Fatal Flaws of the Modern Bodyguard

Fatal Flaws of the Modern Bodyguard

The skills, training, and common traits of competent bodyguards are extensive. Anyone looking to join the close protection profession can readily obtain a list of all the necessary knowledge needed to qualify as an operator. However, unwanted traits may lie hidden and not surface until after a trial working period. Details of these negative characteristics and behaviours are not readily available. Many freelance “bodyguards” spend years of their careers bouncing from one task to another, hoping to land that golden full-time position. These freelancers don’t spend long enough in one place for unwanted character flaws to appear.

With the rise of social media and the lack of work opportunities due to the pandemic, these unwanted characteristics have become ever more apparent. Operators and companies do not realise how detrimental such factors can be to their employability and credibility. The vast majority of close protection operatives in the UK are self-employed contractors. So, the adage that you are only as good as your last job and reputation is everything does ring true.

Of course, we all must move with the times. Social media is king, so why shouldn’t you tell the world how good you are? Let us look at some of the most prevalent character flaws that we come across as employers and individual operators. 

Narcissism

Narcissism is a self-centred personality style characterised as having an excessive interest in one’s physical appearance and an excessive preoccupation with one’s own needs, often at the expense of others.

Decades ago, bodyguards, close protection officers, or close protection operators as they are now known were thought of and acknowledged as the ‘grey men’ of the security industry. Professional operatives would go about their daily tasks protecting the rich and famous. They did not feel the need to be permanently broadcast their location, what a successful job they had just completed and how great they must be. There was no posting of selfies on task next to their principal’s car, private jet, or yacht! 

Today’s self-publicists should consider whether these epic security and confidentiality failures are a “success”. Is self-congratulation necessary for just doing what you are paid for? Such behaviour highlights a lack of discretion and insecurity. Selfies and self-praise are unprofessional. Potential hostile or criminal entities can use openly shared images on social media to link operatives to a principal, their principal’s family, their principal’s assets. Future principals, their families and assets are also put at risk. This narcissistic behaviour provides a gold mine of information to organised criminals, and those that indulge in it are completely failing in their duties to protect their principal.

Many seasoned and ‘old school’ operatives will go out of their way to avoid being photographed by the paparazzi and avoid being recognisable. Being identifiable attracts the wrong kind of attention. It makes it easy for the paparazzi to look for potential photo opportunities. Experienced paps will recognise the operative before the celebrity appears. It is difficult to avoid getting “papped” if working in the celebrity protection circuit. But there are still steps to take to avoid being in every photograph with a principal. And, even if you are snapped, there is no need to share the images in a boastful manner all over social media. Anyway, the wise operative will realise that this behaviour is probably counterproductive. Who wants to hire a bodyguard willing to share pictures of clients on social media as a cheap way of self-marketing?

With the rise in social media platforms, many operatives have lost focus on one of the fundamental core skills required to be a successful operator – discretion! A professional avoids giving TV and magazine interviews if they are still “operational” and does not publicly name an extensive list of clients. Inadvisable publicity makes it easier for the paparazzi or undesirables to target them, their family, their house, and clients.

Professionals can join industry bodies and institutes that will verify expertise and qualifications earned over many years of successful training and operation. However, more and more names on social media are granting themselves the post-nominal of SME (Subject Matter Expert). Industry peers and leaders should only acknowledge an individual that has passed this high bar as an SME. Most true industry leaders are humble enough not to call themselves subject matter experts. Every day is a school day, and we should always be learning, not being naive enough to call ourselves “experts”.

Arrogance

Narcissism then leads nicely (or not so) into the next damaging characteristic flaw of close protection operatives, arrogance.

Arrogance – unpleasantly proud and behaving as if you are more important than or know more than other people.

Arrogant operators will make statements such as:

I know everything there is to know about the industry, been there done that, and you can’t tell me anything I don’t already know!”. 

Such beliefs are not just wrong but dangerous. Professionals should always learn and update their skills and knowledge in the face of ever-changing scenarios and situations, threats, risks, technology, and tactics.

As operators progress through the industry, the more naive and arrogant operators place themselves on a pedestal. Prima donnas may declare themselves too good to cover “menial” tasks such as RST or security driving roles. 

The pandemic should have taught us that you cannot and should not be a job snob. But we hear the constant whine of self-appointed SMEs, “security consultants”, and “bodyguards” proclaiming that they no longer cover RST shifts, only the elusive well-paid close protection or executive protection tasks.

So, let us look behind the statement: 

I don’t work RST anymore“. 

Professional executive protection operatives in London spend most of their time in hotel corridors, offices, and private homes, waiting around, ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice. Perhaps they are not monitoring CCTV or alarm panels. Still, they are sitting around for exceptionally long periods, even for such a long time that the actual RST team has changed shifts! So, should these CPOs feel they are too good for RST tasks? If they do, then their close protection career will most likely be short-lived.

Insecurity

Insecurity – uncertainty or anxiety about oneself, lack of confidence.

How can an operative be both insecure and arrogant? Insecurity is a hidden trait within the industry, often masked by arrogance and overconfidence. We can often observe the behaviour within teams. For example, a group member may exaggerate their previous tasks and consistently talk about what they have done, where they have been, and with whom they have been working. Insecure operators may exaggerate their experience to inflate their ego by impressing the rest of the team. The aim is to create a false sense of security for themselves, especially if they feel threatened by other team members known to be successful, experienced and sought after.

The insecure operative can ostracise themself from the rest of the team with unwarranted boasting. Worse still, insecure individuals may attempt to get one over on the other team members. In addition to lying about their abilities and accomplishments, they may lie about colleagues hoping they will shine out before the client or boss.

Insecure behaviour can be even more problematic when working within private households. Uncertain security team members may be vying for popularity with specific house staff that have the same agenda.

In Summary

Narcissism, arrogance and insecurity are undesirable character traits found in individuals in any walk of life. However, they seem increasingly common within the security industry, specifically within the close protection sector.

The best close protection operatives should be: empathetic, not narcissistic; humble, not arrogant; and self-assured, not insecure. Close protection freelancers and companies need to market themselves to survive. But they should not lose focus on the main objective, which is protecting people and assets whilst remaining unassuming, discreet, and professional.

‘Nothing is more dangerous than a friend without discretion, even a prudent enemy is preferable.’

(Jean de la Fontaine).

Close Protection Services

Westminster Security provides professional close protection security services in London, the UK, and worldwide.