Unbroken

Overcoming Leadership Barriers in 2015: Three Lessons from Unbroken

Unbroken

The long awaited movie, Unbroken, came out during the holidays. And while I read the book and enjoyed it very much, I looked forward to the movie with mixed emotions for a couple of reasons.

I knew that the film would be good, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to experience the pain of viewing so realistically what Louis and his mates would endure.

Painful and Personal

When I saw it, it was painful but there were many good lessons we can draw from it. It also brought back some of my personal memories as a former Vietnam POW and the life and leadership lessons that I learned through that experience.

On Living and Leading With Honor

As we embark on the year 2015, let’s look at three powerful insights to live and lead with honor regardless of the era.

1. Believe in Yourself

Pete, Louis’ older brother, inspired him to greatness as a runner by telling him he believed in Louis and that Louis must believe in himself. In a similar vein, Mack, the third crewman in the raft, though strong and healthy, died because he believed they wouldn’t make it.

Both these examples underscore the general truth that automaker/industrialist/pioneer Henry Ford espoused when he said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are usually right.”

“Believing in oneself is crucial to success. The solution is to identify the lies that you believe about yourself and shut them down.”

One of the best ways to believing in yourself is by listening to a “Pete,” someone in your life who cares about you enough to tell you the truth and remind you of the potential that they see in you.

2. Eliminate Bitterness and Envy

This idea was briefly shown at the end of the movie, but if you read the book you know that Louis came home a mess. Today we call it Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and it was ruining his life through anger and alcohol. After surviving all the beatings and torture, Louis came home to freedom only to live in emotional shackles until he got holistic freedom in body, soul, and mind.

For Louis, two critical steps were listening to the wisdom of his wife and attending the famous Billy Graham crusade in Hollywood, California. There he reconnected with God and experienced the power of forgiveness, which enabled him to forgive his captors. At that point, he found freedom, the nightmares stopped, the anger died, and the bitterness went away.

In a similar vein, my POW comrades and I had time to deal with bitterness before our release. Thanks to the great work by the National League of POW/MIA Families and the American people who put the heat on our captors to improve our treatment, most of us turned loose of bitterness and left those shackles behind while in the prison camps.

Like Louis, some of our senior leaders who were extensively tortured and abused emerged from captivity to live wonderful lives of true freedom until they were well past eighty years of age.

“The shackle of bitterness (and its stealthy cousin envy) never hurts the folks who cause us harm or have what we want because they usually have no idea of the pain they’ve caused.”

Unfortunately though, it ties us up and limits our effectiveness with others. It’s the worst kind of prison, so find a way to forgive and let it go.

3. Be Willing to Pay the Price for Success

As Louis was headed to the Olympics in 1936, Pete looked him in the eye and said, “Louis, a moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.” A similar line inspired me when I was young. During high school football practice our coach often said, “We suffer in practice so we can celebrate on Friday night.”

Six years later, I was locked in a POW camp with my cellmates choosing to believe that suffering coupled with an attitude of resilience was the only way we could return with honor.

Embracing an Honor Code

Recently, my team and I released an Honor Code based on the lessons in Leading with Honor—seven short statements that seem so simple yet are so difficult to live by. As one who is engaged in this battle of trying to live with honor, I can tell you it only comes through suffering.

For me nowadays, suffering usually comes in situations that require patience, listening, giving up control, and being kind when someone is blocking my way or cutting me off.

Those who are successful in life and leadership are usually the ones who are willing to do what others are not. They go the extra mile. They hold themselves accountable to higher standards and in the short run, they suffer for the glory that lies ahead.

The Cost of Honorable Sacrifice

“Realistically, only one in a million has the courage and grit of a Louis Zamperini, but few are called to that role.”

For most of us, the challenges are simpler and the suffering is more with our ego and our energy. As you look to the next twelve months, what are your goals and are you willing to sacrifice to achieve them? More importantly, what will be the cost if you don’t make that sacrifice?

Please share your thoughts about these three lessons or others you saw in the Unbroken movie or book about Louis. Also, if you want to join me in a battle to live with honor, click to download a complimentary copy of The Honor Code.

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

Image Sources: warhistoryonline.com

Toxic Leader

On Leadership and Healing the Toxic Leader

Toxic Leader

Earlier this year, someone sent me a Washington Post article about the Pentagon’s investigative actions to remove abusive leaders.

  • One general was described as a profane screamer who was “cruel and oppressive.”
  • Another leader was singled out as a verbally abusive taskmaster and still another was “dictatorial,” “unglued,”a master of “profanity-fused outbursts.”
  • A power-hungry senior Department of Defense civilian was so bad her subordinates said that it was “like you were in a prisoner of war camp.”

Fortunately, I’ve never been assigned to an abusive, toxic leader except when I was in a Vietnam POW camp for more than five years. When I came home, I made a vow that I’d never serve under those conditions again.

“Freedom and dignity were much more important than any short-term security.”

The Toxic Leader

The problem exists in every field of work, and regularly I hear about someone leaving a good job they really liked because of a toxic leader. Unfortunately, there are ego-driven, angry, control freaks using their power to intimidate and destroy others.

So what can you do about this problem as an organizational leader or trainer?

It depends on your perspective and the resources that you have on hand to assess and analyze.

Are You a Toxic Leader?

If you even think you see yourself in the stories above, you may have a problem. Perhaps you have been rationalizing your behaviors and denying the damage that you’re doing.

If so, you may be operating out of a term I coined a few years ago called “Progression in D Major” explaining the toxic behavior of dysfunctional dominant personalities.

This term defines insecure people who have to be right at all cost. The progression goes like this –

  1. When they’re wrong, they Deny.
  2. Then when there is more evidence, they Defend by rationalizing.
  3. Then when the facts persist, they Demonize those who expose them.
  4. Finally, they seek to Destroy the career or reputation of their nemesis.

Curing a Toxic Leader

If you suspect that you’re a toxic leader, empower and ask someone who has the courage to give you honest feedback. Get a coach, use an assessment instrument like Leadership Behavior DNA™ to assess natural behaviors, and event take a 360 assessment to zero in on your issues and begin working to change.

“If you’re willing to do those things to develop new learned behaviors to balance your natural behaviors, there is definitely hope for you; if not, you’re a lost cause, and I pity those poor souls under you charge.”

Do You Have Toxic Leaders Working for You?

As a leader, one of your responsibilities is to know what’s happening in your domain. If you’re not sure, use organizational climate surveys and 360 assessments.

If there’s a problem, take action to get the toxic leader fixed and back on track or out of the organization.

Do You Work for a Toxic Leader?

This is a tough situation. Find good counsel and look for a safe way to let the good leaders who are higher up in your organization know what’s happening.

If they won’t take action, you have to decide about staying and endangering your health or making a move. Take your time to work through it with a good support team to help you deal with the emotions and plan your steps.

The Fix

The solution to toxic leaders is found in courageous actions by other leaders who won’t tolerate those behaviors.”

Where do you fit in this arena and what should you be doing right now? Regardless, the answer will require you responding to the courage challenge—that is, lean into the pain of your fears to do what you know is right—for the organization, the team, and for yourself. It’s worth the effort to live and lead the right way—you can do it.

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Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here!
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

Image Sources: careergirlnetwork.com

Lee Ellis POW Camp

Christmas in the POW Camps and Clarifying Your Culture

Lee Ellis POW Camp

During this special season of gift-giving, today’s post is an excerpt from leadership consultant and former Vietnam POW, Lee Ellis’ latest book, Leading with Honor in the chapter on “Clarifying Your Culture.”

We wish you a peaceful and joyful Christmas season from Linked2Leadership –

“The day I received my first package from home is a case in point. As the guards spread the already opened, thoroughly searched contents of the prescribed ‘six-pound package’ before me on the table, I stared longingly at the food items, vitamins, warm socks, and pictures of my family. I had been in captivity for two and a half years, so naturally I was tingling with excitement and anticipation. This package from home promised to be better than the best Christmas present I’d ever received. Yet the experience was tainted by the smirk on the camp officer’s face as he affected an attitude of kindness and concern, as though he were my favorite uncle. As I started to pick up my stuff, he told me I must first sign a receipt. I scanned the document hurriedly and noticed the following sentence: ‘In accordance with the humane and lenient policy of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam [DRV], I have been allowed to receive a package from my family.’

I had heard through our covert communications that there would be a receipt of some sort, and that it would probably be okay to sign it. But now I felt trapped in an agonizing ethical dilemma. I coveted that package; it was the first connection with my family in more than two years. However, only a few months earlier we had been through some very harsh treatment during which two of my cellmates had been singled out for torture. The statement on the receipt wasn’t true, and I feared it could be used for propaganda. I had to make a choice between my comfort and my conscience.

Our POW mission statement captured the essence of our culture in the three simple and powerful words: Return with Honor. This short phrase provided both a vision and a bond that kept us aligned toward one goal.”

When I refused to sign the receipt, the officer picked up the package and told the guard to take me to my cell. Many of the men in the camp, including my cellmates—whom I considered to be exceptionally brave and honorable men—signed the receipt. Their actions were within the policies and boundaries of our culture, and I didn’t judge them. Besides, I had seen them sacrifice often for the team, and I totally trusted their commitment. My next package arrived six months later with goodies similar to the first one. But this time there was a special, unexpected bonus: the receipt no longer had a statement about ‘the lenient and humane treatment’ of the DRV. How sweet it was!

Our POW mission statement captured the essence of our culture in the three simple and powerful words: Return with Honor. This short phrase provided both a vision and a bond that kept us aligned toward one goal. Framed by the Code of Conduct and shaped by wise leaders, our culture guided and protected us through the dark and difficult years, until we could emerge into the light of freedom at the end of the war.”

Listen to a recent radio interview where Lee talks about this point in his life of celebrating Christmas in the Vietnam POW Camps here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIWappq8w_0

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Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here!
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

Image Source: FreedomStar Media

Young Leaders

On Leadership and Next Gen Growth: Why Developing Young Leaders is Critical

 

Young Leaders

The change of seasons brings to mind changes that we see in work and leadership. As seasons come and go in your work cycle, consider how older leaders shift into part-time roles in the organization and how younger leaders assume new levels of responsibility and leadership.

While it’s a life process that naturally occurs in all industry sectors, the best leadership transitions occur with those young leaders that have been developed and equipped to assume their new roles.

With this in mind, it’s a good time to pause to think about think about the seasons ahead and grow your younger leaders.

Choosing Leaders in the Military

When speaking about my POW experience and the lessons learned there, a common question from the audience is how we chose our leaders in that situation. That’s a great question because the burden of leading in that cauldron was often painful, always unpredictable, and not a position that most people would want. Fortunately we didn’t have to compete or debate about who would take command; in remote situations like this, it’s clear military policy that the senior person (based on rank and date of promotion) takes charge and everyone else follows.

In normal conditions, the military is constantly training and grooming every person for higher leadership responsibilities.

The heavy turnover from reassignment, separations, and mandatory retirement at the twenty- to thirty-year window makes succession planning a vital part of normal military planning and operations.

But many civilian organizations don’t see a pressing need, and many don’t have a system in place for developing and evaluating leaders. Do you have a vision for developing leaders? Do you see the need and are you willing to invest the time and energy in this process?

Short and Long Term Benefits

Developing leaders does take time and money, but it also has great short term benefits such as –

  • Having a built-in system for instilling the values and leadership principles that are important to you.
  • Building relationships in workshops and classes to enhance functional collaboration and break down silos.
  • Gaining better trained leaders at every level.
  • Creating higher morale and better retention among top performers.

Long term benefits are even more strategic because research shows that hiring from within is the way to go especially at higher levels. Developing your own pool of leaders from which to choose managers, directors and executives reduces your risks in several ways –

  • You’re maximizing “the known” and minimizing the “unknown” of hiring.
    • You know these folks and have seen them perform under stress.
  • They already know you and their working environment.
    • Corporate values and expectations
    • Organizational history
    • Customers, community, and competition

Granted, there are times when you may need to bring in an outsider to stir the pot or tap into a resource you don’t have on board. But when you do, the risks go up.

Hiring is one of the most difficult challenges leaders face.

If you search the web, you’ll see that the estimates for the cost of a bad hire run from 30% of the individual’s salary to three times their annual salary. In some cases, it could be much more when you consider the energy lost to the executive teams and the opportunity loss of not having the right person on board.

Intentional Leadership Development

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve been fortunate to work with some great organizations. The best ones usually put considerable effort and resources into developing their next generation of leaders at every level from first line supervisor to the executive level. What about your organization? Do you have a focus on growing your on leaders? What programs and processes do you have in place to make this happen? If so how will you evaluate it and if not, who will help you build and grow it?

Remember, you must be diligent in planning ahead to have the best leadership transition possible. This season of the year is a good time to be grateful for the energetic young leaders in your organization and plan ahead for equipping them for the future.

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Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here!
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

Image Sources: toddnielsen.com

Leadership

On Leadership and Team Cohesion: Three Leadership Steps to Better Camaraderie

Camaraderie

Almost twenty-five years in the Air Force serving my country—what a wonderful first career experience I had. There were many things that I enjoyed about the military such as the joy of flying, but over the long haul it’s the close camaraderie with my military teammates that I miss the most.

If you’ve had a similar experience, then you understand the close bonds that are often forged when meeting challenging goals.

Specifically during my Vietnam POW experience, the hardships that my comrades and I endured created a strong bond of brotherhood that endures to this day. Regardless of my work, I still have a longing for that type of connection.

These insights came to mind when I experienced a camaraderie “booster shot” on two recent occasions.

Two Examples of Camaraderie

It began with two days in San Antonio, Texas at an air base where I had served in both command and staff roles. Good memories of past work and teams waft strong when I visit historic Randolph Air Force Base. I was welcomed back into the fold by another generation of warriors closely bound by shared mission and values, and it was an uplifting experience in more ways than I can count.

Then later that week, I flew to France where I experienced that same bond among a team while leading a leadership development and team-building program for an international food distribution company.

Knowing that this was a diverse global team, I had anticipated potential problems in their communications and willingness to be vulnerable with each other. When I joined them for dinner on the first evening though, I had quite a surprise. Let me explain.

There were 35 attendees representing 9 nationalities from 12 countries around the world. Many of these executives are working outside their native country or language, so clearly they had many differences. Yet the thing that stood out most about their time together was their cohesion and camaraderie.

It was clear that they trusted each other. During the long day of work, it was all business with excellent discussions and healthy conflict. As we gathered in the evenings for social time though, it was clear that the group really cared a lot about each other.

Some were clearly more outgoing than others, but every person engaged in their own way. The gathering came alive with fun, laughter, teasing, and the joy of being together.

The Hallmarks of Camaraderie

 

These positive feelings took me back to the days when I had experienced this type of camaraderie in the military. We were diligently competitive and gave each other straightforward feedback in mission debriefs.

To an outsider, it might appear that we were hard on each other, but we were actually very close. Our bonds of friendship and trust were strong, and we enjoyed socializing, having fun just hanging out and talking about our work and sharing our lives together.

Reflecting back over the years, I’ve noticed that camaraderie is usually present in high-performing teams that endure over a long period of time.

What are some of the hallmarks that we can learn from such teams?

  • Time - They have taken the time and energy to build understanding, acceptance, and respect so that individuals feel connected and secure.
  • Results - Because they feel belonging, team members don’t want to let the others down so they strive for excellence in accomplishing the mission (getting results).
  • Communication – Healthier teams have more frequent and more effective communications. They pick up the phone and call each other to quickly solve problems.
  • Team Focus – Healthy teams focus on team results and not just individual effort. Team members help each other succeed and hold each other accountable.

Patrick Lencioni’s groundbreaking books, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Advantage, share this adage that relationships and results feed on each other.

Leadership Steps to Camaraderie

We’ve been talking about the team, but it all starts with the leader. To have this kind of positive energy flowing from human connections, the leader must take the lead.

Here are some important steps to help a leader to build camaraderie:

  • Clarify the culture and set the climate. Alignment built around mission, vision, and values is crucial, as is your commitment to be both leader and member of the team.
  • Create opportunities and expectations for people to build bonds. Social time outside of work is clearly the best way to get to know each other.
  • Connect with each person. Regardless of whether the leader is an introvert or an extrovert, he or she has to engage by connecting with each person making them feel important and welcome. This doesn’t mean that the leader has to be the life of the party. Typically I find more leaders that are introverts than extroverts, but the good ones look to the outgoing, social folks to provide the fun and energy that becomes contagious to the group.

True Bonding

I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to join this diverse group. They reminded me of the importance of camaraderie. I came away refreshed and inspired.

And oh, by the way, lest you think I stumbled into a social event veiled as a business meeting, they all had completed the Leadership Behavior DNA assessment prior to the meeting and the majority of them came out with scores in the Reserved Trait (versus Outgoing Trait) making the point about camaraderie even stronger.

What has been your experience on teams with and without camaraderie? If you are a leader, what are you doing to promote this powerful bond among your people? Please share your thoughts and comments.

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Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here!
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

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