The Royal Air Force’s Values & Leadership Attributes

RAF Core Values

  • Respect: Service in the Royal Air Force is more than just loyalty to the Crown, military superiors, subordinates and comrades. It also involves the respect for others and a sense of pride. It flows from the duty to put others first and it means there is no place for prejudice or unlawful discrimination. It encompasses Mutual and Self Respect.
  • Integrity: Integrity is the courage to do what is right in all circumstances. It is the basis for the trust that is essential for the Royal Air Force to operate effectively. Integrity is vital in establishing trust and confidence between individuals who may face hardship and danger. Integrity is based on several other moral principles:. It encompasses Moral Courage, Honesty, Responsibility and Justice.
  • Service: Service is an act of selfless commitment. The military life is one of service to the Nation. It is about professional duties taking precedence over personal interests, the willingness to serve other people before ourselves – ‘Service before self ’. Service incorporates the values of loyalty, commitment and teamwork. It might ultimately be about dying for others. Service takes considerable physical courage. It encompasses Physical Courage, Loyalty, Commitment and Teamwork.
  • Excellence: By striving for excellence we show a sustained desire for continuous improvement and innovation that will ensure the RAF remains second to none. Professional excellence is more than the trade or operational skills that we develop through training and during our Service lives. It is about the way we tackle tasks, take responsibility and ensure a job is well done, no matter how difficult the circumstances. Professional excellence requires us to exercise care in leadership and fulfil the welfare responsibilities of command. We must manage risk and understand consequence and effect. We must also have the courage to take calculated risk. Excellence also includes an obligation to ensure the most efficient and effective use of resources, including our people. It encompasses Personal Excellence, Discipline and Pride.

RAF Leadership Attributes

  • Warfighter, Courageous: All our personnel, commissioned or non-commissioned must be, first and foremost, warfighters and second specialists, though they may be second to none in their specialisation. The distinction between the front line and the support area will become increasingly blurred and all of us need to be military minded and of a determined fighting spirit to overcome the adversity of circumstances that any of us may face on operations. Physical courage is expected of all leaders, as far as each is able to give, but we must nurture moral courage to do the right thing.
  • Emotionally Intelligent: Self-awareness and awareness of your team is one of the key foundations of effective leadership. Leaders who know themselves will be able to develop self-control and subsequently understand the needs of others. This will enable them to manage relationships at all levels better and remain calm under pressure. Thus individuals will be able to function as part of a wider team, invariably multidisciplinary, increasingly joint and often multinational, in the delivery of military capability.
  • Willingness to Take Risks: The RAF needs leaders who understand the difference between a gamble and a risk and are willing to take measured risks in appropriate areas without abrogating responsibility. This will be achieved if leaders at all levels achieve 2 things: they must themselves set the example in this regard and must develop an ethos where a failure to act is considered a more serious fault than making a mistake.
  • Flexible and Responsive: In a world that is now changing faster than ever, where technology is advancing rapidly, the RAF needs leaders who are flexible in approach and able to consider new ways of doing things. RAF leaders must be open minded, responsive to change, constantly looking for the opportunities that change brings and be able to cope with the discomfort that is associated with change.
  • Able to Handle Ambiguity: Ambiguity pervades our lives and becomes prevalent with the Clauswitzian ‘friction’ that causes the fog of war. At the more junior levels of leadership there may be little ambiguity but at the highest levels it is considerable. Our leaders must be able to handle it and, if possible, turn it to their advantage.
  • Technologically Competent: The RAF culture has always been to embrace new technology. It behoves all members of the RAF to be competent within their specialisation and many, at various stages of their career, will need to display considerable expertise. Yet, in the age of Network Enabled Capability, this may not be enough. Leaders must strive to keep pace with technological advances on a broad front, through a focus on continual personal development, so as to ensure its most effective application.
  • Able to Lead Tomorrow’s Recruit: As society develops, each new generation of recruits to the RAF is different. They have been seen by some as worse – Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers. (Socrates – 469 BC – 399 BC) – t’was always thus. Leaders must recognise the qualities the new generation brings and must learn the leadership skills that will allow them to maximise their potential. Everyone in the chain of command needs to understand the new generation, be able to lead and inspire them so that in their turn they will lead the RAF to new heights of excellence.
  • Mentally Agile and Physically Robust: Our leaders need to be able to handle complex and multifarious problems and have the creativity and mental agility to move quickly between various concepts. Their thinking must be innovative and their minds receptive. They must be physically robust and able to withstand the strain of operations, so that their mental capacity does not fail them under stress.
    Politically and Globally Astute (Air Power Minded): Leaders will be more effective depending upon their aptitude in two areas. The first is their ability to understand and thus cope with the politics of their immediate environment and, hence, their ability to influence those around them. Similarly, a leader’s awareness of much wider issues at a national and international level, and their ability to put their actions and decisions into the context of air power and air warfare, is crucial.


RAF (Royal Air Force) (2009) Leadership: An Anthology. Second Edition. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2017].

RAF (Royal Air Force) (2017) Air Publication (AP) 1: RAF Ethos, Values and Standards. Second Edition. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2107].

RAF Professional Military Development (Air):

RAF Leadership Centre:

Keller, J. (2014) Military Leadership and Leaders. ENDC Proceedings, Volume 19, pp.26-45. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2107].


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