From one of the great naval leaders of our time, a master class in decision making under pressure through the stories of nine famous acts of leadership in battle drawn from the history of the United States Navy, with outcomes both glorious and notorious
At the heart of Admiral James Stavridis’s training as a naval officer was the preparation to lead sailors in combat, to face the decisive moment in battle when it arises and make the best decision possible given the situation at hand. Over the course of his illustrious career he returned again and again to a relatively small number of legendary cases in point, holding them to the light repeatedly to see what lessons they yielded. Now, in To Risk it All, he offers up nine of the most useful and enthralling stories from the US Navy’s nearly 250-year history and draws from them a set of insights that can be of use to all of us when confronted with fateful choices.
Conflict. Crisis. Risk. These are words that have a meaning in a military context that we hope will never apply in quite the same way in our own lives. At the same time, as To Risk it All shows with great clarity, many lessons are universal. The first is simply understanding whether you’re really in an acute short-terms crisis or are confusing it with a more long-term challenge that can’t and shouldn’t be met with a short-term fix. Second, while fortune favors the bold, it favors the prepared even more. A huge part of preparation is learning how to observe a situation clearly on its own terms first, avoiding biases and misinformation, before applying the lens of your values and analysis. Easier said than done, but there is a learning path. With the right preparation, you can force time to slow down, and draw on the best of yourself, and leave the rest out of it.
To Risk it All is filled with heroic exploits, thrillingly told, but it is anything but a shallow exercise in myth burnishing. Every leader in this book has real flaws, as all humans do, and Admiral Stavridis takes the analysis of their flaws as seriously as he does their strengths. The stories of failure, or at least decisions that have often been defined as such, are as crucial to the book as the stories of success. In the end, when this master class is dismissed, we can feel lucky for the hard situations we will never have to face, and better armed for the hard decisions we surely will, whether we expect them or not.
About the Author
Admiral Jim Stavridis, USN (Ret.) spent more than thirty years in the US Navy, rising to the rank of four-star admiral. He was Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and previously commanded US Southern Command, overseeing military operations through Latin America. At sea, he commanded a Navy destroyer, a destroyer squadron, and an aircraft carrier battle group in combat. He holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he recently served five years as dean. He received 50 medals in the course of his military career, including 28 from foreign nations. He has published nine other books, including 2034: A Novel of the Next World War with Elliot Ackerman, and is Chief International Analyst for NBC News and a contributing editor of TIME Magazine. He is currently vice chairman, global affairs of the Carlyle Group and chairman of the board of the Rockefeller Foundation.