It is hard to imagine two more contrasting workplace environments than a design firm and a Coast Guard cutter. But despite obvious differences in mission, culture, and organizational structure, both design firms and military units share the fundamental challenge of organizing and motivating people to work together toward common goals—as well as the need for capable leadership.

The military has a long history of studying leadership and teaching the subject to its members, and principles of military leadership have been the subject of countless business
books. The Office of Leadership of the U.S. Coast Guard, for example, has created a model that emphasizes four dimensions of leadership supported by 28 competencies:

1. Leading self: the understanding of self and one’s own values and abilities.

ESSENTIAL COMPETENCIES: accountability and responsibility, followership, self-awareness and learning, aligning values, health and wellbeing, personal conduct, technical competency

2. Leading others: the ability to work with and influence people whether functioning as a supervisor, mentor, manager, peer or worker.

ESSENTIAL COMPETENCIES: effective communication, influencing others, respect for others and diversity, team building, taking care of people, mentorship

3. Leading performance and change: the responsibility of leaders to uphold standards and accomplish goals in a fluid environment.

ESSENTIAL COMPETENCIES: customer focus, management and process improvement, decision making and problem solving, conflict management, creativity and innovation, vision development and implementation

4. Leading the organization: the understanding of how one’s effort and team fit into the larger ecosystem of stakeholders.

ESSENTIAL COMPETENCIES: stewardship, technology management, financial management, human resource management, partnering, external awareness, entrepreneurship, political savvy, strategic thinking

For more information on the U.S. Coast Guard leadership program: