Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character
In his acclaimed book Sea Power, James Stavridis reckoned with the history and geopolitics of the world’s great bodies of water. Now in Sailing True North, he offers a much more intimate, human accounting: the lessons of leadership and character contained in the lives and careers of history’s most significant naval commanders. Admiral Stavridis brings a lifetime of reflection to bear on the subjects of his study–on naval history, on the vocation of the admiral with its special tests and challenges, and on the sweep of global geopolitics. Above all, this is a book that will help you navigate your own life’s voyage: the voyage of leadership of course, but more important, the voyage of character. Sadly, evil men can be effective leaders sailing toward bad ends; ultimately, leadership without character is like a ship underway without a rudder. Sailing True North helps us find the right course to chart.
Simply as epic lives, the tales of these ten admirals offer up a collection of the greatest imaginable sea stories. Moreover, spanning 2,500 years from ancient Greece to the twenty-first century, Sailing True North is a book that offers a history of the world through the prism of our greatest naval leaders. None of the admirals in this volume were perfect, and some were deeply flawed. But from Themistocles, Drake, and Nelson to Nimitz, Rickover, and Hopper, important themes emerge, not least that there is an art to knowing when to listen to your shipmates and when to turn a blind eye; that serving your reputation is a poor substitute for serving your character; and that taking time to read and reflect is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.
By putting us on personal terms with historic leaders in the maritime sphere he knows so well, James Stavridis has in Sailing True North offered a compass that can help us navigate the story of our own lives, wherever that voyage takes us.
“The author brings these admirals to life, creating a flesh-and-blood portrayal of each and calling things as he sees them in terms of both their strengths and their flaws . . . Along the way, readers also are treated to the personal insights of the author, one of the most successful maritime leaders of our time . . . For readers who learn history through personal stories, this book will resonate as both a superb popular history and a nautical exploration of leadership virtues reminiscent of David Brooks’ The Road to Character. As someone who also believes there is much to learn from our seagoing history, I’m grateful for this book, particularly one written by a skilled writer whose own leadership journey likely still has a number of its own chapters yet to be written.” —Proceedings Magazine
“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] the 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