Coast Guard Leadership Memoir Packed with LOTS of Golden Nuggets!

Posted by Kristin Arnold on June 21, 2021

Breaking Ice & Breaking Glass: Leading in Unchartered Waters is a compelling leadership memoir by Vice Admiral Sandra Stosz, USCG (ret).  The first woman to lead a US Armed Forces Service Academy, VADM Stosz takes us through her leadership journey while serving onboard ships and at shore. 

The premise of the book is simple:  To lead an organization to excellence, it is best to be a leader of character by dedicating yourself to selfless service, setting the example, motivating your people to reach their full potential, and continually adapting and innovating.  She punctuates each of these points with short vignettes, anecdotes, and examples – that are completely relatable to anyone in any industry. Her ideas on servant leadership and perseverance are told with clarity and humility, noting key events and subsequent learnings that happened to her over her 40-year career.

Even if you don’t have a Coast Guard, nautical, or military background, the stories could happen to ANY leader – and she is telling it through the lens of the Coast Guard.  Stosz takes the time to share simple details that the non-initiated should know to follow the story.  So, if you don’t know much about the Coast Guard, well then, you have the added benefit of learning something new as well as the leadership lessons!

The book is broken down into three parts:  Leading self and others, leading programs and making policy, and leading the organization. Each part has chapters bursting with short, pithy lessons.  “Meet them where they are” and “The standard you walk past is the standard you expect” are two examples of golden nuggets.  I also appreciated the chapters on wellness (in a leadership book!) and the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity.

While an interesting read, I kept wanting to put it down to reflect on my own experiences and application.  I hope she writes a companion workbook and that it gets issued to every 2nd class (junior) cadet at the USCG Academy!

(Note: Sandy was my first roommate for “swab summer” at the US Coast Guard Academy, so I was particularly interested in BUYING and READING this book!  I was not given an advance reader copy – so my comments here are, as all of my book reviews, completely honest!).