Advice from the Masters: James Stavridis

Jul 18, 2017 | Better Writing

James Stavridis is a retired Admiral and the Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He’s also the author of several books including Destroyer Captain: Lessons of a First Command, The Accidental Admiral, and Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans. Admiral Stavridis is also the co-author of The Leader’s Bookshelf where he describes the top fifty books that inspire better leadership.

Lest you think the list is only for the military or only about leadership, the list includes Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Ender’s Game.

The advice below comes from the opening chapter of The Leader’s Bookshelf.

“Fourth, and perhaps most practically, we can use reading as a way to improve our own communication skills in writing. The more a young leader reads, the better she or he will be able to write. Often when I am struggling to find the right pattern of words for an essay or article, I will turn to one of Winston Churchill’s magnificent books about World War II from his six-volume classic, The Second World War, or do as Churchill himself did and pull down the King James version of the Holy Bible, with its powerful cadences and vivid images. Simply reading a few paragraphs from such classics helps unlock the words in my own process of composition. Many styles of writing exist, of course—from the folksy twang of Mark Twain in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to the blunt, simple, but evocative prose of Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower in Crusade in Europe. Exploring various ways of writing through reading will inevitably make each of us a better writer in our own right. Good leaders must be good communicators, and the hard work of writing is best sharpened on the whetstone of reading.”

Want more? Check out the complete list of Advice from the Masters posts

If you want even more writing advice from writers, check out Jon Winokur’s blog, “AdvicetoWriters.”