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Leading with Character: Mantra for Success

Now, when I sign my books with the mantra, “Be Brave, Believe, and Become!” I feel the power of giving back. I’m giving the advice I wish I’d had earlier in my career.

As many of you know, I recently published my first book, Breaking Ice & Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters. The book is my way of giving back leadership lessons learned over my 40 years in uniform with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Leadership Philosophy Reflection

Shortly after Breaking Ice & Breaking Glass was published on July 1, I met with an unforeseen challenge: How should I sign the book? It was easy to craft a personal endorsement for those I know well. But, how about those I didn’t know? I wanted to write something short, yet impactful. This dilemma caused me to come up with a mantra that would convey the essence of my leadership philosophy, which I’ve discussed in previous blog posts. As a reminder, here are my principles of engaged leadership:

  • Build trust and earn respect
  • Believe in yourself and others
  • Demonstrate moral courage

A Mantra Emerges

While contemplating those leadership principles, a mantra suddenly took shape in my mind. I’ve always been fond of alliterations, so this mantra for success is a perfect fit:

            Be Bold, Believe, and Become!

Be Bold: Demonstrate moral courage – always. Do the right thing even when it’s very hard, and there’s an easier, not-so-courageous option.

Believe: Believe in yourself and others. Those who don’t believe in themselves – who are too hard on themselves, who strive to be perfect, or who lack confidence – will be unable to believe in their subordinates. They may treat their subordinates too harshly, projecting their self-doubt onto others. On the other side of the coin, those who don’t believe in themselves will likely find their boss doesn’t believe in them, either.

Become: Those who step up and do the right thing, and who develop the confidence to believe in themselves, will become leaders of character who are capable of succeeding at all levels.

The Power of Believing

My mantra is personal. As a shy, not-so-confident girl and young woman, I was not very bold, and I fell short of believing in myself. The U.S. Coast Guard gave me the tools I needed to overcome those weaknesses and succeed as a leader.

I spent the first six years of my career at sea onboard three different ships. There were many times when I was cold, wet, tired, hungry, and scared – sometimes all at once! Every time I overcame an obstacle or successfully met a challenge, my confidence grew. Eventually, I realized that through hard work and perseverance, I could do most anything. Only then did I harness the power of believing in myself and becoming a better leader.

Now, when I sign my books with the mantra, “Be Brave, Believe, and Become!” I feel the power of giving back. I’m giving the advice I wish I’d had earlier in my career.

Look in the mirror. Do you have a mantra, or advice you can pass on to help others succeed as leaders?

Please join me again next week for more on Leading with Character.

Sandra L. Stosz
Vice Admiral Stosz, a Homeland Security Today editorial board member, started out in the U.S. Coast Guard as an ensign serving on polar icebreakers, conducting national security missions from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Her 40-year career is 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 U.S. armed forces service academy. 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 Vice Admiral Stosz to their list of 150 Women who Shake the World. Proceeds from “Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters” will be donated to the US Coast Guard Academy James M. Loy Institute for Leadership.

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