Breaking Ice And Breaking Glass

Leaders eager to make a difference by helping people and organizations be at their best will find Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters their go-to resource. Today, our nation is like a ship being tossed in tumultuous seas. The winds and waves of change have divided and distanced our society, threatening to wash away the very principles upon which our nation was founded. Now more than ever, our nation needs leaders anchored with the moral courage to stand strong and steady against the battering waves that, if unchecked, could erode our core values. These inspirational leaders of character will unite people in support of a shared purpose by building the trust and respect necessary for organizations and their people to thrive.

What is the backstory behind “Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass”? And why did you decide to write the book?

When I was a junior officer, in my late 20’s, I was assigned as the Secretary of Transportation’s military aide. At the time, the Coast Guard was a part of the Department of Transportation. I met a young woman, Shane, who was also working in the Secretary’s front office. We had some amazing experiences traveling with the Secretary and seeing how the government works. One day I was telling Shane I thought I’d write a book on leadership to give back some of what I was learning from my unique experiences. She knew I had been the first woman to serve in some of my jobs, so she immediately declared, “you’ve got to call that book Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass! Thirty years later, Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters is being published!

How has writing helped you personally? And changed the way you think?

Writing this book demanded that I dig way back into my childhood and career experiences to examine the roots of my core values and character. We take so much for granted in this great country of ours. I have become deeply self-aware and appreciative of the challenges and opportunities the Coast Guard provided me, and more understanding of how I can give back leadership lessons learned over my 40 years in the US Coast Guard.

Is there one short story from your book you would like to share?

The book is filled with stories, including sea stories, so I’ll leave it to the reader to explore those and discover the leadership lessons within.

What value can someone that is not in the military take from away from your book?

There are many books on leadership written by military members that successfully translate leadership lessons learned “from the battlefield to the boardroom.” My book does just that, with a focus on bringing character and core values into the workplace. Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters is my story, but everyone who desires to lead will face their own obstacles and uncharted waters to navigate on their journey to success. My book provides lessons and frameworks to help leaders in any business or occupation navigate those uncharted waters.

What books would you recommend for a Junior Officer ready to go to his or her first operational command?

  1. Make Your Bed by Admiral William McRaven
  2. The Truth About Leadership by James Kouzes and Barry Posner
  3. Choosing Civility: the Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni
  4. Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character by Admiral James Stavridis
  5. The Grit Factor by Shannon Huffman Polson
  6. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

What is the biggest takeaway that you hope a reader will learn from “Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass”?

Leaders of character who use their core values as buoys to guide their actions and decisions will steer clear of shoal waters while navigating the uncharted waters of life’s journey.

What lessons can a Junior Officer take from your book?

  • There’s no “app” for being a JO. You need to do the hard work to prepare, perform and persevere. That’s the recipe for success. There are no shortcuts and there are no apps for succeeding as a JO.
  • There are three kinds of power: Personal, Professional, and Position. To be successful, you’d be wise to lean hard on the first two, and only use your position power when you can’t achieve your goal(s) with personal or professional power.
  • Strive to earn respect as a JO, don’t fall into the trap of trying to “friend” everyone. Remember the age-old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt.” Earn the respect, every day, of your subordinates, your peers, and your superiors.

What are you reading now?

I make it a point to always have a book to read. I enjoy classic literature above all else, but with the advent of my book on leadership, I’m reading other leadership books like Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin and How Women Rise by Sally Helgeson are recent reads.

This year class of 2021 earns their commission and heads to their first command.  What specific recommendations do you have for them as they embark on this lifetime of leadership?

The following are all good reads for new officers:

  1. Make Your Bed by Admiral William McRaven
  2. The Truth About Leadership by James Kouzes and Barry Posner
  3. Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni
  4. Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character by Admiral James Stavridis
  5. The Grit Factor by Shannon Huffman Polson
  6. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

What books do you recommend which influenced your thinking on leadership?
Having spent a career at sea on ships, I relish The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk. The infamous Captain Queeg viscerally taught me what not to do as a leader of character. The book is set in the waters of the vast Pacific Ocean during World War II. Captain Queeg, a tyrant, commands the USS Caine with a heavy hand. Strictly by-the-book, his dogged focus on minutia blinds him to the bigger picture of the mission. Many notorious “incidents” cast a pall on Captain Queeg’s ability to effectively lead.

The target-towing incident is one of the most instructive. In it, the Caine has been ordered to tow a target to be used for shooting practice by other navy warships. During the operation, Captain Queeg gives the helmsman a rudder command to turn the ship. He then fixates on reprimanding a watchstander for a uniform discrepancy, losing situational awareness as the ship makes a slow, giant circle. The helmsman notices the problem but is reluctant to say anything out of fear of the captain. Consequently, the Caine cuts her own towline, leaving Captain Queeg completely baffled and looking for someone to blame. Captain Queeg cultivated a hostile command climate, stifling the teamwork and communication necessary to operate a warship. I learned the power of leading by motivation, not by fear.

What books had the most impact on you and your development?
When I was a cadet, or student, at the Coast Guard Academy, one of the courses that impacted me most was an elective, The Tragic Hero in Literature. In Hamlet by Shakespeare and Oedipus by Socrates, I witnessed the insidious effect of hubris on the heroes. Both men fell not only because of their hubris but as a result of their failure to recognize the flaw within themselves. I learned from Aristotle, who postulated, “A man does not become a hero until he can see the root of his downfall.” The tragic hero course taught me the importance of self-awareness. I came to understand the need to search inward to recognize and address my flaws and strive to make good choices.

Why is reading important for our Military and/or the Nation?
History repeats itself if it’s not studied assiduously. Inevitably, when those who lived through historic events die, subsequent generations forget. Without studying history, people may try to erase or rewrite history they don’t understand to better advance their cause.

If you had a book club, what would it be reading — and why?
The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. It talks about alarming social trends that have produced untruths that are dividing and weakening our society and threatening our democracy.

What are your favorite books to give — and get — as gifts?
There’s a young officer I mentor. She and I have exchanged books for years. We both love literature, and she is very well read. She sends me books that broaden my perspective, and that I would never have thought to read. Books like the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler and The Remains of the Day by the Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro.

Give us three “Good to Know” facts about you.

  • I’m a major introvert and I love Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. That book served as a revelation and helped me better understand myself and others. It enabled me to better lead a cognitively diverse workforce. For instance, instead of presuming people with something to say at a meeting would speak up, I learned to call on the quiet ones who had all the answers but who were hesitant to say anything.
  • I spent my first three years in the US Coast Guard deploying to the Arctic and the Antarctic on polar icebreakers. They say Alaska is the Last Frontier, but I believe that recognition should go to Antarctica. It’s a fantastic landscape of smoldering volcanoes, dry valleys, and ice shelves and is home to penguins, seals, and whales.
  • As a child, I worked summers on a shade tobacco farm in the Connecticut River Valley to earn money for college. I would come home to my grandparent’s farm every evening with my arms coated in sticky nicotine from handling the giant, green tobacco leaves.

General Mattis talks a lot about using reading as a tool to learn from other people’s experiences. Can you provide a specific example or story where reading has helped you learn from others’ experiences? 
I’m honored that General Mattis endorsed my book, Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters. He and I share a love of good literature. Because we’re talking about General Mattis, I’m going to pick Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. From the Spartans, I learned that I could fight and win against overwhelming odds that would have otherwise deterred me. But to do so, I had to develop the courage, strength, and skills necessary to defeat my own fear and stand up to face challenges that appeared unsurmountable.

How did your leadership and ethical philosophy develop? 
You’ll have to read my book, Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters for the answer. I write extensively about my character and core values development starting in childhood. In summary, I believe your leadership and ethical philosophy is developed and refined day-by-day, through experience, over the course of your lifetime. The further you reach, and perhaps the more you fail doing so, the greater will be your development.

What’s next for you?
In addition to my book, I’ve started a weekly blog, Leading with Character. It’s another way for me to give back leadership lessons learned from 40 years’ experience with the US Coast Guard. I’m also a trustee for the US Coast Guard Academy James Loy Institute for Leadership (IFL). The proceeds from my book will be donated to the IFL to support cadet leadership development.

Purchase Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass Here

Admiral Sandy Stosz started out in the US Coast Guard as an ensign serving on polar icebreakers, conducting national security missions from the Arctic to the Antarctic. She was the first woman to command an icebreaker on the Great Lakes and to lead a US Armed Forces service academy. After serving for twelve years at sea, commanding two ships, and leading large Coast Guard organizations during times of crisis and complexity, she finished her career as the first woman assigned as deputy commandant for mission support, directing one of the Coast Guard’s largest enterprises. She has lectured widely on leadership and been featured on CSPAN and other media outlets. In 2012, The Daily Beast named Sandy to their list of “150 Women Who Shake the World.” She volunteers in leadership roles for several organizations

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