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Publisher's Summary

From one of the most distinguished admirals of our time and a former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, a meditation on leadership and character refracted through the lives of 10 of the most illustrious naval commanders in history

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 21st 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.

©2019 Admiral James Stavridis (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“[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)

“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)

“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)

What listeners say about Sailing True North

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  • Overall
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Impressive

This book is a combination of biography, memoir and naval history. Admiral Stavridis starts with the first great sea commander, Themistocles, who led the ancient Greeks to victory over the Persians. Also discussed were 15th century Chinese Admiral Zheng, Sir Francis Drake, Horatio Nelson, John A. Fisher, Alfred T. Mahan, Chester Nimitz, Hyman Rickover, and Elmo Zumwalt. The author ends with a famous woman, Admiral Grace Hopper.

The book is well written and researched. Primarily the book is about leadership and integrity. The author emphasizes the difference between character, reputation and leadership. In between discussing these famous people, Stavridis provides information about his own life in the Navy. The book is informative and uplifting and, considering today’s world, a much need discussion about integrity.

The book is eight hours and fifty-five minutes. Marc Cashman does an excellent job narrating the book. Cashman is an actor and was Audiofile Magazine’s “Best Voice of the Year Award”.

4 people found this helpful

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Solid

The ten summary ideas at the end could have saved time by skipping right to them. The lessons that each admiral went through seemed to get weaker and weaker. The story of the Chinese admiral was probably the most valuable in terms of perseverance and resilience. The stories themselves could have been better. Not bad, not great. Glad I read it, wouldn’t read it again.

2 people found this helpful

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Great stories, weak narrator.

When Adm Stravridis is speaking, as he does in the forward and final thoughts sections, this this is fantastic. The narrator’s performance is not very enjoyable but does not over shadow the outstanding message of this book.

2 people found this helpful

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Did not enjoy

Several people have commented adversely on the reader's voice but that was not my problem. I thought Admiral Stavridis is simply not a particularly good writer or perhaps needed a better editor. He often tacks on needless phrases which contribute nothing and negatively affect pacing. For example "no one can see the future - at least not in any real sense". Do we seriously need to distinguish those who can see the future in an unreal sense? He profiles several well known Admirals - most of whom have been thoroughly documented in biographies and their own auto-biographies. The lessons learned were vague and seldom substantiated with anecdotal behavior. I think Stavridis frequently contradicted himself either in practice or in his own writing within the book itself. He simply cannot resist making unnecessary subtle swipes at people in politics. Who cares your opinion on this subject if it does not further the premise? I think he whines too much about trivial failings - his own and others. I, a Navy veteran - think he needlessly uses jargon when discussing certain operations and then doesn't explain the reason. Maybe it was assumed the audience would consist mostly of military readers?
In summary he literally lists a half dozen obvious, well-known problems but offers no solutions. This is also unrelated to the title's premise since it does not define character. For example - and he really goes out on a limb here: Racism is bad and I oppose it - surely this is not a topic for serious debate! The fact that he opposes racism is hardly newsworth but the fact that one feels the need to make it a point of pride sounds ridiculous. Surely a true test of character is greater than whether one opposes racism? One cannot imagine an openly racist person who would simultaneously be commended for his clear moral character - it's absurd. While I respect Stavridis' service and military accomplishments I would hardly count this book in any list of military must-reads. Skip it.

1 person found this helpful

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Pat.feeney@cbre.com

Excellent book to listen to on long walks. Inspirational and thought provoking.
Go for it...

1 person found this helpful

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a honest reflection

I thin in today's world this should be required reading in elementary high-school and college

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Excellent account of a 2-Star General!!

A well written book about 10 Prior Generals that shaped the American Seas! Astounding account of each one and how they provided our Naval Military!

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Sailing True North is the correct course.

The Admiral covers all the fundamentals with examples good & bad through historic examples. Excellent !

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My Review

Not quite as good as I was hoping. I do Admire and respect the Admiral a great deal.

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An Important book

It is not surprising that a book about character and leadership is not particularly a page turner, this though is a well written and important book to read