Developing leaders is the most important responsibility of chief petty officers. Within this area, the MCPON included mentoring, practical experience, and training. Mentoring is often overlooked in the grand scheme of leadership development and it deserves far more attention than it receives. The multitude of leadership programs developed over recent years has led to a loss of focus on mentoring. Many readers will disagree with that statement, but the fact that so many leadership programs have been created while leadership development continues to be a concern is evidence of this.
MCPON Stevens also made great points about “how singularly irreplaceable personal example is in building bold, accountable, and confident leadership.” Books have been written about those attributes, and these are precisely the type of leaders we need at every level: bold, confident, and accountable. It is also instructive and appropriate that the MCPON included in this discussion “enlisted and commissioned Sailors” and chief petty officers’ impact on “how they ultimately evolve as leaders.”
MCPON Stevens wrote, “Chiefs OWN Good Order and Discipline.” As accurate as that is, leaders at all levels need support in this area, and that starts with a solid foundation. The basis for good order and discipline in the military must be delivered immediately upon accession. Enlisted and officer accession training must necessarily be physically and mentally demanding with a foundation in military discipline. Marching and drills—yes, with rifles— deliver that discipline. These military traditions are no longer stressed but should be, because they form the very basis of good order and discipline by teaching precision, teamwork, and the immediate and unchallenged execution of verbal orders.
These benefits were discounted because of concerns about the physical impact of excessive marching and time-saving directed toward other training. Those decisions should be reconsidered because the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
“Controlling what we own” is worrying about the things you can influence and not being distracted by those things you cannot . It should go beyond that to a renewed focus on primary duties above all else, not allowing non-mission collateral tasks to interfere. It means not burdening your people with useless and redundant training or meetings without stated objectives. “Controlling what we own” also means accountability, or owning what we control.
Sailors at all levels need more than just “Zeroing in on Excellence,” but it’s a fantastic and appropriate start for the new MCPON. If taken to heart, it will go a long way toward making the best Navy better. Professional sailors will heed his words and turn them into action; amateurs will disregard his call as just another new program. As MCPON Stevens wrote, we need professionals; there is no room for amateurs.