Part 3 – Ethos and Leaders

CAF leaders are the standard-bearers that uphold the CAF Ethos. They personify the ethos by internalizing its values and by living them in daily military service. CAF leaders instill the ethos in others, they establish and maintain a professional culture, they protect the reputation of the CAF, and they face and resolve problems lawfully and ethically.[3] Both individual leadership and institutional leadership are important in ensuring that the CAF Ethos remains central to the Profession of Arms. When leaders commit to socializing and upholding the ethos, professional credibility is achieved through strength of character and excellence in military competence.

The Ethos is the Foundation of How We Lead Our People

The CAF Ethos resides within our people. It is grown and nurtured throughout one’s military career. As military professionals, we shape and define our culture. We must ensure that our practiced culture is constantly aligned with our desired culture as expressed in the CAF Ethos. Military leaders have a responsibility to socialize new military members into the organization and embrace its ethos. Therefore leaders must be the best examples possible to reinforce our ethos, maintain order and discipline, and uphold professional standards. Leaders have an enduring responsibility to establish an inclusive climate where individual rights are respected and where the strengths of our diverse members are valued, and, whenever possible, incorporated into decision-making. As a result, inclusive leadership significantly enhances effectiveness on operations and in day-to-day military service thereby serving the good of the whole team.

When leading our people, CAF leaders must clearly and frequently articulate their expectations of professional conduct. They have a responsibility to explain the purpose of such standards of conduct and actively verify that followers understand how the CAF Ethos drives professionalism. Finally, leaders must take immediate action to quash the emergence of subcultures, activities or trends that run counter to the CAF Ethos. [4]

The Ethos is the Foundation of How We Lead Our Institution

Our ethos cannot be sustained simply through leading our people. It requires stewardship at the executive level to ensure that policies and programs are in line with the CAF Ethos.

Institutional leader have strategic responsibilities related to the CAF Ethos. They develop and maintain the institution’s professional identity, align the organization’s culture with the ethos, and steward the Profession of Arms in line with advances in the Canadian values of peace, equality and human rights. They have a responsibility to establish an ethical culture, exemplify and reinforce the military ethos at the strategic level, preserve CAF heritage that reflects our values, and develop and maintain the military justice system. Institutional leaders primarily achieve these functions through policies, programs, and regulations.

Institutional leaders[5] are also responsible for identifying future leaders. They have a responsibility to coach and mentor them to develop their potential for promotion through selection and succession processes. When institutional leaders actualize the CAF Ethos within these processes, they place equal weight on character and competence. Furthermore, to attain the CAF’s goal of having diversity in its leadership, institutional leaders must continually challenge their conscious and unconscious biases, and the biases of others, when they are selecting and developing subordinates for greater responsibility and advancement. Selection of potential leaders must be free of biases and barriers. Only through equity, diversity and inclusion can the values of the CAF Ethos be reflected.

Institutional leaders need to understand that any change to the institution needs to be anchored in our culture, in order to be successful and enduring. Socialization of the CAF Ethos is the normalizing process that is essential to achieving our desired professional culture. Although the CAF Ethos is taught on all professional military education programs, this is insufficient to drive culture change. Socialization is an informal and continuous learning process that takes place in unit lines every day. Effective socialization of the ethos requires leaders to have frank and open discussions on military professionalism and the CAF Ethos with their people. Empowering all team members, regardless of rank and experience level, to participate actively as agents of change is critical to maintaining a healthy institution.

Institutional leaders need to lead by example because subordinates focus predominantly on how senior leaders act. Subordinates pay attention to how leaders treat people, react to crises, allocate rewards and status, and most importantly how they recruit, select, promote, retire and transition military personnel within and from the CAF.[6] The criteria used by all leaders when making these choices needs to be entirely aligned with our ethos and transparently communicated to all to reinforce acceptable conduct and behaviour. In practice, we should only promote individuals, policies, programs, and regulations that best reflect our ethos.

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