By Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens
As the master chief petty officer of the Navy, I get the chance to talk with chief petty officers from all across the world. As I travel throughout the fleet, it is evident that chiefs are doing great things. Their Sailors are a reflection of their amazing work. Established on April 1, 1893, chiefs have led each Sailor in their charge.
No one can be under any illusions of what being a chief petty officer means. You must be “All In, All The Time.” We must live honest and humble lives because our Sailors can see between the lines. They can see through the chief who tells his or her Sailors one thing, but does the opposite on the weekends. You must live and lead consistently.
By myself, I don’t have the capacity to come up with all of the answers, but I believe that our chiefs’ mess must have common ground, something that we can all work on together. We must have a focus. This is where “Zeroing in on Excellence” comes in.
Developing leaders: Leaders are the lids to their organizations. Leadership touches us all. Leadership is also one’s ability to influence others. I was in a command that made every mission, people were happy to come to work, they were proud to wear the command colors, and people wanted to be there. There was very little misconduct, or mishaps, and it was a good place to be stationed. The lid was the commanding officer and the command master chief. Nothing changed within that command except for the change of command. Within 30 days of the change of command, the command went from being world champions to the worst in the league. It took me years to understand the significance of influence our senior leaders make. Great leaders are what make great organizations. If we want to mitigate many problems we are facing, we must have the right leaders in the right place at the right time. We are investing our time, energy and effort into the problem, but the reality is that without the leadership we won’t rid the problem.
Good order and discipline: I think with our young men and women who serve, their behavior is a reflection of our behavior. If you want people to do the right thing, then we must to do the right thing. Across the board of senior leaders, if we live the life beyond reproach then we would highly encourage, through our actions, young men and women who serve beneath us to do the same thing. Our greatest failure has been our failure to lead by example. I’m not looking to start a program, collect date, but rather just do the right thing. Especially when it’s hard because young Sailors will see you when they look in the mirror.
Controlling what we own: The greatest difference maker in life is our attitude. You can’t always control what happens to you but you can control how you react. We often spend so much time complaining about some of the challenges that life has dealt us, and I’m guilty too, but if we really stood back and took a hard look, we’d realize that within those challenges, lies tremendous opportunities. With the many challenges facing our Navy today, as much or more than ever, “controlling what we own” is of utmost importance. The things that we have no control over simply cannot distract us.
I’ve been a chief petty officer for 19 years, and I understand the perceived history and traditions of our Chief’s Mess. I’ve seen a lot during evolution of the way we’ve trained our first class petty officers. For many years, we weren’t physically hurting people, but it seemed to bring out the worst in our chief petty officers. We’d do things in a group that we would never do individually. I saw people say and do things that they normally wouldn’t do on their own. I just knew that if I didn’t stand for what is fundamentally right, with treating people with dignity and respect, then I was just as guilty as the people I had a problem with.
If you look throughout our history of the United States, some of the greatest things we’ve done have created strife and discontent. We say that we are a democratic society and that the majority has the say so, but every once in a while in our history, there’s a person that goes against the majority because it’s simply the right thing to do.
Chief petty officers are very influential in the Navy. If we can train our reliefs with dignity and respect, then we can ultimately get it right with every Sailor we come across. Remember, when you do the right things for the right reasons, you will always prevail.
There are many young Sailors who will one day serve among the ranks as chief petty officers to continue commemorating the legacy of excellence.
I’d like to take a moment to say thank you for everything you do, every single day. Our time in these jobs as seniors is short and we must continue to make every day our masterpiece.
Below is MCPON Steven’s birthday message to the Chief’s mess:
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