Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Values & Leadership Principles

Canadian Armed Forces Principles and Values

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), consisting of the Canadian Army (CA), Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), have a shared code of values and ethics.

  • Principles:
    • Respect the Dignity of All Persons.
    • Serve Canada before Self.
    • Obey and Support Lawful Authority.
  • Values:
    • Integrity: Serve the public interest.
    • Loyalty: Demonstrate respect for Canada, its people, its parliamentary democracy DND and the CF.
    • Courage: Demonstrate courage.
    • Stewardship: Responsibly use resources.
    • Excellence: Demonstrate professional excellence.

Annex A (The Shared and distinct Values) of the DND and CF Code of Values and Ethics identifies four essential Canadian military values:

  • Duty: Duty entails service to Canada and compliance with the law. It calls for individuals to train hard, pursue professional self-development, and carry out tasks in a manner that reflects pride in themselves, their unit and their profession.
  • Loyalty: Loyalty must be reciprocal and based on mutual trust. It requires that all RCN personnel support and obey lawful orders and directions. In return, leaders must ensure their subordinates are treated fairly and in a manner consistent with professional military values.
  • Integrity: Integrity implies a commitment to moral principles and obligations. Accordingly, being a person of integrity demands honesty, the avoidance of deception and adherence to high ethical standards. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances.
  • Courage: Courage is both physical and moral. It is the ability to control fear or do what is right when faced with difficult situations.

Canadian Forces Leadership Principles

  • Achieve professional competence and pursue self-improvement: Leader competence is critical to mission accomplishment and the preservation of lives. Very early on, junior leaders must master the technical and tactical skills of their military specialty, maintaining and improving proficiency through self-study, experiential learning, formal training, and education.
  • Clarify objectives and intent: To provide subordinates with maximum freedom of action and the capability to operate independently if necessary, leaders must communicate a clear picture of the outcome or outcomes they wish to achieve.
  • Solve problems; make timely decisions: The whole purpose of small-unit leadership is to accomplish missions and tasks. This means solving mission problems and making appropriate considered decisions. Some decision situations will allow for little or no analysis, but where time and circumstances allow, leaders should gather as much pertinent information as possible, involve others who possess relevant experience or a have stake in the decision, and consider the advantages and risks of each option before making a decision.
  • Direct; motivate by persuasion and example and by sharing risks and hardships (i.e. lead by example): Leadership is about exercising influence. Leaders have to know when to direct, when to motivate, and when to enable performance through the conspicuous sharing of risks and hardships.
  • Train individuals and teams under demanding and realistic conditions: Being operationally ready means being able to deal effectively with normal and worst case scenarios, handle the unexpected, and recover from setbacks. Demanding and realistic training provides these capabilities.
  • Build teamwork and cohesion: Training and other formative activities that reinforce mutual dependence and support will pay off in enhanced performance and greater resistance to stress.
  • Keep subordinates informed; explain events and decisions: The routine and prompt passage of information contributes to subordinates’ situational awareness and their ability to respond appropriately to a changing situation. Candidly explaining events and decisions often reduces tensions created by uncertainty, and is critical to maintaining the trust relationship between leaders and led.
  • Mentor, educate, and develop subordinates: Leaders must train and develop subordinates to master the unit’s operational functions, provide strength in depth, and ensure a broadly distributed leadership capability.
  • Treat subordinates fairly; respond to their concerns; represent their interests: Leaders have moral and practical obligations to know their subordinates’ needs, take care of them, treat them fairly, and provide essential support for their families. Such actions help to establish and maintain trust, while also enhancing subordinates’ service commitment.
  • Maintain situational awareness; seek information; and keep current: Leaders have to develop the habit of being on top of what is happening around them. Situational awareness is critical to anticipating future environmental conditions and identifying opportunities to secure a tactical advantage.
  • Learn from experience and those who have experience: In both training and operations, leaders must constantly review performance with a critical eye and ask if there isn’t a better way. Learning from personal experience and the experience of others is critical to ensuring high reliability performance and maintaining a competitive edge.
  • Exemplify and reinforce the military ethos; maintain order and discipline; and uphold professional norms (i.e. lead by example): Disciplined, obedient, and law-abiding military forces are a mark of civilization. Leaders must ensure that their personal conduct and the conduct of their subordinates at all times reflect the best of Canadian military professionalism.

Deck Plate Leadership

Deck Plate Leadership is the act of actively engaging and interacting with subordinates in their workspaces. It involves not only being present, but participating in their daily routines and looking after their well-being.

Through Deck Plate Leadership, RCN personnel lead by example, demonstrate what right looks like, and behave with respect and in a manner that brings credit to the RCN.

Deck Plate Leadership is achieved by leading, developing, communicating, and supporting subordinates while consistently exemplifying the expectations of the RCN Code of Conduct.


DND (Department of National Defence) & CF (Canadian Forces) (2014) DND and CF Code of Values and Ethics. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2017].

Leadership in the Canadian Forces: Conceptual Foundations.

Leadership in the Canadian Forces: Doctrine.

Leadership in the Canadian Forces: Leading People.

Leadership in the Canadian Forces: Leading the Institution.

Royal Canadian Navy (2015) Royal Canadian Navy Code of Conduct. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2017].

English, A. & Westrop, J. (2007) Canadian Air Force Leadership and Command: The Human Dimension of Expeditionary Air Force Operations. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2017].

Davis, K.D. (Ed) (2007) Women in the Canadian Forces: Perspectives and Experience. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2107].

Davis, K.D. (Ed) (2009) Cultural Intelligence and Leadership: An Introduction for Canadian Forces Leaders. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2107].

Horn, B. & Walker, R.W. (2008) The Military Leadership Handbook. Ontario: Department of Defence.

Okros, A. (2010) Leadership in the Canadian Military Context. Canadian Forces Leadership Institute (CFLI) Monograph 2010-01. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2017].


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