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Vice Admiral Sandy Stosz on How You Become a Leader with Moral Courage

Vice Admiral Sandy Stosz shares why the world needs leaders with the moral courage to stand firm and steady. Leaders who are capable of uniting people in support of a shared purpose. Leaders who want to make a difference by helping people become their best.

Admiral Sandy Stosz served for 40 years in the US Coast Guard, including 12 years at sea. Her career was filled with leadership lessons gleaned while breaking ice and breaking glass as the first woman to command an icebreaker on the Great Lakes and to lead a US armed forces service academy. She has lectured widely on leadership and featured on CSPAN and other media outlets. In 2012, Newsweek’s “The Daily Beast” named Sandy to their list of 150 Women who Shake the World. She is the author of Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters.

Purchase a copy of Admiral Sandy Stosz’ book Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass: Leading in Unchartered Waters.

So my book is all about giving back leadership lessons from my 40 years in uniform, so that others can become the best they can be without having to go through every single little learning experience that I went through. So from the entry-level to the C suite, if people can read my book and become a better leader, the best leader they can be, and then pay it forward.

Admiral Sandy Stosz

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What I Discuss With Admiral Sandy Stosz

Admiral Sandy Stosz joins us to discuss her simple but powerful set of leadership principles. These are ideas that if studied diligently, can become the very foundation of your core values and a sounding board to assess performance and behavior throughout one’s life. Admiral Stosz provides a structural framework for success that everyone can learn from.

  • How she developed her drive through being a state champion Track and Field Athlete.
  • Breaking glass by becoming one of the first females to graduate from the Coast Guard Academy and the first woman to be its Superintendent.
  • Developing character and core values through perseverance, hard work, and humility.
  • Finding your passion and purpose.
  • Life lessons from 12 years at sea and why preparation, performance, and perseverance are the formula for success.
  • The three P’s of Power: personal power, professional power, and positional power.
  • What she learned from watching the Kung Fu Panda and why she recommends everyone watch it.
  • The difference between a person of character and a leader of moral courage.
  • The art of decision making.
  • Have any questions, comments, or stories you’d like to share? Drop us a line at [email protected]m!
  • And much more…
158 | How to Become a Leader with Moral Courage | Vice Admiral Sandy Stosz | Passion Struck with John R. Miles
158 | How to Become a Leader with Moral Courage | Vice Admiral Sandy Stosz | Passion Struck with John R. Miles

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More From My Interview With Admiral Sandy Stosz On How You Become a Leader With Moral Courage

During our interview, I asked Admiral Stosz about the difference between a person of character and a leader with moral courage.

Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass by Admiral Sandy Stosz for passion Struck

Admiral Stosz explains, “A leader of character to me is somebody who can analyze risks, weigh options, and make sound decisions that are good decisions that are the right decisions for the individuals and the organization. And it’s all about decision-making when it comes to leading with character. And the reason there’s some character element to decision making is that it takes moral courage to make a lot of these tough trade-off decisions that will only get to your level if they’re really hard.

So when I was a Vice Admiral in the Coast Guard, there weren’t any easy decisions coming my way. I was getting significant tough trade-off decisions that potentially put the organization at risk. Or that required me to make trade-offs between programs for winners and losers. Understandably, you have sometimes to cut one to fund the other. And nobody wants to make those decisions. Are you going to sit down and look somebody in the eyes and tell them they’re not performing at the level expected? I’m sorry, but I’m not going to recommend you for the next promotion.

People don’t want to say that I had that happen to me once. I was a senior officer. And I had written a performance report on a subordinate who was also pretty senior. And I wrote the first part of the performance report and my supervisor had to sign off the second line. I did all the writing and all the marks in everything that evaluations but somebody else had to review it and sign off on it. And he told me that the person reviewing it couldn’t just soften this up a little bit and make the marks a little higher and make the words a little softer.

And I’m like, respectfully, no, I mean, if I don’t tell it like it is, the promotion board is going to look at this and say, well, Admiral Sandy Stosz thinks this person has got what it takes to move up. And I’m like, that’s not my brand. My brand is where your heart on your sleeve. You tell it as you see it. You’re straightforward. You are fair and firm; everybody knows that. And I’m not going to have a fitness report and evaluation report signed by me that has made things squishy so that the person reading it doesn’t have to feel like they didn’t meet muster.

No, I’m going to sit down and tell that person you’re a great person. But at this level, you’re falling short in these areas, so I’m not going to recommend you for the next level. And there’s nothing personal about that. It’s just all about performance. So you have to be honest with people. And I’m giving that as an example. Because where I see the lack of moral courage and leaders of character, most often, if they don’t make those tough decisions to confront somebody, they walk past these violations as standard to walk past as a standard you accept, right?

You can tell I have passion for this. So that’s a different kind of leader of character, and personal character is can they with courage, make the decisions they have to make that they’re getting paid to make.

Thanks, Admiral Sandy Stosz!

If you enjoyed this interview with Admiral Sandy Stosz, let her know by clicking on the link below and sending her a quick shout on Twitter or LinkedIn:

Click here to thank Sandy Stosz on LinkedIn!

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Resources From The Show With Admiral Sandy Stosz

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Quote by Sandy Stosz'

* My interview with Admiral James Stavridis 

* My interview with Vice Admiral Ted Carter, President of the University of Nebraska:

* My interview with former NASA astronaut Captain Wendy Lawrence:

* My interview with Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet, the former Undersecretary of Transportation:

* My interview with former Navy Seal and NASA Astronaut Captain Chris Cassidy:

* My solo episode on why micro choices matter:

* My solo episode on why you must feel to heal:

About Today’s Guest Vice Admiral Sandy Stosz

Passion Struck podcast album cover episode 159 with Vice Admiral Sandy Stosz on how to become a leader with moral courage

Admiral Sandy Stosz started out in the US Coast Guard as an ensign serving aboard polar icebreakers, conducting national security missions from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Her forty-year career was filled with leadership lessons gleaned while breaking ice and breaking glass as the first woman to command an icebreaker on the Great Lakes and to lead a US armed forces service academy.

Along the way, Sandy served for 12 years at sea, commanding two ships, and led 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 has been featured on CSPAN and other media outlets. In 2012, Newsweek’s “The Daily Beast” named Sandy to their list of 150 Women who Shake the World. She volunteers in leadership roles for several organizations, including serving as a trustee for the Coast Guard Academy Institute for Leadership and as chair of the Coast Guard Academy Sailing Council.

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John R. Miles is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of Passion Struck. This full-service media company helps people live intentionally by creating best-in-class educational and entertainment content. John is also a prolific public speaker, venture capitalist, and author named to the ComputerWorld Top 100 IT Leaders.

John is the host of the PassionStruckPodcast. A show focused on exploring the mindset and philosophy of the world’s most inspiring people to learn their lessons to living intentionally. Passion Struck aspires to speak to the humanity of people in a way that makes them want to live better, be better and impact.

Stay tuned for John’s latest project, his upcoming book, which will be published in summer 2022.

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