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Commandant Instruction 535.1

headcg.gif (777 bytes) Commandant
United States Coast Guard
2100 Second Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20593-0001
Staff Symbol: (G-WTL)
Phone: 202-267-0117

4 December 1997



  1. PURPOSE. This Instruction describes the Coast Guard’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) and outlines responsibilities to carry it out. It outlines leadership competencies, provides a professional reading list, and introduces a leadership essay program to enhance leadership development.
  2. ACTION. Area and district commanders, commanders of maintenance and logistics commands, commanding officers of Headquarters units, assistant commandants for directorates, chief counsel, and special staff offices at Headquarters shall ensure the contents of this Instruction are given widest distribution.
  4. BACKGROUND. Coast Guard Goal One is to provide leadership and a working environment that enables all our people to reach their full potential and maximize Coast Guard mission success. The Leadership Development Program supports this goal. Over the past several years the Coast Guard has built a framework for strengthening leader development. We articulated our core values: Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty, values which frame the behaviors the Coast Guard expects from its people. The Commandant approved establishment of a Leadership Development Center, which will be an integral part of our Coast Guard Academy. Leadership work groups identified 21 basic leadership competencies consistent with our core values, missions, and work forces that are published in this Instruction. These provide a basis for describing specific leadership performance expectations for all work force levels. The Leadership Development Program includes all Team Coast Guard work force components ... active duty and reserve military, civilians (appropriated and non-appropriated), and Auxiliary. It will use a variety of methods to develop leadership skills (e.g., formal resident training, training aids, guidebooks, coaching, and self-development).

The Leadership Development Program has four principal elements:

  • Establishing leadership competencies and expectations of performance for all work force components at every level;
  • Standing up the Leadership Development Center (LDC) at the Coast Guard Academy. The LDC will include Officer Candidate School (OCS), Chief Warrant Officer Indoctrination, the Chief Petty Officers Academy, Officer-in-Charge/Executive Petty Officer Training, Command and Operations School, the Civilian Employee Orientation Program, and the Leadership and Quality Institute;
  • Building core values, leadership competencies, and expectations of performance into existing resident training (e.g., "A" Schools, OCS, and the Academy); and
  • Providing tools to help individuals and units improve leadership skills, e.g., support for continuing education, a professional reading list, a leadership essay program, better mentoring support, and other leadership training aids.
  1. PROGRAM MODEL. As one of America’s armed forces with a proud humanitarian heritage, the Coast Guard has long been distinguished by individuals willing to sacrifice personal interests to accomplish our missions and defend our Nation. This unique military and humanitarian Coast Guard identity demands leadership grounded in integrity as well as professional competence. It requires leaders who understand a broad range of leadership techniques and who can apply them properly and decisively across a wide variety of situations involving every component of Team Coast Guard. The Leadership Development Program is built on these principles.

As depicted in the model below, the program foundation includes the Coast Guard’s vision, core values, and societal influences. The building blocks are leadership competencies and expectations of performance. Next are organizational, unit, and individual processes that assess and develop the leadership skills needed for mission success. Responsibility for leadership development has always been shared by each individual, his or her unit, and the organization. The individual element includes identifying one’s own strengths and shortcomings, developing a personal plan for improvement, and taking initiative in pursuing education. The unit provides support such as formal and informal indoctrination and training, counseling, and mentoring. The Coast Guard organization provides formal systems and processes such as assignments, policy, training, and education.

The Coast Guard’s Leadership Development Program

Mission & Vision
    1. Mission. The Coast Guard’s Leadership Development Program provides a framework that helps every member of Team Coast Guard achieve his or her full potential and maximize mission performance.
    2. Vision (Desired End State). A fully integrated Leadership Development Program encompassing the entire Coast Guard work force throughout their time in service.
    1. Leadership. The ability to work through others to accomplish a task.
    2. Effective Leader. A leader whose followers are committed to and achieve desired results by having the right tools, information, and working environment.
    3. Leadership Development. The system by which an organization grows its work force into leaders.
  1. BASIC PRINCIPLES. The Coast Guard’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) is:
  • Fully integrated;
  • Based on competencies and expectations of performance; and
  • Job-related.
    1. Fully Integrated. The LDP includes:


  • All work force components
Military, Civilian, and Auxiliary at every rate, rank, grade, and position
  • All methods
Training and non-training
  1. Integration of Work Force Components. Every member of Team Coast Guard has important leadership responsibilities. The LDP supports all members of Team Coast Guard.
  2. Integration of Methods and Levels. The new Leadership Development Center at the Coast Guard Academy will strengthen leadership resident training. However, because leadership skills are developed not just by resident training but by a wide variety of other means such as observing others, self-development, on-the-job training, and performance feedback, values and practices taught at resident courses will be reinforced by systems, policies, and daily activities in our workplaces. The LDP considers all factors that influence leadership development, including:
  • Resident and non-resident training;
  • Unit-level training;
  • Self-development programs for individuals;
  • Instruments for assessing unit and Coast Guard-wide work environments and culture;
  • Instruments to assess individual strengths and needs;
  • Systems and processes such as recruiting and hiring, pay and compensation, rewards and recognition, discipline, evaluations, assignments, and promotions; and
  • The impact of Coast Guard goals, regulations, and policies.

Leadership methods

The traditional method for enhancing leadership emphasized formal training courses. The LDP includes training and non-training processes and involves the individual, unit, and organization.

    1. Competencies and Expectations of Performance.
    1. Competencies. Leadership competencies are measurable patterns of behavior essential to leading. The Coast Guard has identified 21 competencies which are consistent with our missions, work forces, and core values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty. Enclosure (1) describes the basic Coast Guard leadership competencies.
    2. Expectations of Performance. Expectations of performance will be developed to describe the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and abilities the Coast Guard requires of each individual. They will be aligned with core values and competencies. They are cumulative and carried on through one’s career as shown by the picture below.


Example: To show how individual expectations change from entry level to top leadership, consider the competency, "Looking out for Others." It is described: Successful leaders identify others’ needs and abilities. They ensure fair and equitable treatment, project high expectations for subordinates and their teams, know their job, express confidence in their abilities, recognize achievements, and use reward systems effectively. Leaders appropriately support and assist in professional and personal situations and use formal and informal processes to positively resolve situations.



As one moves from entry level to top leadership, the level of performance grows from awareness, to application, to overall responsibility.

Expectations of performance are developed using "needs assessments." Two needs assessments, for non rates and chief petty officers, have already been completed. Because they addressed the senior and junior ends of the enlisted work force, they will also help to develop performance expectations for the petty officer pay grades in between. Additional needs assessments will be conducted over the next several years to develop performance expectations for other positions and work force components. Needs assessments for ensigns and top leadership, military and civilian, are scheduled to begin in 1998. Needs assessment results will influence current training (e.g., recruit training, "A" Schools, CPO Academy, Officer Candidate School, the Academy, civilian developmental programs) and non-training processes (e.g., recruiting, compensation, rewards and recognition, evaluations, assignments, and promotions).

    1. Job-Related. Coast Guard personnel have different leadership development needs depending on their job. Many factors create differences in leadership requirements. For example, a Chief Boatswain’s Mate who is an Officer-In-Charge of a cutter has different leadership requirements than one who is a Chief Master-At-Arms at a shore station. Additionally, because of internal promotion and assignment systems, military personnel generally move to positions of increased leadership expectations throughout a career. Civilians and Auxiliarists, however, can move through positions of greater leadership responsibility by different methods. The Leadership Development Program will take these job-related differences into account. Enclosure (2) gives examples of leadership development tools each member of Team Coast Guard can expect from the Leadership Development Program.
  1. COMMANDANT'S READING LIST (originally published as "Coast Guard Professional Reading List). Life-long self-development is an important component of leadership development. To assist members of Team Coast Guard with their own development, enclosure (3) provides a professional reading list of books, magazines, and journals related to leadership. Individuals are encouraged to read materials on the list regularly and submit recommendations for new listings.
  2. LEADERSHIP ESSAY PROGRAM. Enclosure (4) describes a Coast Guard leadership essay program designed to help individuals, units, and the entire Coast Guard share the leadership ideas and experiences of Team Coast Guard on a broad basis. Participation is voluntary.
  3. RESPONSIBILITIES. Commandant (G-WTL), as program manager for the LDP, working with the Coast Guard Academy Superintendent and the Leadership Advisory Council, will:
    1. Establish the Leadership Development Center at the Coast Guard Academy according to the following schedule:
  • Command and Operations School
On line
  • Chief Warrant Officer Indoctrination
October 1997
  • Officer-in-Charge/Executive Petty Officer Course
April 1998
  • Leadership and Quality Institute
May 1998
  • Officer Candidate School
July 1998
  • Civilian Employee Orientation Program
July 1998
  • Chief Petty Officer Academy (East Coast)
October 1998
    1. Oversee the progress of needs assessments;
    2. Develop and publish expectations of performance for all of Team Coast Guard;
    3. Continually assess the performance of Coast Guard leaders against defined expectations. Help determine the causes of any significant leadership performance gaps and recommend appropriate remedies;
    4. Act as program manager for the leadership portions of resident-training courses, including:
  • Officer and enlisted accession-point training;
  • Military training such as "A" schools, CPO Academy, CWO Indoctrination, Command and Operations courses;
  • Mentoring Course;
  • Civilian Employee Orientation and Career Development; and
  • Leadership and Quality Institute courses.
    1. Develop a Coast Guard-specific CWO Indoctrination Course;
    2. Support and help standardize unit-level leadership initiatives; and
    3. Develop and publish a Work Force Career Development Guide.
Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard
(1) Coast Guard Leadership Competencies
(2) Table of Future Leadership Development Tools
(3) Commandant's Reading List
(4) Leadership Essay Program