Lee Ellis was piloting his F-4C Phantom jet on November 7, 1967, over North Vietnam when he was shot down. He was held as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton and other North Vietnamese POW camps for more than five years. These days Ellis is the president of Leadership Freedom, a consulting firm he founded. He also is the author of the new book, Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton (Freedom Star Media, 233 pp., $22.99), in which Ellis tells of his time as a POW and gleans fourteen main lessons in leadership from that experience.
“In the Hanoi Hilton I learned that leading with honor is about doing the right thing, even when it entails personal sacrifice,” he writes. “More than not, doing the right things—accepting responsibly, fulfilling your duty, telling the truth, and remaining faithful to your word—is the most difficult thing to do, but it’s also the thing that brings long-term success. Shortcuts may work for the moment, but almost everything of lasting value comes at a price.”
Among the POW leaders Ellis writes about are Robinson Risner, Jeremiah Denton, James Stockdale, Ken Fisher (with whom he was shot down), Leon Ellis, John McCain, and Jim Warner. “In the POW camps they chose courage over compromise, commitment over comfort, and pain over shame. Their character, refined in the fires of captivity, propelled them to success in a wide range of endeavors.”