Compare defence force ranks to public sector roles

It can be difficult to translate Australian Defence Force (ADF) ranks, experiences and capabilities into the roles and titles we use in the Queensland public sector (the sector).

Use the Leadership competencies for Queensland to understand how defence force ranks align with sector roles and titles. It describes what highly effective, everyday leadership looks like in the sector across 5 roles:

  1. Individual contributor (leading self)
  2. Team leader (leading others)
  3. Program manager (leading teams and/or projects)
  4. Executive (leading the function)
  5. Chief executive (leading the organisation)

Find out how ADF ranks align to these 5 roles, including transferrable experiences.

Visit Leadership competencies for Queensland to learn about the behaviours associated with each competency. 

1. Individual contributor

  • Responsible for delivering outcomes through self-management, sometimes with guidance from team leaders.
  • Does not supervise others.
  • Valued for the knowledge and skills in their specialist area and strong self-management.

Individual contributors have the broadest capability range and can vary from entry-level ranks, such as Seaman, Private or Aircraftman through to technical specialists of any rank. 

Transferable experiences and capabilities 

  • Has undertaken specialised training and development.
  • Teamwork and relationship skills.
  • Takes instruction and produces results.
  • Accountable for decisions and outcomes.

2. Team leader 

  • Responsible for leading individual contributors to deliver team outcomes, typically under direction of a program leader.
  • Valued for experience in their specialist area and the ability to manage team members.

Small teams


  • Navy:
    • Leading Seaman, Able Seaman 
  • Army:
    • Lance Corporal, Corporal, Lance Bombardier, Bombardier, Lieutenant 
  • Air Force:
    • Corporal, Leading Aircraftman, Leading Aircraftwoman

Transferable experiences and capabilities 

  • Supervises a small team and is responsible for monitoring team performance and outcomes.
  • Has undertaken specialised training, trade development or qualifications.
  • Develops relationships to engage with the team as individuals and as a group.
  • Communicates objectives and provides consistent feedback.
  • Inspires team commitment and motivation.

Medium teams


  • Navy:
    • Petty Officer 
  • Army:
    • Lieutenant, Sergeant, Captain
  • Air Force:
    • Sergeant

Transferable experiences and capabilities

  • Leadership responsibilities for up to 40 soldiers.
  • Coaches team members, with a special focus on development and support.
  • Operational management responsibilities, including administrative, training and performance management.
  • Strong capabilities in instruction and training, logistics and technical disciplines.

Large teams


  • Navy:
    • Warrant Officer, Chief Petty Officer, Lieutenant, Sub Lieutenant
  • Army:
    • Captain, Warrant Officer Class 1, Warrant Officer Class 2, Major
  • Air Force:
    • Warrant Officer 1, Flight Sergeant, Flight Lieutenant, Flying Officer

Transferable experiences and capabilities

  • Senior team leader role with leadership responsibilities for between 200 and 650 officers and soldiers.
  • Develops and communicates strategy and objectives to very large audiences.
  • Operational and general management duties.
  • Exceptional skills in instruction and training, logistics, and technical and trade disciplines.

3. Program manager 

  • Responsible for leading team leaders and/or multiple projects or areas of work, typically under broad direction of an executive or more senior program leader.
  • Valued for the ability to lead program strategy and/or guide team leaders to deliver outcomes.


  • Navy:
    • Commander, Lieutenant Commander, Commodore, Captain
  • Army:
    • Major, Warrant Officer 1, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel, Brigadier
  • Air Force:
    • Wing Commander, Squadron Leader, Air Commodore, Group Captain

Transferable experiences and capabilities

  • Provides high-level management to support the running of a unit of up to 650 soldiers.
  • Translates organisational strategy into operational requirements.
  • Makes policy decisions and accepts responsibility for operations, performance of staff, achievement of targets, and adherence to budgets, standards and procedures.
  • Represents the organisation in dealings with other organisations and the public.
  • Prepares budgets and management plans.
  • Prepares reports, authorises the release of information, and handles public relations activities.
  • Consults with immediate subordinates and departmental heads on matters, such as methods of operation, equipment requirements, finance, sales and human resources.

4. Executive and chief executive

Executives are:

  • Responsible for leading a service delivery, policy, regulatory or strategic advisory function(s) or a geographical area.
  • Valued for the ability to lead program leaders or other executives and influence within the organisation and with external parties to ensure outcomes.

Chief executives are: 

  • Responsible for leading a government agency to effectively deliver on government priorities.
  • Valued for the ability to lead executives and the organisation and influence through sector and system leadership.


  • Navy:
    • Admiral, Vice Admiral, Rear Admiral
  • Army:
    • General, Lieutenant General, Major General
  • Air Force:
    • Air Chief Marshal, Air Marshal, Air Vice Marshal

Transferable experiences and capabilities

  • Highest ranks in the defence force.
  • Requires high-level accountability and judgement in decision-making processes.
  • Responsible for authorising major policy implementation programs.