3 Leadership Lessons From A Badass Female Yacht Captain

Use these 'below deck' leadership strategies in your boardroom.
3 Leadership Lessons From A Badass Female Yacht Captain
Image credit: Courtesy of Sandy Yawn
Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
3 min read

With nearly three decades of experience chartering yachts all over the world, Captain Sandy Yawn has weathered crises from fires in the engine room to being pursued by pirates.

Suffice to say, she knows how to keep a cool head under pressure.

Yawn has three priorities: safely navigating her boat, making sure her guests get the best service possible and being a strong leader for her crew.

As a female captain in a predominantly male field and a cancer survivor, Yawn says she isn’t afraid to take on new challenges. Her latest includes becoming a cast member on Bravo’s reality series Below Deck: Mediterranean.

We spoke with the captain to ask for her top leadership tips.

Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

1. Mentorship starts with being able to listen.
“What I've learned is sometimes taking the time to actually have a conversation with someone about where they are in their lives [makes the biggest difference]. Just that little chat may change their direction. So I take the time to talk to the person and just share my own personal experience with them.”

2. Turn mistakes into teachable moments.
When I find that people make mistakes, in the past I was more quick to respond. I think with age and experience, I now stop and pause and I think about where the person was in their mind [when they made the mistake]. I don't make snap decisions like I used to. They are human beings, they are not machines. Maybe they didn't get a good night's sleep. Maybe they're going through a divorce. Maybe their mother has cancer. I think of that and that's the pause [I take]. And then I think about how I can make this a teachable experience instead of a reprimanding experience.”

3. Always remember that you set the tone.
“[In emergency situations] do I feel stress? Absolutely. Do I show the stress? No. Because that is part of the training. So I always think about that. They're looking at me. They're wondering what my next move is going to be. And they are going to base their behavior on that. [And day to day] if you don't have rest you're not going to produce. You’re going to be grumpy in front of the guests. You're going to make mistakes.”

More from Entrepreneur

Get heaping discounts to books you love delivered straight to your inbox. We’ll feature a different book each week and share exclusive deals you won’t find anywhere else.
Jumpstart Your Business. Entrepreneur Insider is your all-access pass to the skills, experts, and network you need to get your business off the ground—or take it to the next level.
Starting, buying, or growing your small business shouldn’t be hard. Guidant Financial works to make financing easy for current and aspiring small business owners by providing custom funding solutions, financing education, and more.

Latest on Entrepreneur