Chief Petty Officer’s Guide

This second edition to the Chief Petty Officers Guide updates and modernizes the first, and has been written to serve as the “companion guide” to Chief Petty Officer (CPO) development processes and tools such as CPO 365, CPO mess training, the Senior Enlisted Academy, and books and articles written for and about the CPO mess. Its target audience includes serving CPOs/SCPOs/MCPOs, first-class petty officers, officers, civilian managers, foreign naval officers and senior enlisted, U.S. Coast Guard CPOs, and sister-service senior enlisted. This handbook provides unique insights into the values, beliefs, attitudes, and skills which enable CPO success, how Chiefs use power bases, influence tactics, and managerial skills to achieve objectives, and how Chiefs influence their peers and support and develop the wardroom.


Congratulations on the 2nd edition of your Guide. Tell me a little bit about it?

The 2nd edition to the Chief Petty Officer’s Guide was released in September of 2018 and updates the 1st edition and provides a modern and relevant update to a key book in USNI’s Professional Reading series. It was written to complement and serve as “the” companion guide for CPO professional development tools such as the CPO Indoctrination Course, CPO mess training, the Senior Enlisted Academy, Fleet CPO Training sessions, and books and articles written for and about the CPO mess.

Although written primarily for serving Chief, Senior Chief, and Master Chief Petty Officers and First-Class Petty Officers striving to advance to Chief, it also serves as a handy and informative source of insight and information for naval officers, civilian managers, foreign naval officers and senior enlisted, U.S. Coast Guard CPOs, sister-service senior enlisted, or anyone else interested in better understanding the uniqueness, empowerment, success, and effectiveness of U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officers. Topics include:

  • Who U.S. Navy Chiefs are and what they do.
  • The values, beliefs, attitudes, and skills which enable CPO success.
  • How Chiefs use power bases and influence to achieve objectives.
  • How Chiefs develop and use technical management skills to achieve objectives.
  • How Chiefs develop and mentor their Sailors from boot camp to the selection board.
  • How Chiefs support and influence their peers in the mess.
  • How Chiefs support and develop the wardroom.
  • How Chiefs lead themselves.

The updated guide integrates a variety of sources, anecdotes, leadership and management theories, resource links, and self-assessment guides to help increase the performance of currently-serving Chiefs. It also serves as a great resource to better prepare those “Chiefs-in-Training” for their future roles and responsibilities as U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officers and provides solid leadership and management advice for leaders in any organization.

After having been published in Proceedings magazine, having placed in both the general and enlisted prize essay contests, and serving on the editorial board, the Naval Institute Press approached me to provide this much-needed update to the CPO Guide, which was originally published in 2004. Although the guide already existed, it was no longer relevant to the current audience. As a fleet master chief, I had also found a thirst in the CPO Mess for leadership development content that was not being quenched by current education and training topics. Furthermore, our education and training on management topics, skills, and approaches had eroded, and authoring the 2nd edition of the CPO Guide allowed me the opportunity to offer content that attempts to fill these gaps.

I’m currently working on the upcoming Petty Officer’s Guide with a co-author, PO1 Dan Richard. This guide takes the philosophy and many of the leadership concepts introduced in the CPO Guide works to align with and reinforce the content of enlisted leadership courses described in “Laying the Keel—Developing the Backbone of Our Navy” including the Foundational and Intermediate Leadership Courses and is intended to fill the leadership and management guide “gap” that currently exists between the Bluejackets Manual and The Chief Petty Officer’s Guide. Once the PO guide is published, we will have a continuum of leadership and management books for Navy enlisted professionals that will only be strengthened with future revisions. We were planning for a spring release but decided to revise the manuscript a bit to improve its utility and make it a bit more unique from the CPO Guide.

What is the biggest takeaway that you hope a reader will take from your book?

The biggest thing these books offer and their utility as a tool of self-reflection and improvement. Although we offer leadership and management concepts and advice on their application, the content is reinforced with questions for self-reflection that the reader can use to reflect and grow…and then take what they have learned to make a positive difference in their Navy. My goal is that they read and reference their guides often to better deal with challenging leadership situations they may find themselves in.

You’ve spent a career of over 31 years in the Navy, What books would you recommend for a Junior Officer ready goto his or her first operational command?

The first books I would suggest that a junior officer read are the professional development titles offered by the NIP to include The Newly Commissioned Officer’s Guide, The Naval Officer’s Guide, and The Watch Officer’s Guide. These three titles can help a young officer step off in the right direction in their new leadership roles. I would also suggest they read The Chief Petty Officer’s Guide which has a chapter specifically written on the relationship between officers and CPOs and this is an area that many feel a sense of trepidation about and could use advice on. From there, any read on the CNO’s reading list is good selections.

Although what to read is important, making time to read is the first step. I would recommend any naval professional plan out time in their day or week to read. Building reading stamina takes time. Just as we must slowly build up the volume in weightlifting or running, reading stamina is built by starting with 10-15 minutes a day and slowing adding time or pages to that foundation. Naval professionals should also read widely on topics such as psychology, economics, and sociology. These topics are all founded in the study of human behavior and will serve those who lead and manage people well.

What books did you read, recommend, and which influenced your thinking on leadership?

Over the years I have read many leadership and management books and articles. I have found many of them useful including The Situational Leader, The First 90 Days, Lincoln on Leadership, and Neptune’s Inferno. A key evolution point to my leadership knowledge came from a chapter titled “Conceptions in Power and Influence” found in Leadership in Organizations by Gary Yukl. After reading this chapter and giving it much thought, I was able to create a framework of leadership that I can now align with other books under. It also helped me better understand why certain leadership approaches I used in the past worked well and what I could have done to better influence, my people and teams. I now use the power and influence model as the framework for the discussions and talks I have regarding leadership and management. Beyond these types of books, I suggest that naval professionals also take time to read literature. There are many fiction and non-fiction titles in our world history that are powerful reads. Just google “top 100 novels” and your readers will find many great reads…many of these we had to read in high school. I found that I may not have appreciated them then, but they are very powerful to read now.

What are you reading now?

Today I’m reading a series of fictional books written by David Poyer that portray the nature of a high-end war between the U.S. and China. I’m on the fifth book in the series. I’ve learned to balance investing time into what’s become known as the four domains of resilience…mental, physical, social, and spiritual. To strengthen and maintain my mental domain I try to read at least an hour a day and then discuss and debate perspectives and issues impacting naval professionals. My role as the co-director of outreach for USNI positions me to do this extensively and to champion young Sailors, Marines, and Coastguardsmen to read, think, speak, and write about the culture and policy challenges impacting them today. I also co-host the Proceedings Podcast and have started my own Cutlass Podcast as another platform to discuss leadership and management concepts and experiences. I chose the name “Cutlass” because the characteristics of the cutlass reflect the nature of enlisted naval professional leadership–tough, versatile, and most effective when used up close. Both podcasts can be found on a variety of podcast platforms such as Spotify, Soundcloud, and Anchor…a quick search on those titles will bring you to the links.

What is one of the best investments you’ve ever made in your military career?

In my physical domain, I invest at least an hour of time into physical activity ranging from daily walks to micro-workouts at hourly intervals during the day. I also follow a paleo/keto eating approach and use intermittent fasting to help manage my energy levels and focus. And I make a point to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Socially I meet or talk with family and friends daily and my work with outreach provides me the opportunity to engage with larger audiences and meet new people.

The CPO guide can be found on the Naval Institute website


MCPO Paul A. Kingsbury, USN (Ret.), who served over 31 years in the U.S. Navy culminating in his selection as the Fleet Master Chief for U.S. Fleet Forces Command. He is the author of The Chief Petty Officer’s Guide, 2nd Edition, and has several published articles in military journals. He currently works for the U.S. Naval Institute as the co-director of outreach.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: