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The Navy's Most Important Ship: Leadership

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PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership sponsored the annual John C. Stennis Leadership Awards ceremony July 19, during which the Straight Furrow, Look Ahead and Constitution awards recognized Sailors who have performed at a high level and exhibited the most exceptional leadership skills. 

Cmdr. Rodney Moss, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) weapons officer, referred to as Gun Boss, and Straight Furrow award winner, exemplifies what a strong leader can be, but it’s important to remember leadership is not exclusive to those at Moss’ level. Every Sailor aboard John C. Stennis can affect the command by practicing leadership skills.

“Something I tell all my Sailors is that they’re all leaders,” said Moss. “It doesn’t matter the rank or position. It’s about seeing something, saying something and doing the right thing because there is always an opportunity to do the right thing. That was one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacies of leaning forward. Then you take Senator John C. Stennis and all the amazing things he did. Those are the attributes and qualities of a leader.”

Moss also stated that small changes to daily routines or adapting to new situations sets an example for others to follow.

“Leadership starts with being a leader of yourself,” said Moss. “Be on time, in the right uniform, have courtesy and get your warfare pin. Instead of grumbling and complaining, step up and be a leader. Something as simple as seeing a piece of paper on the floor and picking it up can make you someone that others want to emulate.”

Someone Sailors want to emulate is Master Chief Melissa Warren, the administration department leading chief petty officer and recipient of the Look Ahead award.  

“My Sailors understand that if they have a problem I’m not going to shut them down, or if they have a question I’m not going to turn them away,” said Warren. “I want them to know their time and their opinions are valued. I think my Sailors treat each other the same way.”

Warren also explained that listening and understanding the people around you is a vital skill, but it must be matched with humility and the ability to receive feedback about yourself.

“Accept feedback and drop your ego,” said Warren. “It’s important to welcome critiques and criticism to grow as not only a leader, but also as a person.”

For many, the growing process never ends and the Sailors that have received awards for their leadership ability still recognize that their journey is not yet complete.

“Even when you’re a leader of others, it’s important to realize that you can still learn from other people,” said Ship’s Serviceman 1st Class Michael Burdios, the training department leading petty officer, and Constitution award recipient. “Every Sailor on board has something to teach me.”

Teaching is a necessary skill for a leader to possess. Burdios and Moss both agree that every Sailor aboard has the capability to develop leadership techniques.

 “Everybody has the potential to be a leader,” said Moss. “Most people don’t practice their leadership skills. People are told they can’t be leaders for one reason or another, or they feel like they aren’t valued. When they’re given the opportunity to be a leader, they will succeed.”

Success isn’t always something that comes right away. Failure can be devastating, but also a powerful learning tool if approached with the right mentality.

“It’s like a game of basketball,” said Burdios. “If you miss a layup with five seconds left in the game, the game isn’t over. There’s still time left on the clock. You just have to give 110% next time to make sure you don’t miss the next shot.”

The recipients said winning an award for your leadership is an honor that might take years to earn, but the small reward of helping a shipmate is something that can be earned in a single moment. What may seem like a small act might make a world of difference to someone else, and true leaders make that difference.  

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