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It is not always possible for the Air Force to assign someone with all possible desirable qualifications to a specific job. Senior leaders compensate for such things as lack of technical knowledge or functional experience by using compensating competencies. To discover what these are and how they are used, the authors interviewed 27 senior officers and civilians and found the techniques fell into four general categories: enterprise knowledge, integration skills, problem-solving skills, and people skills. Leaders who need more domain knowledge can use these to gain more and to leverage the staff for developing solutions and making decisions. But even leaders with high levels of knowledge find these competencies immediately useful, facilitating work with expert subordinates, complex integrations, and proven domain-specific strategies. Moreover, these competencies are teachable, so the Air Force should develop them through its education and development programs. Doing so, to appropriate degrees, at all levels will increase the pool of potential leaders and staff members who can cope in a wider variety of organizations and operating domains in the future.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Background and Introduction

  • Chapter Two


  • Chapter Three


  • Chapter Four


  • Chapter Five


  • Appendix A

    Sampling Design

  • Appendix B

    Interview Protocol

  • Appendix C

    Compensating Competencies Analysis Taxonomy

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The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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