Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton

Six Characteristics of High-Performance Teams

  • Subject: Leadership | Vietnam War
  • Format:
  • Pages:
  • Illustrations:
    13 b/w figures
  • Published:
    August 15, 2017
  • ISBN-10:
  • ISBN-13:
  • Product Dimensions:
    8 × 5 × 1 in
  • Product Weight:
    6 oz
Softcover $19.95
Member Price $15.96 Save 20%
Book: Cover Type


“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 unyielding courage and its application to strategic leadership principles.” ― Leatherneck

Why were the American POWs imprisoned at the “Hanoi Hilton” so resilient in captivity and so successful in their subsequent careers? This book presents six principles practiced within the POW organizational culture that can be used to develop high-performance teams everywhere. The authors offer examples from both the POWs’ time in captivity and their later professional lives that identify, in real-life situations, the characteristics necessary for sustainable, high-performance teamwork. Taylor Baldwin Kiland and Peter Fretwell show readers how to apply these principles to their own organizations and create a culture with staying power.

Originally intending their book to focus on fighter pilot James Stockdale’s leadership style, the authors found that his approach toward completing a mission was to assure that it could be accomplished without him. Stockdale, they explain, had created a mission-centric organization, not a leader-centric organization. He understood that a truly sustainable culture must not be dependent on a single individual.

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

"...the book is an opportunity for the average person to gain insight into the daily life of a Foreign Service officer." —DACOR Dais
"a short but meaty book that examines what was behind the surprisingly positive outcome that pervaded this group of men, the longest-held group of POWs in our nation's history and one that remained unified and strong throughout years of torturous captivity." —HistoryNet
"Let this sink in for a minute: approximately 30 percent of Vietnam veterans came home with PTSD; this same percentage is true for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Yet, only 4 percent of Vietnam prisoners of war returned with PTSD. What if I told you that PTSD may be a leadership problem? Don't take my word for it. Read this book and hone your EQ!"—Ken Falke, Founder and Chairman, Boulder Crest veterans' wellness retreats
"I served under Stockdale, Denton, and Risner and with many of those mentioned in this wonderful book. As the authors explain, our courageous leaders demonstrated a rare combination of competitive ambition with a humble appreciation of others. They were good men, but no doubt, their brokenness and isolation helped them actualize the power of affiliation. By applying these great lessons, we can all elevate our humanity and leadership to a higher level." —Colonel Lee Ellis, USAF (Ret.), President, Leading with Honor in 2017, author of Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton and Engage with Honor: Building a Culture of Courageous Accountability, former Vietnam POW (1967-1973)
"When we came home from the Viet Nam prison camps, the psychiatrists had our families ready to institutionalize us for the rest of our lives. Instead we've produced Admirals and Ambassadors, Generals and Governors. Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton shows how the techniques we used to grow through adversity can be used in business and industry, families and schools." —Navy Captain Charlie Plumb, former Vietnam POW (1967-1973) and motivational speaker
"Reading Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton reminded me that adverse experiences affect individuals in different ways but we can all learn from what they endured. Fretwell and Kiland's book offers up lessons in leadership that we all can use. When I first saw the book, I assumed that it would be like so many other books written about gleaning leadership lessons form the military experiences. However, once I started reading it, I recognized the authors highlighted the relationship between mental health, social connections in teams, and resilience. These lessons apply to teams in most situations and the six characteristics are attainable. The POWs who are the focus of this book are an amazing group who taught us that even in daily life we can act with honor and compassion." —Susamma Seeley, Certified Emergency Manager, Executive Director, ProBonoEM & Past Chairperson, International Association of Emergency Managers-USA Conference Committee, 2013-2016
"There is no better example of high-performance leadership than in the incredible story told in Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. The heroes in this story demonstrate how communication, honesty, courage, and a hyper focus on mission can enable any team to overcome any odds to complete the mission." —Rear Adm. Tony Cothron, USN (Ret.), former Director of Naval Intelligence
"[Jim Stockdale's] servant leadership under duress likely will be studied and emulated for generations to come. He was a one-of-a-kind American war hero who made his country proud."—Rep. Sam Johnson (TX), former POW

More Info

Lessons of Heroism: The Vietnam War POW Experience Panel Discussion

Panel discussion about the Vietnam War POW experience. Hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute at the Jack C. Taylor Conference Center in Annapolis, MD.