Military Book Reviews

Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton

Lee Ellis – Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton (FreedomStar Media, 256 pages)

Lee Ellis is an Executive Coach & Leadership Consultant with over twenty years of experience, with a focus on leadership team building and human performance. He is currently serving as the President and Founder of Leadership Freedom LLC and FreedomStar Media. He is also a retired colonel from the U.S. Air Force and was held captive for over five years as a Prisoner of War (POW) after he ejected from his crippled jet in North Vietnam during his early career. 

Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton is only one of many works on leadership written and co-written by Ellis. He also wrote Engage with Honor and Leadership Behavior DNA to help tailor individual leadership processes to maximize learning and application process. 


In his narrative, the author provides an engaging exploration regarding the treatment of military personnel in captivity during their time as a POW. He provides detailed background and context from his own experience that will command every reader’s attention from the very beginning. The author takes them on an unforgettable journey that is filled with candor and life stories from the POW camps. While in captivity, Ellis and the other POWs continued to be challenged in the true meaning of character, discipline, integrity, and faith, both mentally and physically, every day.  

Ellis also shares the stories of many courageous leaders. Each showed a great deal of leadership under duress. They all made their own choices in how they respond to difficulties and confront realities. More remarkably, the POWs never missed a learning opportunity while in captivity and continue to be the best version of a true leader. As Ellis stated in Leading with Honors, “Attitude is crucial for success in any endeavor, and on one influences organizational and individual attitudes more than the leader […] Anyone can steer the ship through the calm waters. The real captains take it through the storm. ”

Ellis mastered his art in translating these challenges to thought-provoking leadership lessons and applications for many clients with positive results. The advice Lee shares in Leading with Honor is not only pertaining to leaders in the military, but also challenges in non-military situations. Additionally, he includes fourteen powerful lessons on leading with honor, also facilitating in building strong leadership and fellowship throughout the chapters.  

Final Thoughts

Leading with Honor is an incredible book that exemplifies the values needed to achieve results at any level of the organization and to build a winning team. They also filled it with invaluable principles of leadership and characters that any aspiring leader and successful leader can fall back on. This book is a great addition to anyone’s bookshelf!

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