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Peggy GolfinPatty KannapelTom GeraghtyHeather Wolters
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The Navy has been developing and implementing a Culture of Excellence (COE) to improve the readiness and capability of individual Sailors and, by extension, the Navy as a whole. The goal is to move from a culture of compliance to a culture that ensures a safer and more combateffective force that prioritizes personnel safety, readiness, and training [1-3]. This project supports N17’s COE by  identifying the following:

  • Key leadership and life skills in Sailors’ careers
  • Important touchpoints in the behavior learning continuum (BLC) from recruitment to transition when these skills should be acquired and reinforced
  • The appropriate sequence, frequency, and content for the identified skills at each touchpoint

Methodology and results

We reviewed literature pertaining to skills that have been determined to be essential to provide people with the nontechnical skills they need to be productive, resilient, healthy contributing members of society and the organizations they serve. In terms of the Navy’s Primary Prevention Logic Model [4], these skills promote signature behaviors (SBs) and prevent destructive behaviors (DBs).

Our exhaustive review of the literature on life skills and leadership led us to conclude that effective leaders require solid foundational life skills. The leadership continuum consists of a progression from individuals obtaining and enhancing life skills for themselves (me) to enhancing and applying them to the organization (us). The “us” becomes an increasingly larger number of people over whom leaders have responsibility. In this construct, the leadership continuum does not require a different set of skills but rather the application of life skills to an increasingly larger number of people over whom an individual has responsibility. 

We found significant agreement in the literature on the most important life skills and, by extension, leadership skills. We selected what we consider the most important of these skills, using the guidance that they fit our definition of a skill1 and that they help to promote SBs and reduce DBs. We selected the following skills: (1) critical thinking, (2) problemsolving/decision-making, (3) planning and  organizing, (4) self-awareness, (5) self-efficacy, (6) self-regulation, (7) self-direction/initiative, (8) perseverance, (9) positive thinking, (10) integrity, (11) personal responsibility, (12) empathy/perspective taking, (13) flexibility/adaptability, (14) appreciation for and embracing diversity, (15) communication, 16) teamwork/collaboration, (17) healthy relationships, and (18) conflict resolution. 

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DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT A. Approved for public release: distribution unlimited.
Specific Authority. To protect information not specifically included in the above reasons and discussions but which requires protection in accordance with valid documented authority such as Executive Orders, classification guidelines, DoD or DoD-component regulatory documents.


  • Pages: 114
  • Document Number: DRM-2019-U-022421-1Rev
  • Publication Date: 9/30/2021