The Four Jobs of a Master Chief

by Master Chief David C. DiPietro, U.S. Navy

Being a master chief means that you are the subject matter expert, the captain’s right hand, and the sailor’s advocate. The master chief is the sergeant major, chief master sergeant, COO, VP, president, director, or any number of senior management titles.

So, what is your job?

  1. Take care of your sailors. This does not mean coddling them and holding their hand; it means knowing what they need to achieve their goals. It is about understanding them and mentoring them, pushing them at times, and removing hurdles to their success. Sometimes it is about tough love.
  2. Train your relief. John Maxwell calls this the “Law of Explosive Growth:” If you want to multiply your effectiveness, develop leaders. Identify the leaders in your organization and mentor them. Empower them and make opportunities for them to advance and take over for you some day. I call this the “Bus Rule:” If I get hit by a bus today, have I trained my relief to take over without missing a step? Have you?
  3. Prepare your officers for command. I have heard it said that every junior officer is a future commanding officer. In the Navy, this applies to officers of every paygrade. Make sure they do not lose focus, or start to believe their own hype. In business terms, this means making sure your boss and other officers in your company stay ethically grounded, understanding the people they manage and the customers they serve. But at 30,000 feet, it's easy to lose perspective. Your job as a master chief is to make sure they keep one foot on the ground.
  4. Know when it is time to go home. It is not just about punching the timeclock: In the Navy, there is always more work to be done. Another award to write, another sailor to speak with, another watchbill to review, you name it. But at some point, you have to know when it is time to go. That is your job. You are the voice of truth and reason and you need to know when the day is done and it's time to punch out. It also means that you know when it's time to move on. Time to start looking for a new career, a new opportunity, a new project. You know when you're running into the law of diminishing returns and when it is time to cut bait. You know when to tell the boss that it is time to go.

These are the four jobs of a master chief, but they may be applied to all leadership roles - within the military and outside of it. If you find yourself in a leadership position in your organization, these principles will serve you well.

Master Chief DiPietro is currently assigned as the Submarine Manpower Director at Naval Submarine Support Center in Groton, CT.  



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