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  • Writer's pictureEarl Breon

004 - Leading With Honor W/ Col. Lee Ellis

Updated: Jun 23, 2022

In this episode, I speak with Col. Lee Ellis. Lee Ellis is Founder and President of Leading with Honor® and FreedomStar Media®. He is an award-winning author, leadership coach, and expert speaker in the areas of leadership, team building, and human performance. His past clients include Fortune 500 senior executives and C-Level leaders in telecommunications, healthcare, military, and other business sectors. Some of his media appearances include interviews on networks such as CNN, CBS This Morning, C-SPAN, ABC World News, Fox News Channel, plus hundreds of engagements in various industry sectors throughout the world.

Early in his career, Lee served as an Air Force fighter pilot flying fifty-three combat missions over North Vietnam. In 1967, he was shot down and held as a POW for more than five years in Hanoi and surrounding camps. For his wartime service, he was awarded two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with Valor device, the Purple Heart, and the POW Medal. Lee resumed his Air Force career, serving in leadership roles of increasing responsibility including command of a flying squadron and leadership development organizations before retiring as a colonel.

Lee has a BA in History and an MS in Counseling and Human Development. He is a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College and the Air War College. He has authored or co-authored six books on leadership and career development. Lee’s book entitled Leading with Honor®: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton has received multiple awards since its release including Winner in the 2012 International Book Awards in the Business and Management Category, and selection on the 2013 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Reading List. His latest books are entitled Leadership Behavior DNA®: Discovering Natural Talents and Managing Differences and Engage with Honor: Building a Culture of Courageous Accountability.

In 2014, Lee was inducted into the Georgia Military Veterans Hall of Fame, and in 2015 was a DAR Medal of Honor Recipient for a lifetime of patriotic service as a military officer and spokesman for leading with honor. Lee and his wife Mary reside in the Atlanta GA area and have four grown children and six grandchildren.


Earl Breon 0:01

Hello everyone, my name is Earl Breon and you are listening to the burden of command Podcast. I'm a former active duty United States Marine with over 25 years of coaching and mentoring experience across the military, civilian federal service and private sectors. I'm a lifelong learning enthusiast when it comes to leadership. And this podcast is just an extension of that pursuit. My goal with each episode would be to bring in great content to leaders across all spectrums of the word leadership. Leadership is a complicated function, you are dealing with complex people, on complex teams in complex organizations in complex situations, you have to know how to interact with each one of these elements in the appropriate way at the appropriate time in order to achieve success. lead your team well and it's a glorious thing fell in any one aspect and it will be disastrous. This dear listener is the burden of command. Alright listeners Welcome to this episode of the burden of command podcast. Today's guest is a very special guest, Colonel li l US Air Force retired. Colonel Ellis is president of leadership freedom LLC, which is a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company. Li L has consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, team building human performance, and succession planning. His media and periods since include interviews on networks such as CNN, CBS This Morning, C span ABC World News and Fox News Channel. He has accomplished author having written two very great books, one leading with honor Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton, and engage with honor building a culture of courageous accountability. If you'd like to learn more about Colonel Ellis and what he's doing, you can find him on the Internet at WWW dot leading with honor all one Colonel Ellis, thank you very much for your service. And thank you for being here today.

Col. Ellis 2:10

Well, thank you, Earl, good morning, good to be with you and hope you're having a great day.

Earl Breon 2:15

I'm having a fantastic day. And just to get things rolling, I'm gonna ask you the question, I lead off with all my guests the term burden of command, what does that mean to you?

Col. Ellis 2:26

Yes, that's a good question. Because it is so encompassing, it can be scary at times. But I think it's the price of leadership is that you have to own it. You have to own it, one to own all the pieces, the people and the mission, you got to accomplish the mission. But you also have to take care of the people, for lots of reasons when it's the right thing to do to they're the ones that are doing the work. And the better that they're working and feeling about their work, the more successful they're going to work and the better your organization and mission accomplished is going to be. I think the first word is ownership, you got to see that you own it. And that means that you have to accomplish the mission. But you should also plan to leave it in a better condition than you found. In today's changing world, that's can be challenging, because sometimes just surviving day to day, and with the changes that are coming out of so rapidly, it puts us all in a scrambling mode. And we have to be able to get into the scrambling mode to keep up but we also at the same time have to be executing the day to day plan. And then we also probably have to be maintaining some stuff from the past to so lot going on there for the leader.

Earl Breon 3:45

Well, and that's good. And that's the reason why I asked the question what to do is like you said burden or command it's something it's, it's gonna mean a lot to a lot of different people. And, and I'm glad to hear, hear your definition with your unique experiences. You know, for the listeners who aren't familiar with Colonel Ellis, he was one of the POWs in the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War. And so you've had a very, very intimate, firsthand experience with leadership in tough times, right?

Col. Ellis 4:20

Yes, I did. Now the good thing you got to understand is I learned so much by observation and experience of great leaders because I was never the leader. I was the junior ranking guy in the camp or not a camp but in the cellblock and pretty much in the camp, some camps. I was a junior guy, and the youngest guy, there were maybe one or two guys that within three or four months of May, there might have been three months younger than me, but otherwise, I was the youngest guy in the camp and junior ranking. So what I learned was from others, how they lead what, what they face you're talking about the world In a command, they were being tortured, they're being beaten, they're put in isolation much more often than anyone else. And yet they kept on leading and stayed true to their values. They bounced back. They were beaten down, but they bounced back and kept on leading to accomplish the mission of resisting the enemy, and returning with honor.

Earl Breon 5:21

And you Okay, so you just said those three words there that, you know, people talk a lot about vision statements and goal setting, but return with honor. You know, for everything I've read, that was sort of your the end when I say you're talking about every one that was in the camp, that was sort of their foundational mantra, right? Return with honor.

Col. Ellis 5:44

Yeah, you know, it started out as, and this was really you could put it our mission, our vision and our values, but it started out, resist survive return with honor. And then over the years, just the resisting and surviving became so so daily, that then it just kind of fell into return with honor, because we knew that that to return with honor, we had to resist, we had to survive. So it all boil down our mission, our vision, our values, because we definitely want to go home, but with honor. And so that was that was crucial for our situation.

Earl Breon 6:21

Now, the one of the things that my business partner and I talk about when we come into an organization, is the sense of belonging, the more people feel like they belong, the more successful the organization is. Yeah, and a lot of people look at us like, Okay, this touchy feely, fluffy type stuff we want to move on. But that sense of belonging was very much a cornerstone of surviving. In the Hilton, right? Yeah.

Col. Ellis 6:49

Yes, it was. Connection, I write a lot about that. Now, I've done several blogs on that at this year already. But I have a chapter in the engage with honor book called two chapters, one is connecting based on personality, you got to manage people differently based on their natural behavior, style and their talent. So you manage Lee Ellis, with a two by four upside to head or you won't even get his attention. You manage Mary Ellis his wife was some kind words and give her some written instructions. And that works great. Of course, she doesn't conquer the mountain like I do, you know, she should, I'm gonna go through it around and over them how we're different personalities. And so we have different talents, different work. The other connection, though, is connected with the heart. And I think that's what you're talking about here. And it's so crucial. We did have those kinds of connections in the Hilton for one thing, you know, when you're alone in a POW camp, and they're threatening you would war crimes trials, and you might never go home. Connection is so important. And to be connected with another human being who's friendly to you and who's not operating as a communist enemy was so important, so important that we our bond, you know, crisis makes you bond with people who are on your side. And we certainly did bond that way. The thing that I see, and you mentioned were touchy feely, here's what we know, the 40% of the population is born, results oriented. mission focus 40% of world is boring, relationship oriented people focus. And so to be a great leader, though, you have to do both. Because if you don't connect with your people, if you don't relate to your people, if you don't listen to your people, if you don't affirm your people, their performance, their energy at work goes down. And some people think, well, it's a transaction, I pay you and you should come to work and do your best. Well, that's true. But the other part of that is human beings are complex, we have emotions, we have feelings, we have desires, that we want to be special, we want to accomplish some we want to have a purpose, we want to know that what we're doing counts, and if our leader doesn't connect with us, and let us know those kinds of things, the energy is just not quite not ever the same. The the ingenuity is not the same, because there's no energy to solve problems and make things better because they don't care. Anyone my boss doesn't care. As long as I show up and do my job, he doesn't care. But that connection with the heart, which is the things we think that go with that would be listening, encouraging, affirming, giving positive feedback, giving, critiques and help them develop, correcting them, of course, coaching them where they need help supporting them when they have obstacles that are above their pay grade, all those kinds of things. Let him know that you're very important to this organization, you're very important to me, and that brings into your into your fold a committed engaged employee if you're looking at gallops research. So a higher percentage of The employees in America and around the world today are not fully engaged, about 20% are fully engaged and about 20% engaged. And then there's about 50% are not much engaged. And so, you know, as a leader, you got to own that, you know, that's your issue. And so how do you get them engaged, and the best way is for them to know that you care about them. That's the most important thing. It sounds touchy feely, but here's the good, the good news, all the results oriented, people who think is touchy feely, it's going to get you better results, make you more money, and it's going to make a happier workplace for everybody. So hitch up your boots and go out and learn to affirm people learn to connect with people. You know, I coach people just on this every day. Of course, I had to coach relationship people on how to be tough to

Earl Breon 10:50

Well, right. You need both right? And that, so I love between the two books. There's a lot of there's a lot of words dedicated to Admiral Stockdale, and how he kind of did everything you just talked about, you know, he was tough when Yeah, be tough. He sacrifice when you need to be set, be sacrificial. One of my favorite stories that has been told of him was the one where the guard caught, caught one of the fellow inmates do it using your knocking system. And if I understood the story, right when he come barging in the door, like like, Stockdale hit him, take him off of his off of his cellmate. Right?

Col. Ellis 11:39

Yeah, I think I've heard that story, too. Yeah. So he was, he was just a great guy, and very courageous and amazing courage. But you know, at the end, he said, The most important thing I learned in my pow experience is that we are our brother's keeper.

Earl Breon 11:58

Yeah. And I liked that, because the, you know, reading up on him and how he was a student of the stoics. And he's got one, the Epictetus says, men are not disturbed by things, but the view of which they take of them. And, and I thought that was such a powerful quote, to have in that environment. Because, you know, hearing, you're reading all of the stories of, you know, you'd be locked in the small cell with someone for weeks at a time. And, you know, they may have like, just this nervous tic or whatever, that's driving you crazy. But that's their coping mechanism. And you have to learn how to deal with that, because that's how they're dealing with their situation. And that is critical.

Col. Ellis 12:42

I think it was. I was. Go ahead.

Earl Breon 12:46

No, I'm sorry. I was gonna say, I think that's critical, because we have a lot of that going on in our organizations today. And we don't have that, that grace, to deal with it.

Col. Ellis 12:55

Yeah. Well, I'm just coming out with a new book. It'll be out next fall, we're just finishing it up right now. But you know, has to go through a process once it gets finished. So but it's, it's about behavior, leadership, it's based around our leadership behavior, DNA assessment. And a big focus of that is learning to manage differences and relate to differences. Because you know, somebody who's very detailed and picky can drive you nuts. Because they're detail and picky about everything. That's their struggle, their strength is, they're very detailed, and they get it right. And they do the things that make Earl or, you know, when I'm flying from the US to Hong Kong or us to Singapore, or Japan, not direct Singapore, we go fly from Atlanta to Narita and Tokyo. You know, that's a 14 hour flight, those engines over the ocean and those engines are turned in perfectly for hours and hours and hours that hold airplanes. And I'm so thankful for those people that are detailed and accurate and get it right. But some of those people, if you if you're around them all the time, you know, they drive me nuts. But the other side of that is I'm emotional. I'm loud, I'm talkative. I say about half the things that go through my mind come out my mouth. And I mean, I have to work it throttling that back, so I'm aware of that. But I can drive them nuts. So that's the whole idea of working together and a POW camp. We had to learn to accept someone as they were valued their strengths, and look over their struggles. Just overlook them, because you're not going to make them change. They can they can work on it. Like I'm working on some of mine. But I'll always be working on them and I'll never get perfect compared to them. You know what I mean?

Earl Breon 14:45

Oh, yeah, I mean, I can identify I'm loud in country two. And, you know, I was raised by my grandfather, who was World War Two veteran, jumped out of planes over the European theater, and as he always said he was deaf in one ear and couldn't hear of the other When. So, growing up with him, my normal speaking voice is like, Why are you shouting at me to other people? And so you're right, I have to, I almost have to feel like I'm whispering to talk at a normal tone to most people. So, but but I like that what you just said there about, you know, being aware and working on it. You know, and that's the, that's the key factor when when we're talking to organizations is the number one thing that you can do to fix, you know, whether we're talking about unconscious bias, whether it's racial, sexual harassment issues an organization is, be aware of the cause, and be willing to fix it.

Col. Ellis 15:43

Yeah, yeah, I, you know, there are certain things that you just got to shut down and shut down quickly. And the way you do that, you got a mindset, let's say, and I'll take my parents, you know, I grew up in segregation days. But we were always around black people. And some of them were our closest friends, we loved him. But the culture was segregated. And so that's what they knew. And that's kind of what I knew until I got to, you know, got to college. But once we saw the light, so to speak, we flipped the switch. Because we'd always loved him. So when he problem loving black people, it was just as flip the switch on the the social, cultural things, we flipped that switch, and we knew it was right, and we did it, and we did it quickly. That's a mindset, a mindset, you can turn those around pretty quickly, sometimes. And natural behavior, though, like being detailed and organized and picky. Those things are kind of built into your DNA in your brain. And so you're always coaching yourself on those. And so what we like to do is help people learn to self coach, you know, learn that you once you become self aware, you can self coach, and you have to do that with some of those mindsets, too, because they'll keep popping up. And you have to just say, wait a minute, I've shut you down over there. That's not the way I'll see the world anymore.

Earl Breon 17:13

Yeah. Well, and to you know, there's that, that piece of finding, putting people in the right place to succeed, you know, that detail oriented person. You want them on detail oriented tasks, right? Yeah. So I'm not sure if you ever read the Book of Five Rings. Of what it's called the Book of Five Rings. It's a Japanese text, but

Col. Ellis 17:39

I haven't read I've read the five voices. Oh,

Earl Breon 17:42

I haven't read that one. So there we go. We'll have to go. But no, they're

Col. Ellis 17:46

good. They're good, but they're not gonna be as good as ours.

Earl Breon 17:51

No, and that's good. Oh, hey, no, I mean, I'm looking forward to it. I, I gotta get caught up with engage with honors, especially knowing that you got another one coming out. But yeah, in the Book of Five Rings, there's one of the books it's talking about the way of the master carpenter. And in this way of the master carpenter, he says what sets a master carpenter apart is being able to look at all the different pieces of wood and know how to use them. Some woods are perfect for the beans, some woods are perfect for the mantles some woods are perfect for nothing more than being the campfire at night. Yeah, if you know how to use them, you're you can be a master carpenter. And I read that now that this is the same thing with people. And I think this is what you're saying here is when you know your people and know how to use them. That's what sets apart a entry level leader from a master level leader.

Col. Ellis 18:49

No question about it. And you know, I think the book that you've read, I tell the story of the time when I put the wrong guy in charge the United Way in the airforce. It was called a combined federal campaign. But it was like the United Way, part of United Way. And I put the wrong guy in charge. I put a guy who was, you know, more of an engineer than a salesman. They were both really good instructor pilots, for me. So they both were good pilots. They were both top notch pilots. But the first one I put was like an engineer and he wasn't a promoter or a sales guy. And so we didn't do very well I go to stand up briefing it every week and they show the you know, the the the temperature gauge going up with how much money you group and race, you know, and you're supposed to go off the top. We never got to the top in my unit that year, and I was so embarrassed. And I realize I picked the wrong guys really good guy, but he went a salesman. So the next year, I'll pick the guy who was much more of a promotional guy, and we blew it out very quickly. Just and that was my big lesson of how you know, both guys are great instructor pilots, but they've sure we're not good sales. When I was one on one,

Earl Breon 20:02

right, and it just made a world of difference, I mean, links it to Greek. Absolutely,

Col. Ellis 20:06

yeah. So and then I've helped companies when hiring for sales organizations, and IT organizations over the years and, you know, they're they're just certain qualities that you have about 80 to 90% of time you have to have those qualities. There are a few people that are good salespeople without those, they do it in a systematic way. But most of the time, you know, they're pretty outgoing and spontaneous and all that sort of stuff.

Earl Breon 20:32

So full disclosure. You know, I've quoted your book quite a bit in some of the training we've done. I've encouraged people to pick it up. I think it's a great leading with honor, I think it's a great book. But but the whole experience, right, just the the kind of laboratory, if you will, that you all were in, in that experience, it seems to have generated some of the country's best leaders. I mean, your foreword, for leading with honor was written by the late great, John McCain. And it always intrigued me when I start talking about the things that worked in that environment. I hear. Yeah, but that's not going to work here. How do you answer? If you run it, then how do you overcome that when people think? Sure, he could work in, in a prison in the middle of Vietnam, but it's not going to work in my cushy, comfortable corporate world.

Col. Ellis 21:29

Well, true principles. Yeah, two principles work everywhere they work at home and your family life, they work at work their work in a POW camp. So listening to others before you make important decisions, getting good feedback, getting everybody's input, man that works, the pow leaders, you know, they wanted, they'd never been pow leaders before and they wanted, if they could talk to somebody, they wanted to vet their ideas with them, because they knew there might be something that they weren't seeing that their their angle on the situation was not complete. So they were a they welcomed input, and good leaders welcome input. I've seen a lot of leaders though, the bad ones, man, they don't want anybody can speak up because they're afraid they'll say something different and what they want to do, and then they got a problem. So don't have the courage to adjust. Courage, you think about courage, everything in leadership, every leadership principle is centered on courage, because you can have all the principles in the world, you don't have courage to go do them. They won't get you anywhere. So commitment, character, those are going to be very important. People are watching you, can I trust you? Do you do what you say you'll do? Do you follow up? Do you let good people go bad people, people who either have bad behavior or bad performance, are you not dealing with that? Well, in a POW camp, you have to deal with that. But you have to deal with it in every organization, if you don't, you're gonna lose respect, and you're gonna have people on the payroll that are not carrying their load. And everybody's gonna wonder when the boss is going to wake up and do his job, so to speak. So on and on, whatever it is, it's building a culture, oh, man, culture was everything, the culture that our senior leaders built for us. Very simple, very powerful, we did not have to have a manager standing over us telling us what to do. Because we knew what our job was, it was to resist the enemy to follow the code of conduct and return with honor. And doubtless broad guidelines, but it was more than enough to keep our behavior. Everybody was doing his best to do that. And if we did that, then whatever it looked like was going to be good. It may look different one day than the next with one personal neck. But when you know they're beat known yet some people are tougher than others and that's just we came to understand that as reality so we knew we're doing our best and the people who weren't we also knew who those were the people are very very few people collaborating but when you bought that too so you know whether it's accountability, whether it's building your culture, whether it's building a good team and getting the right people or Jim Collins talks about in Good to Great getting the right people not only on the bus, but in the right seat on the bus you can have a great person but if they're in the wrong job, that's not gonna work you got to go look at their calendar experience everything that you know there are 14 lessons and leading with honor and every one of those is applied right here in the workplace every day. Developing your people huge got we had classes and we learn languages and math sitting in sales, but no pencil and paper, but we did in our head and writing on the floor. concrete slab floor with a piece of broken brick tile off the roof was our chalk and we could work out I learned differently calculus there, from a guy from the Naval Academy who ultimately came home after the war, and was the dean of the math department at the Naval Academy. So, you know, there's plenty of talent around and developing those talents. It's so important developing your people. So I could go on and on. But you get the idea that a principle like that developing your people, a building cohesive team and clarifying over communicating the message, you have to over communicate it well, we fought to communicate, because they wouldn't let us communicate. So we had to, we had kept codes, we had all sorts of codes, hand codes, but we had to communicate and you as a leader, you can't just go in your office and shut the door and think their buddy knows what they need to be doing and what the mission vision and values is, or what the commander's intent is, those kinds of things you got to make sure people understand. And you clarify what your expectations are and what standards are. But then you also had celebrate. And that's another key principle that a lot of results oriented leaders, they don't see the need to celebrate. I've had them tell me, Hey, man, we celebrate, they'll they'll slow down. I don't want to celebrate. Well, that's just stupid, because good people do need to celebrate your victory. And now they're fired up to go after another one, you know, right.

Earl Breon 26:21

Yeah, no, I mean, capturing that momentum. I mean, you you said, you said a lot there. And it's so much value. And thank you for that answer. And, you know, I mean, I keep thinking about all these, there's all these stories from the books that I want to reference, but I don't want to give too much of it away, because I really want to encourage anybody who hasn't, go get your books. I'll have links to those in the show notes. But but the overall theme, you know, you mentioned some of the some of the beatings and torture. And one thing that intrigued me and this is, this isn't what I'm talking I probably the point I referenced the most is, you know, I've read different studies that show like the general population, for Vietnam veterans, the PTSD rate was somewhere between 30 to 40%. But for the POWs, it was down into three to 4% range. And a lot of that has been attributed to everything you just talked about that sense of belongingness that keeping your mind sharp, that positive mental attitude. And yet again, organizations today, they just kind of wait, you know, we were worried about the bottom line, we don't have time to put into these programs. But because you all invested that time in the communication that reaching out and making everybody feel like they belong. It has such a drastic impact on the final outcome of the situation y'all are in. And by a lot of accounts, as crazy as the situation was, set y'all up for a lifetime of success. I mean, obviously not everybody achieved the same level of success. But you know, people like you again, Senator McCain, and there's, you know, other senators and congressmen and fortune 500 executives that came out of that relatively small pool. Better off in some cases, obviously, not physically because of things that you went through, but mentally tough. And that is critical, right?

Col. Ellis 28:24

Yeah, it is. You know, there's several pieces in that. One is we had to discipline we had to, we had to culture that says we are going to fight and when we're not giving up, we're going to fight and win. And we were very competitive people. Also, we were older, older than Korean War POWs much older and older than your typical soldier in Vietnam. The average age of the POWs was 30 and a half. I went in, I just turned 24. So I'm the kid on the block. Most of the people were five or six years older than me. And so that made it you know, older people are more stable, more secure. They've been through some life issues. They didn't just leave home and go to go into military. The other thing is we stayed with our group. And because the American people put so much pressure on the communists about our treatment, they went Hoshi men died in the fall of 69, which I've been there two years then. And then a few months, they stopped new leadership stopped the torture. So we had about three years two to three years, where it was more live and let live. And we had time to be decompress and talk with people who had been through worse than we had I live with guys who had been there seven, seven half one guy was there right at eight years. So there was always somebody who had suffered more nearby to to decompress and talk with it. And we knew we had to get ready. So in those two years, we started getting rid of of our bitterness and our anger, getting ourselves ready to go home. Well, these guys today, you know, they're fighting a war and they get on an airplane fly home. And the next day they're having lunch and dinner with their family, who knows nothing about what they've been through knows nothing about their buddies, they're separated from their unit then, and they go back into civilian world and they are back even to a military world where they don't, they don't have that same sense of belonging. And so it's, it's the PTSD is quite a bit higher. Ours is like 4%. And the average otherwise for been people who've been for more than three deployments, it's up around 30 40%. So we had a different situation there being older, and that strong bond, and then having the two years to decompress. Even World War Two, they put them on boats for months, you know, shipping them back home, it gave them time to decompress, and get ready to go home. But they still had a good bit. So there are a lot of pieces to that. But I think, our strong bond, and we we continue to meet and have reunions to the older age and then the time to decompress, I'd say was the real issues there for us.

Earl Breon 31:13

Well, it's so it's almost like you read my mind? Because Are you familiar with the Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman and his work?

Col. Ellis 31:22

Yes, I think so.

Earl Breon 31:25

He, he wrote a book on killing. And you almost cited it verbatim as some of the conclusions he came to with the decompression, the staying with your unit. In some of the things have led to modern PTSD rates being so high, even though comparatively speaking, you know, war is always going to be hell, but comparatively speaking, the way we fight war today should by most psychologists, and counts be less psychologically traumatic than, you know, World War One, World War Two and even through Vietnam. But all the same things. And that was going to be your segue nicely into one of my next questions is, as we have more veterans coming from the global war on terror, trying to re integrate back into society, what can an organization do? To help that transition from their standpoint?

Col. Ellis 32:35

I think you want to bring a man and get them into the team where they feel part of the team because they're, you know, they've lost their team, so to speak, and bring them in and spend some time helping them get to know people and feel like they're part of the team. Because that community, there's nothing better than community, whether you're trying to grow and yourself and leadership, you really need to be involved with community, whether you're in you know, the 12, step program, community, most everything. All people that are in community live longer than people who are living alone. So community is very important, get them in there and help them to feel value, give them a sense of purpose, because in the military, you had a sense of purpose of what our job was, and we were serving and something bigger than yourself, those kinds of things are very, very important to get them engaged. And don't let them hang out. The worst thing you can do is have people in organization that are not connected. So the immediate supervisor always needs to be connected to their people. That was another big mistake I made once I had a guy who was broke his leg and couldn't fly. And after a few weeks and crutch a couple of weeks on crutches, his boss was kind of let him go home and not come to work. And we lost connection with him. And he was already probably we didn't know this getting into drugs. But I learned that he was actually selling drugs. And he I ended up sending him to Leavenworth. And I felt like it might have happened anyway. But we me and his supervisor, we should have demanded him staying connected in a much better way. We should have made him do something every day. And so I learned a lesson don't let people be around and not be connected to the unit because that's you need to know what's going on with them.

Earl Breon 34:25

Yeah, and I think that's valuable advice know, having some friends who work for different organizations that help companies recruit and hire veterans. And that's the number one complaint is you have a lot of organizations out there that they want to do the right thing they want to help and so they put on a campaign to hire veterans. But then once they get there, they don't know how to utilize them. And then send to of purpose is is critical.

Col. Ellis 34:53

Yeah, one of the let me say one other thing about the society to die. It's a very different society. I was the youngest Sky there, but I grew up playing noodles and farm and feeding the hogs and chopping the wood. And I was part of the economic family economic system we worked with it was hot or cold. I worked all day long every summer on the fields, either there in the peach packing shed. We grew up understanding hardship. You know, I raised and fed a forage club hog and and shot it and dressed and killed a native. These kids growing up today, they just haven't lived in that kind of world where you did those kinds of things. And I think those kinds of things makes you more resilient. Because we had responsibility. And you know, a 10 year old had a lot of responsibility back then. And today is, you know, 20 year old has virtually no responsibility today, for the most part, most young people. And if they do, somebody does try to make them accountable, a 15 year old high school student, the parents come down and raise hell with a school, you know, so it's a tough world, these young kids, the culture and the parenting that goes on today. There's a lot of good about it. But there's a lot of stuff that really inhibits the inner confidence and resilience of young people today.

Earl Breon 36:14

I agree. You know, I mean, again, as we were talking beforehand, you know, I served in peacetime, but the whole, the whole foundation of Marine Corps boot camp is to get you comfortable being uncomfortable. Exactly. And that is, yeah, it's it's, it's a great mindset to have. And I think it's, you're right, it's something that a lot of folks are deprived of, because of the social and economic advances our country has had. That that's just not there anymore. And that's a great point to make. So thank you for making it. Well, sir, we're coming up on, you know, about 35 minutes or so here. And I know you're, you're busy man, and your time is very valuable. So just working to wrap it up. I always like to ask this question last. Is there anything that we haven't covered, that you would like to share with the audience?

Col. Ellis 37:08

Yeah, I had one more thing that we kind of almost touched on. But it goes back to your opening question about the burden of leadership. I keep a list. Because I think the challenge of leadership is understanding what's expected, and being able to reconcile yourself to it. So the paradox of leadership, you have to be a generalist and see the big picture, but you need to be a specialist, you have to be a visionary, but you have to be practical. You have to be strategic batac You have to be competent, but humble, you have to be detached at times, you have to be sensitive to others. You have to be tough, yet compassion. You have to have strong opinions. But you have to be a good listener, man, those really, these things all go together. I mean, this is like walking both sides of the street at the same time, you have to be bold and cautious, quick and patient, independent and a team player. I mean, it just goes on and on. You have to be able to live in chaos, and you have to bring order. You have to be serious you find. I mean, it just you see that you see the challenge of why leadership is a burden. And for some people, you know, they don't want that. Okay, I get it. I had a guy tell me the other day, he said, he said, I don't want to I don't want to be a manager because I don't want to deal with all the people stuff. And I said you're a wise man if that's what you know, you're very wise if you don't want to deal with it, because as a leader, you got to deal with all these things are being tough, being kind and loving people but being detached when you need to send them to Leavenworth if you have to love and works a federal prison for those that don't know.

Earl Breon 38:48

Yeah, that's that's where they say you turn big rocks into little rock. So that's,

Col. Ellis 38:54

that's nice. Yeah.

Earl Breon 38:56

Well, no, that is great. And, you know, that was, you know, getting served in peacetime. People always asked me what is the one thing that worried you as a Marine, I said, you know, and this shocks a lot of people and I love it, because it ties in with what you were saying is, everybody's got this image, especially if the Marines that have Gunny Hartmann going up and down and just yelling and screaming, and that's what Marine Corps leadership is like. And, you know, they tell you that, no, we want you to get into real leadership. It's like you have to love your teammates so much that you'll do anything to protect them. But you still have to be willing to put them in harm's way to get the mission done. Yep. Exactly. And and it's just yeah, and that was again, thankfully, that was not something I ever had to face, but it was something that they prepared you for. And people don't associate military leadership and love. But but you do you learn to love those guys more than your own flesh and blood in a lot of instances.

Col. Ellis 39:58

Yeah, you know, I've read one of my friends who retired Marine colonel who served in Vietnam. And he talked in his book, he talks about his, he had a PFC or Corporal who he says the best point man I've ever had. And he said, you know, the leader can always walk point. And so you have to have point people, somebody, you take turns, but he said, This guy wanted it. And he was good at it. And he said, you know, we loved him, like, you know, but we loved all our people. And I think the Marines actually do the best job of really listening to and respecting their enlisted God's Marine officer. So I think they learn that Well, I think it's, it's a concern I have had at times from some of the other services where they didn't really deeply care about their enlisted man. As much as the Marines do. I think they said a good example of that. Well,

Earl Breon 40:57

appreciate it. And that's a, it's a good note to end on. So colonel, thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it. And we'll have links to all of your information, the books you have out now, what was the title of your book coming

Col. Ellis 41:10

up? Well, we're still negotiating that, but it's leadership behavior, DNA, understanding talents, managing differences, okay. And pretty close behavior. We have an assessment called Leadership, heavy DNA, and it points out your strengths and your struggles and each of eight factors. And so the book is about that. But it's also about how to actually use that information to manage and lead differences.

Earl Breon 41:39

Okay, well, that's good. We'll keep an eye out for that one and good. And again, thank you for your time. And for listeners. I'll have again, I'll have all these notes in the show notes. So you can access these and I highly encourage you reading those books, and NRA, interacting with Colonel Ellis on social media. We'll have some that contact info there. He's very active on LinkedIn. And with that, listeners, thank you for your time. All right. Thanks for tuning in. If you have any comments or questions for me or my guest, or you would like to suggest a future guest, send them to me at Be sure to rate and review us on your podcast platform of choice. I look forward to speaking with you again. In the next episode.

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