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The Importance of Honor, Accountability: Lessons from a Former Vietnam POW

Lee Ellis has a message to give the public: Honor and accountability are absolute necessities for any successful leader.

Lee Ellis is a former Vietnam POW, an award winning author and leadership consultant. Ellis has been awarded two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with Valor device, the Purple Heart and the POW Medal for his service in the United States Air Force.


In his new book "Engage with Honor: Building a Culture of Courageous Accountability," that releases this September, Ellis outlines his secrets to leadership success. 

“This book addresses specific problems. One: The issue of honor and the issues of dishonor in today’s [society] ...Two: The lack of accountability ... When leaders do a bad job with their own accountability their people lack in accountability," said Ellis.

Throughout the book, Ellis refers back to his experiences in the different camps overseas. Using different examples of leaders he worked with in the military and the pressures of retaining honor while in vulnerable situations.

“[Using POW examples] makes the point in a different way that can apply to today’s workplace," said Ellis.

Ellis found that people enjoyed reading his experience as a POW leading into the lesson and then learning how it applies to their situations.

The book offers many models and step-by-step directions to improving leadership skills - like the importance of the 'three C's': Character, Courage and Commitment.

“The ‘three C’s’ are so important and they go together. Especially character and courage. In the POW camps I saw a person whose character faltered and led to them to making judgments based on self-preservation at the expense of their teammates," said Ellis.


The 'three C's' are just one of the models Ellis provides in his book. He goes into detail on clarity and culture making an impact in the workplace.

"Being a leader, a student of leadership, a trainer, coach and consultant, I know it all starts with clarity," said Ellis. He went on to explain how "culture will keep you in line" and it goes hand-in-hand with clarity.

Ellis not only provides extensive insight on how to be an effective leader, he also warns what hinders leaders' success.

“Character alone is not enough [to be a successful leader.] Everyone will say they have good character. But aspirations without courage won’t be effective. Courage is what pushes us past our fears," said Ellis.

Fear is only one deterrant of success. Another important factor is putting too much focus in results as opposed to relationships.

“A results focused leader needs to also focus on relationships. If employees don’t feel connected or important then they become unmotivated ... Employee engagement is the secret to success," said Ellis.

The nine chapters of "Engage with Honor" offer clear steps toward success using different examples, models and lessons. 


Ellis’ lessons are directed at the leaders of the millennial generation. This book will help move millennials into leadership positions.

“Millennials were raised in a different, very flat environment and need to know the elevated responsibilities of a leader," said Ellis, "There is a discussion that needs to be had between the older generation and the younger generation and this book offers an opportunity for that."

To learn more about Lee Ellis, "Engage with Honor' or any of his past works visit his website.


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