Theoretical Concepts and the Role of a Senior Appointment CPO1-CWO

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CWO Corriveau

About the Author

CWO Corriveau is presently employed as the Canadian Element NORAD (CANELEMNORAD) Chief Warrant Officer and is the principal advisor to the NORAD Deputy Commander (ND) on all NCM issues. His responsibilities include, but are not limited to, providing the ND with the NCM perspective on morale and welfare, discipline, ethics and NCM professional development. Additionally, he is responsible for providing guidance and mentorship to all CANELEMNORAD detachment Command Teams within the United States. Operating within the unique Canada-United States bilateral organization that is NORAD has offered him strategic insight into issues pertaining to homeland defence and the challenges identified within this paper.


The role and responsibilities of Senior Appointment Chief Petty Officers (CPO1) and Chief Warrant Officers (CWO) are influenced by personal and professional experiences as well as certain theoretical concepts. As integral and trusted members of the profession of arms, it is imperative that, from an educational perspective, non-commissioned members (NCMs) continue to adapt and evolve throughout their careers. Improvements to military education, coupled with professional experiences will most certainly benefit all future CPO1/CWOs. CPO1/CWOs and in particular, those in senior appointments, serve as leaders and stewards within the profession and must act as the vanguards for continued improvements to NCM professional military education and as change-agents for the institution. To be effective, Senior Appointment CPO1/CWOs must demonstrate solid intellectual competencies and continue to demonstrate potential. Utilizing four theoretical concepts covered during the distance learning component of the Senior Appointment Programme, I will aim to illustrate how these concepts influence the role and responsibilities of an SA CPO1/CWO. The first half of this essay will focus on the command and senior leadership team concepts and on the role of a Senior Appointment CPO1/CWO when organizational change occurs. The second part will explore the theoretical concepts associated with the implementation of the Canada First Defence Strategy and with the capacity of the CAF to act as an instrument of national power in the Arctic.

Command Team and Organizational Change

Conceptually, by the time a CPO1/CWO is selected for a key position or senior appointment, that individual should be able to successfully carry out requisite roles and responsibilities. One must demonstrate the abilities to effectively operate at all levels (tactically, operationally and strategically). While I believe that command teams typically function at the tactical and operational levels and senior leadership teams operate at the strategic or institutional level, each of these team concepts are by virtue of the Canadian Armed Forces’ hierarchy, related. Regardless of the echelon at which a CPO1/CWO is employed, it is imperative for that CPO1/CWO to earn and maintain a Commander’s trust in his/her command and senior leadership team partner. A Senior Appointment CPO1/CWO’s role and responsibilities can be greatly influenced and impacted by current and past command and senior leadership team experiences and therefore these relationships should never be neglected. As stated in Beyond Transformation: the CPO1/CWO Strategic Employment ModelNote de bas de page 1, the CPO1/CWO Corps represents a vast depth of experience, wisdom, professionalism, ethics and integrity. These core competencies have served the CAF well in the past and must remain sacrosanct at the operational and tactical levels. Beyond Transformation goes on to state that future CAF operations will demand both institutional and operational leaders with increased situational awareness, enhanced cognitive skill sets, and more comprehensive understanding of strategic level context. In light of this emerging strategic reality, CPO1/CWOs represent a tremendous source of both essential and additional potential capacity.Note de bas de page 2 It is the above mentioned competencies such as depth of experience, professionalism and integrity that will allow a CPO1/CWO to fulfill their command team duties at tactical and operational levels. At a senior leadership team level, an SA CPO1/CWO must possess a broader institutional and political understanding if he/she is to remain relevant. Furthermore, SA CPO1/CWOs must utilize their vast networks of contacts to communicate and achieve a commander’s vision. One of the greatest assets a Senior Appointment CPO1/CWO can bring to command or leadership teams is that of communication and as leaders of the institution, the ability to positively influence and communicate a commander’s intent are responsibilities that cannot be underestimated. A CPO1/CWO’s progression through the ranks provides him/her with perspectives that often times are able to provide senior officer leadership with a different approach or solution to the same situation.

CPO1/CWOs will, by virtue of their positions, routinely have the pulse of a unit. During periods of organizational change, it becomes even more critical for an SA CPO1/CWO to not only possess certain qualities, but to also employ these same skills. Leadership in the Canadian Forces – Leading the Institution mentions that in ensuring organizational effectiveness, institutional leaders are charged with overseeing system or theatre capabilities and performance and making major policy, system and organizational changes designed to ensure the institution’s continued strength, relevancy and viability.Note de bas de page 3 In ensuring professional effectiveness, institutional leaders exert direct influence on professional standards, norms and values. They are responsible for creating and articulating vision as well as establishing the necessary strategies and sourcing the requisite resources to ensure its achievement.Note de bas de page 4 The preceding extracts are significant, as they indirectly demonstrate the importance of the command and senior leadership team concepts while also touching on the distinct institutional role and responsibilities of a Senior Appointment CPO1/CWO.

With respect to organizational change, a Senior Appointment CPO1/CWO should willingly accept the role of change-agent for he or she will, in large part, be responsible for the buy-in of personnel within their area of responsibility. Let it be clear that the role of change-agent in no way mitigates a Senior Appointment CPO1/CWO’s responsibility to provide a commander with a differing point of view or contrarian advice should it be warranted. Indeed, this distinction of providing a differing perspective is one of the key elements that defines the accomplishments of command and senior leadership teams. Not only must the Commander’s message and the process by which organizational change takes place be conveyed with clarity and confidence, it must also be presented candidly. Senior Appointment CPO1/CWOs must remain cognizant that if message recipients do not trust the communicator, the likelihood of the organizational change taking hold will be lessened. Trust, both up and down the chain of command, is sought after at all levels of leadership but is without doubt a crucial responsibility for Senior Appointment CPO1/CWO positions. Beyond Transformation: the CPO1/CWO Strategic Employment Model argues that most senior positions require role model institutional leaders who understand their role of custodian of the NCM Corps and steward of the profession of arms.Note de bas de page 5

Defense Policy and CAF capabilities

The theoretical concepts gleaned from Module 2 which could influence the role and responsibilities as a Senior Appointment CPO1/CWO are taken from the following two questions. First, what is the most important difficulty faced by the CAF in the implementation of the Canada First Defence Strategy? Second, as an instrument of national power, do the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have the capabilities to defend Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic?

A reader may wonder how these questions could influence the role and responsibilities of a Senior Appointment CPO1/CWO but I submit that both of these questions relate closely to the roles and responsibilities associated with SA CPO1s/CWOs. It is my opinion that leading the institution during difficult periods is far more challenging than during periods of prosperity and certainty. The two questions posed above demonstrate the very real challenges faced by the Government of Canada and consequently by the CAF. Currently and for the foreseeable future, the most difficult challenge faced by the CAF in the implementation of the Canada First Defence Strategy is that of reduced funding. The four pillars (personnel, equipment, readiness and infrastructure)Note de bas de page 6 on which military capabilities are founded are each susceptible and inextricably linked to the negative effects that financial austerity measures bring. For example, the CAF’s greatest resource (people) can become disenfranchised or hampered by cutbacks to the remaining three pillars of equipment, readiness and infrastructure. Throughout difficult periods the role and responsibilities of SA CPO1s/CWOs remain relatively unaffected, yet the manner in which these roles and responsibilities are undertaken is crucial and can be influenced by both internal and external pressures. As institutional leaders and stewards within the profession of arms, Senior Appointment CPO1/CWOs must remain mindful of their added responsibilities as trusted advisors while concurrently supporting the service members’ abilities to overcome the difficulties faced by the CAF. Leadership in the Canadian Forces – Conceptual Foundations emphasizes the point of responsibilities by stating that as a consequence of this extremely broad scope of responsibility, senior leaders operate in a social environment consisting of numerous collaborative relationships, as well as competing interests and points of view, and requiring the application of 360-degree influence.Note de bas de page 7 I surmise that the application of 360-degree influence is one of the most indispensable responsibilities that a Senior Appointment CPO1/CWO can hold.

The next question is do the Canadian Armed Forces have the capabilities to defend Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic? As with four pillars listed in the Canada First Defence Strategy, the CAF’s ability to defend Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic is also impacted by the financial constraints imposed upon the CAF thus negating any capability for the CAF to properly defend our Arctic sovereignty. Topics such as Arctic sovereignty, budgetary cutbacks or other areas of significant concern to the men and women in uniform serve to highlight the importance of strategic thinking Senior Appointment CPO1s/CWOs. These selected individuals are viewed as senior leaders and as such must be well informed on a wide range of topics both within and outside of the Department of National Defence. They must be able to lead institutional change and communicate messages effectively and with conviction. In my experience, a lack of communication and unclear messaging has been two of the greatest criticisms aimed at senior leadership by junior personnel within the CAF. This may sound cliché but we as senior leaders must never forget our roots as NCMs. We must treat people with respect and provide them with knowledge so that they may be better positioned to understand the reasoning that goes into the decision making processes. We should strive to empower our subordinates and the passing of knowledge is one method to achieve this end. Finally, our approaches to mentorship may also be influenced by current events and/or challenges faced by the CAF. Organizational stressors such as reduced budgets and increased operational tempo present Senior Appointment CPO1/CWOs and other senior leaders with exceptional opportunities to develop and mentor personnel within their organization. Senior leaders can make the most of their role and responsibilities by mentoring personnel which will assist in mitigating the effects of organizational stressors such as budgetary cutbacks or personnel reductions.


Although many of the roles and responsibilities of Chief Petty Officers and Chief Warrant Officers in all tiers will remain unchanged regardless of the situation, the theoretical concepts explored herein have demonstrated that Senior Appointment CPO1/CWOs must demonstrate intellectual competencies that allow us to effectively navigate the challenges that come with operating at strategic and institutional levels. Theoretical concepts associated with the challenges detailed earlier present Senior Appointment CPO1/CWOs with opportunities to enhance their abilities whether it is the art of communication or strategic thinking. We must be comfortable operating at higher echelons and be able to adjust to real-world situations and conceptual theories that transcend our military occupations or elements. Furthermore, I believe that Senior Appointment CPO1/CWOs must gain added knowledge of the political realm for it will most certainly impact their responsibilities as leaders. As indicated in my introduction, to be successful as Senior Appointment CPO1/CWOs, we must continue to adapt and evolve as an NCM Corps. Sustained and enhanced professional military education and varied employment opportunities will prepare our future NCMs to flourish as trusted command team partners and senior leaders within the institution that is the Canadian Armed Forces.


“Canada First Defence Strategy”, Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper, 12 May 2015,

Department of National Defence, Beyond Transformation: the CPO1/CWO Strategic Employment Model, 17 Wing Winnipeg Publishing Office, Winnipeg, 2011, 42 pages.

Department of National Defence, Leadership in the Canadian Forces – Conceptual Foundations, Canadian Defence Academy – Canadian Forces Leadership Institute, Kingston, 2005, 144 pages.

Department of National Defence, Leadership in the Canadian Forces – Leading the Institution, Canadian Defence Academy – Canadian Forces Leadership Institute, Kingston, 2007, 159 pages.

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