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Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton: Six Characteristics of High-Performance Teams Hardcover – May 15 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (May 15 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612512178
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612512174
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 1.9 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,862,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“In addition to the co-authors’ combined qualifications, including meticulous research and writing in a lucid, easy-to-grasp narrative style, “Lessons From the Hanoi Hilton” is a tome, the forerunner of future research into the nature of un¬yielding courage and its application to strategic leadership principles.”
― Leatherneck

“What is your ‘tap code’? Any leader or organization should ask that question about the way they communicate. Peter Fretwell and Taylor Kiland lay this out for us as they describe the leadership characteristics of true American heroes. Honor and mission focus should be embedded in everyone’s ‘tap code.’” ―Vice Adm. Cutler Dawson, USN (Ret.), president/CEO of Navy Federal Credit Union

“I can think of no better lens on leadership than the lessons of Adm. Jim Stockdale and how he built a sustainable high-performance culture in the most extreme circumstances. Stockdale epitomized the very highest levels of integrity, honor, discipline, and love; I continually draw strength, resilience, and practical guidance from his inspired example. Learn his lessons, employ them, and you will be better.” ― Jim Collins, author or coauthor of six books, including international bestsellers Good to Great, Built to Last, and How the Mighty Fall

“I have had experience in a range of public and private sector organizations. In every case a handful of leadership qualities were critical to the success of the organization, and the qualities displayed by the POWs were similar: culture, sustained focus, teamwork, adaptability, and communication. These qualities were evident in the Hanoi Hilton and integral to high-performing commercial organizations everywhere.” ― Philip Odeen, former CEO of TRW and member of the board of directors of AES Corporation and Booz Allen Hamilton

About the Author

Peter Fretwell is the general manager of The Classical Network, based in New Jersey. During his MBA studies in strategic leadership, he became convinced the lessons the POWs brought home could benefit other organizations and spent more than seven years researching the topic. He lives in Robbinsville, NJ.

Taylor Baldwin Kiland, a former naval officer, is a management consultant with a large technology and strategy consulting firm and lives in Alexandria, Virginia. She is the author or coauthor of three books, including Open Doors: Vietnam POWs Thirty Years Later.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9dc8e1e0) out of 5 stars 25 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9dc14d68) out of 5 stars A Prince Among Men - James Bond Stockdale June 13 2013
By Richard A. Stratton - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is almost as if the authors were there beside Jim Stockdale while he was in the Maison Centrale (Hanoi Hilton). There are a few figures in each generation that rise above the norm to show the way by word and deed - who walk the walk as well as talk the talk. CAG (Carrier Air Group Commander) Stockdale was one of the rare few you would see at Thermopylae, Rorke's Drift, Omaha Beach or Amarageddon leading the charge or holding the line.

This work would have been enriched by including as an appendix CAG's remarks to his Air Wing prior to his shoot-down:

"Commander Jim Stockdale was the archetypal air wing commander. He commanded Carrier Air Wing 16 during the 1965 cruise, and set the stage for the air wing's accomplishments during Rolling Thunder. Stockdale took command of the air wing in April 1965, after commanding VF-51, a fighter squadron on the USS Ticonderoga. As the Ticonderoga was already on station in the Tonkin Gulf, Stockdale had a wealth of experience concerning operations in Vietnam. He had been airborne as the on-scene-commander during the Tonkin Gulf Incident. He also took part in several of the reprisal raids in the rapidly escalating air war. These experiences made him uniquely suited for command of the Oriskany's air wing as she departed for her first Vietnam War cruise.

"As the Oriskany sailed west across the Pacific Ocean, Stockdale overheard pilots of his squadrons talking about their role in what was already being recognized as a war of limited aim. He called for a mandatory meeting of all his pilots. While there, Stockdale delivered a two hour speech that included the following guidance concerning the officer's obligations:

". . . I think I owe you in addition a straight from the shoulder discussion of pilots' mentalattitudes and orientation in "limited war" circumstances. . . .I want to level with you right now, so you can think it over here in mid-Pacific and not kid yourself into imagining "stark realizations" in the Gulf of Tonkin. Once you go "feet dry" over the beach, there can be nothing limited about your commitment.
"Limited war" means to us that our target list has limits, our ordnance loadout has limits, our rules of engagement have limits, but that does not mean that there is anything "limited" about our personal obligations as fighting men to carry out assigned missions with all we've got. If you think it is possible for a man, in the heat of battle, to apply something less than total personal commitment--equated perhaps to your idea of the proportion of national potential being applied, you are wrong. It's contrary to human nature. So also is the idea I was alarmed to find suggested to me by a military friend in a letter recently: that the prisoner of war's Code of Conduct is some sort of "total war" document. You can't go half way on that either. The Code of Conduct was not written for "total wars" or "limited wars," it was written for all wars, and let it be understood that it applies with full force to this Air Wing--in this war.
"What I am saying is that national commitment and personal commitment are two different things. . . . We are all at a fork in the road this week. Think it over. If you find yourself rationalizing about moving your bomb release altitude up a thousand feet from where your strike leader briefs it, or adding a few hundred pounds fuel to your over target bingo because "the Navy needs you for greater things," or you must save the airplane for some "great war" of the future, you're in the wrong outfit. . . .Let us all face our prospects squarely. We've got to be prepared to obey the rules and contribute without reservation. If political or religious conviction helps you do this, so much the better, but you're still going to be expected to press on with or without these comforting thoughts, simply because this uniform commits us to a military ethic--the ethic of personal pride and excellence that alone has supported some of the greatest fighting men in history. Don't require Hollywood answers to `What are we fighting for'? We're here to fight because it's in the interest of the United States that we do so. This may not be the most dramatic way to explain it, but it has the advantage of being absolutely" correct. [U. S. Grant Sharp, "Strategy for Defeat" (California: Presidio Press, 1978), 97-99.]

"Stockdale gave this speech in April 1965, before the Americanization of the war began in earnest, and yet he knew enough about Vietnam, and the salient issues, including America's limited commitment, that he knew the war would eventually cause great debate amongst Americans. His caution to his men before they entered combat showed a greater understanding of the realities facing them and the United States than many of his superiors, including the politicians running the war from Washington. The strength of this speech is evidenced by Stockdale's emphasis on professionalism. He never calls for blind followership, but instead tells his pilots that as military men, they must accept the limited goals already set forth by the Johnson administration.

"By stressing to his pilots the importance of their obligations and loyalties, Stockdale set the tone for his air wing and their future performance. His pilots would continue giving their all despite growing frustrations with the war and the Johnson administration's restrictions and unwillingness to employ them appropriately. Stockdale's emphasis on the importance of the Prisoner-of-War (POW) Code of Conduct was prophetic given his future role as the leader of American POWs in North Vietnam--a role that earned him the Medal of Honor. Stockdale's ability as a leader is evidenced by the fact that the issues he covered in this speech affected and impacted Air Wing 16 throughout Rolling Thunder, long after he had been shot down"

[THE EFFECTS OF LEADERSHIP ON CARRIER AIR WING SIXTEEN'S LOSS RATES DURING OPERATION ROLLING THUNDER, 1965-1968 A thesis presented to the Faculty of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree MASTER OF MILITARY ART AND SCIENCE Military History by PETER FEY, LCDR, USN B.A., University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, 1995]

Jim Stockdale is a man for all seasons. Hanoi did not make the man; Hanoi provided the stage for him to play his finest role.

I am alive and intact today thanks to James Bond Stockdale, his humanity and his wisdom.

This brief volume distills the essence of CAG. The authors are to be commended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e097aa4) out of 5 stars "Bare Bones" Leadership Nov. 19 2013
By John Ensch - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Authors Taylor Balwin Kiland and Peter Fretwell have done a remarkable job of researching, documenting and presenting how superb leadership in the unique setting of a POW environment made such a decisive difference and sustained us Vietnam POWs throughout our ordeal.

Effective leadership under the conditions experienced in the North Vietnam prisons is undoubtably the most demanding task a leader could ever have been expected to accomplish. Leading even under normal circumstances is a daunting enough task when one can physically see, talk to, email, phone, text, etc. those being led. So, imagine the difficultly of effectively organizing, communicating with and leading a widely dispersed group of over 500 individuals when the only resources available are tapping on walls, flashing hand signals, clandistine note passing, etc. And, all the time under the threat of being caught and subjected to harsh pyhsical punishment. Under such conditions it could have been tempting to just be passive and wait out the war. However, that's not what the POW leadership did. And because they actively led from the front - not from behind - they made it possible for all of us to board those C-141s in Hanoi 40 years ago and return home with our honor and dignity intact.

Throughout the history of the US military there have been leaders who seem to have been destined to step forward at just the right time to fill a leadership void under extraordinary circumstances. Think of Gen. George Washington, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower to name but a few. The "right leader" at the "right time" in the POW camps of North Vietnam was VADM Jim Stockdale - known to us POWs simply as "CAG" (his position as Carrier Air Group Commander when he was shot down).

CAG was the epitome and apothiosis of the words on an officer's commissioning certificate that reposes "special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities" of the officer. None of these qualities could ever be questioned of CAG Stockdale. However, above all it was his fidelity to the other POWs and the mission to "Return With Honor" - along with his leadership by example - that gained the respect, loyalty and admiration of all my fellow POWs. It was easy for us to "follow" when "led" in that manner.

While not expected to endure the hardships experienced by the POWs, those in all walks of society who aspire to be good leaders can profit from this book about leadership at its most basic level - "bare bones" leadership if you will. And, if the lessons learned are applied in leading their respective organizations, those organizations will be better for it.

Jack Ensch
Captain, USN (Ret.)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9dad3864) out of 5 stars Thought Provoking July 14 2013
By Doug Cabarle - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Lessons From The Hanoi Hilton is a rare gem as it transcends the leadership bridge between business and military fundamentals. Incorporating the code of "service before self" of the plight of the POW's, the book readily translates into 21st management lessons. I found the leadership and organizational principles of our service members while in the Hanoi prison motivating - including the explanation of using these techniques to apply in today's cultural & business climates. This is a must read for both business majors and those choosing to serve in our military!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9dcfec84) out of 5 stars Culture is created by role models and leaders, we can never have enough! Sept. 23 2013
By W.C. Davis - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As a grammar school student in working class suburb of Pittsburgh I was afforded the opportunity of a great education. I was very lucky and had many role models such as my mother and many of my teachers but some of my best role models came from the school and local library. Great things are achieved every day by people that work hard and inspire others through their passion and dedication. Knowing these role models like JFK in PT 109, and General Douglas MacArthur in Reminiscences as a youth was a big part of my childhood. I often share modern day heroes with my own children and peers.

Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton captures the spirit and heroism of Commander James Bond Stockdale and the men held prisoner in Vietnam. Through an inner passion and desire to serve others at the highest level Commander Stockdale created a culture of honor, courage, and sacrifice for the good of the group. I have shared this book personally and with several CEO's that understand culture and have received many thanks.

I would like to thank the authors for bringing another role model Commander Stockdale into my life and the lives of my friends and family.

W.C. Davis
HASH(0x9df9c0a8) out of 5 stars Life Lessons to live by Oct. 27 2013
By Beth A. Ewing - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have experienced, in the financial services industry, the rise in the 80's and 90's and fall in the 2000's. The success of those around me early in my career could have easily be defined as simply being in the right place at the right time but the real success of those in the industry came during the most recent financial crisis when the survivors, like the POWs, found the "why" in life and no longer let their rank and title define them but refocused on the mission ahead. "[[ASIN:1612512178 Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton: Six Characteristics of High-Performance Teams]soundly outlines the keys to sustaining a successful team. But more importantly shows the value of loyalty (whether to yourself, to the team, or individual teammates), that confession is good for the soul (and forgiveness is liberating), and having goals towards a mission are critical in every aspect of our human life.