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Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character Hardcover – October 15, 2019
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From the Publisher
“James Stavridis’ new book, Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character, comes along at such a propitious moment and should be required reading for all young people looking forward to a career in public life . . . Stavridis is perfectly placed to discuss the virtues and questions of leadership.” —Cipher Brief
“[An] earnest mixture of biography, memoir, and pop psychology . . . readers will absorb some significant naval history . . . Stavridis, the former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and current chairman of the U.S. Naval Institute, has done his research in the works of popular historians . . . [These] biographies make good reading.” —Kirkus
“Admiral Jim Stavridis is a scholar-sailor-strategist of the first rank, a gift to his nation and to his times. And this book is itself a gift, a lively, learned, and resonant study of the things that matter most.” —Jon Meacham, author of The Soul of America
“If character matters, this is a must read for those who would live a full life. Admiral Stavridis and I served alongside each other from the halls of NATO to the hills of Afghanistan, and he is a thinker and writer I greatly admire. In this new volume, he takes us to sea with some of the most complicated Admirals in history and shows us the challenges of character with which we all wrestle.” —James N. Mattis, General, USMC (Ret); former Secretary of Defense
“With these fascinating and timely profiles, Admiral Stavridis offers lessons about character and leadership that apply both at sea and on land. This study reminds us that strong leaders are built, not born, and that before we can inspire those around us we must first take a hard look at ourselves.” —Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
“No one is better qualified than Admiral James Stavridis to write about leadership and the sea. A fascinating, highly personal look at ten very different leaders, Sailing True North is both a wonderful read and a probing examination of human character.” —Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Hurricane's Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown
“Jim Stavridis and I served together for years as Navy Combatant Commanders, and he is a thoughtful, historically grounded thinker and writer. His portrait of the ‘voyage of character’ resonates vividly in this turbulent 21st century.” —Admiral William H. McRaven (Ret.), author of Make Your Bed and Sea Stories
“In Sailing True North, James Stavridis, one of the nation’s most distinguished admirals and a former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, has given us a timely and deeply revealing meditation on character as it informs decision-making throughout naval history. A compelling reflection on the lives of history’s most significant naval commanders, and how their leadership choices can help us find the right course to chart in our own lives. Great insights from a trusted and valued colleague at NBC News, where we rely on his views not only on security and diplomacy, but on leadership and character.” —Andrea Mitchell, NBC News’ Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent
“Admiral Stavridis chronicles the stories of ten admirals of historical importance and the inner voyage of each to develop the qualities of personal character that made them heroic. While the forge in their journeys was the sea, Stavridis draws from their lives lessons on the importance of character for personal self-worth and professional success applicable for all of us. As always, Jim Stavridis takes on a topic of enormous contemporary concern—growing indifference in our society to the importance of character—with creativity, honesty and power.” —Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense 2006-2011
About the Author
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Here are the admirals, along with some of Admiral Stavridis's text from the book about them:
Themistocles, 524-459 B.C. -- The Power of Persuasion
A Greek admiral who possessed a predictive skill, and “ . . . forecast the possible outcomes in any given circumstance.
Zheng He, 1371-1433 – A Sailor of the Middle Kingdom
“An organized frame of mind tempered by a calm personality.’
Sir Francis Drake, 1540-1596 – A Pirate and a Patriot
“A good example of how a deeply flawed character can still accomplish a great deal in an energetic life—for both good and ill.”
Vice Admiral Viscount Horatio Nelson, 1758-1805 – The Band of Brothers
“Personified the desire that many people of character have to be part of something larger than themselves.” That trait was echoed often by the late Senator John McCain.
Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, 1840-1914 – The Influencer
“ . . . unwavering in his determination to communicate a new strategic vision of his nation—one that fit the times and turned America’s gaze to the world.”
Admiral Lord John Arbuthnot Fisher, 1841-1920 – Rum, Buggery, and the Lash
“ . . . relentlessly upbeat and positive.” Stavridis added, “If I could pick only one admiral to spend a long evening with, it would be Jacky Fisher.”
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, 1885-1966 – The Admiral’s Admiral
President Gerald Ford, in dedicating the aircraft carrier bearing Nimitz’s name, quoted E.B. Potter, who said, “He was aggressive in war without hate, and audacious while never failing to weigh the risks.”
Admiral Hyman Rickover, 1900-1986 – The Master of Anger
“ . . . no admiral in this book was more visionary than Hyman Rickover.”
Admiral Elmo R. “Bud” Zumwalt, Jr., 1920-2000 – The Angel of Change
“Bud Zumwalt was great in vision, bold in challenging old customs, ideas, and assumptions; and both willing and able to make the bureaucracy howl.” Zumwalt’s gravestone bears the epitaph, “Reformer.”
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, 1906-1992 – Don’t Go Near the Water
“ . . . a believer that it was loyalty to principle that mattered, not blind loyalty to any given boss.”
Admiral Stavridis also offers ten character traits that echo the success and failures of the ten admirals, and also served him well over during his career on land and at sea.
General James Mattis said, “If character matters, this is a must read for those who would live a full life.”
I agree 100%. “Sailing True North” should be an addition to everyone’s library.
Alice in Wonderland (his definition of character changes constantly)
Politically Correct: Included two Admirals who could only be there as concessions to P.C.
Ostensibly Well-Intentioned (but the author's ego makes one doubt it)
We read it as a choice for our monthly meeting, and not one member could find a basis to defend this book.
Whether clarifying the difference between leadership and character, sharing the story of meeting retired Admiral Elmo Zumwalt in the Pentagon, or walking us through Admiral Grace Hopper's career arc, Stavridis deftly weaves together ten examples of character using clear analysis and warm writing.
Many leadership books focus heavily on principles, telling us how we should endeavor to live our lives. Stavridis, however, achieves a better result by providing an honest examination of leaders--both the good and the bad, proving the point that it is far more advantageous to learn through the experience and example of others than to make painful and costly mistakes ourselves.
This approach to study and reflection is effective and thought provoking. I also enjoy Stavridis's willingness to challenge a leader's motives, as he does when assessing Rickover's use of anger to drive larger-than-life results from his team. As Stavridis asks, "Were the anger and impatience used clinically as an appropriate tool of leadership? Or were they rather a character flaw that he could not control?" Rather than telling the reader what to believe, Stavridis serves as a guide to his readers, affording us the opportunity to reach out own conclusions.
This book should easily become the newest "go to" resource for leaders in any walk of life, military or commercial.