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A Frequently Asked Leadership Question from Lee Ellis –


Question: “So the lessons you picked up in the POW Camps came as much from watching others as reflecting on your own experience, is that correct?”


Lee’s Answer: “I’m watching different styles of leadership, as a junior-ranking guy, and watching how different people respond in different ways. They say values are more caught than taught – I was just catching certain mindsets about leadership that were very important.

You couldn’t pretend there, for instance. Whatever was there was real. Whatever you said, you were going to be put to the test.

Seeing that, and seeing the sacrifice, I said as a leader I must be willing to do the very best you can, but I also have to be willing to sacrifice and not be afraid.

I’ve always wanted to be a leader. I’ve always wanted to be in charge. In the POW camp, I wasn’t, so I was always thinking. I learned a lot by watching these guys and how they did it. In the Air Force, I was a leader for most of my career after I got back. I had a chance to put some of this stuff to the test, and I found it worked – not because I was the smartest guy in the room, but because I had good leadership and was surrounded by good people.”

Your integrity and character are a big part of that. Then there is the balance between mission and people, relationship and results. Beyond that, it is sharpening the saw both technically, professionally and from a leadership standpoint your continuing to learn and grow. In its simplest form that’s what leadership is all about. It is about having the character so that people can trust you. You have to ride that fine line and when you need results. You may need to go to the team and say I love you, but we have to work on Saturday. Other times you have to go to the boss and say I cant push my people any harder. We have been pushing full scale and I have to give them some slack. That takes courage.”