation while expanding its cybersecurity framework, exploring individual risks, and allocating necessary resources based on risk assessment. DHS can also work with various stakeholders in various industries to identify critical functions instead of just thinking about huge infrastructural assets and systems as it has been the norm in the past. With this, the DHS can prioritize critical services and functions and services during a disaster, blocking loopholes in such areas that can lead to more attacks (Clark, Seager & Chester, 2018). However, there is a need for mutual understanding and agreements between the government and industries on critical functions and services that should be prioritized during a crisis.

Overall, DHS remains critical to the well-being and safety of Americans. With an appropriate contingency management framework, the department has significant potential to advance public safety and ensure the continuity of critical services without disruption from cyber attackers. Connecting is one key area that DHS can maximize to improve its contingency approach to a cybersecurity strategy. The organization should prioritize partnership and service, investing in connecting states, territorial and local resources with federal resources (Spence et al., 2012). Overall, to maximize effectiveness and value in today’s complex technological environment, DHS must reorganize its mission, balancing a set of strategic activities that prioritize service roles and safety with other protecting, defending, and securing roles.


This paper explored the management and leadership theories informing homeland cybersecurity strategy for countering cyber threats posing potential harm to the nation’s critical infrastructure, agencies, and systems. Theories of particular interest were Transformational Leadership Theory (TLT) and Contingency Management Theory (CMT) and their application to DHS cybersecurity strategy. The researcher noted that TLT is grounded on four principles, idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration, which are critical in providing leadership and direction in managing and controlling cybersecurity threats. The infusion of TLT models plays a crucial role in DHS cybersecurity strategies, galvanizing the workforce to perform their optimal potential to attain unimaginable goals and detecting and thwarting cybersecurity threats. Contingency management theory is another vital tool for DHS’s cybersecurity strategy. CMT outlines two leadership styles, task-motivated and relationship-motivated, critical for providing leadership during a crisis. Also central to CMT is the concept of situation, helping organizational leaders assess different situations and offer leadership based on the nature of the situation. CTM offers a robust situational assessment framework, thinking rigorously what is critical for the country’s functions, which the DHS can adopt to understand cybersecurity issues posing threats to the nation while expanding its cybersecurity framework to match the evolving patterns in cybersecurity threats.