The company I work for had invited the author, Colonel Lee Ellis to speak to a large crowd of employees. I had heard of the book, but never bought it. I learned of the author from the introductory bio that was circulated and made a point of attending this corporate event.
The event was scheduled for the afternoon and I was sitting down for lunch, when I saw a familiar face looking around for a good spot to sit. There were plenty of seats, but in the military, wardrooms especially, it’s rude to leave someone hanging out to dry sitting alone.
I waved to Colonel Lee Ellis, introduced myself and motioned for him to join me. We shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and I was immediately struck with just how genuine a guy this man is.
First, as a presenter, I’m sure the executives would have loved the opportunity to sit down and enjoy his company personally, but here he was, with the regular employees in our cafeteria.
Second, we bonded over the military and our corporate life experiences. Although clearly we were from different times, services, roles, experiences, and he outranked me, we talked meaningfully and I felt a mutual respect.
Three, he was open and genuinely passionate about his message. The simple core message that forms one of the foundations of not only his book, but of his company. His passionate belief in that message is clear.
Fourth, we talked about life trajectories. I half expected him to recommend setting a new course for stellar heights of corporate achievement, but instead he recognized and identified that I was living up to his message of “Leading with Honor” through the choices I was making.
Although we only shared about forty five minutes of time with cafeteria food that I couldn’t even recall, I have to say it was an excellent experience. When we said good bye, I have to say, I thought that would be the end of it.
As we filed into the auditorium it was clear, the CEO jokingly called me out in the crowd and asked why I hadn’t bought the Colonel lunch. Of course I had to shrug and say, he had already bought it when we met.
During the Colonel’s presentation, he was on point and clear about his message and how it can be applied to the corporate environment. It also included a certain amount of background around his experiences, but not so much that your eyes glazed over from war story overload.
I’ve since read his book “Leading with Honor” and highly recommend it. It recounts a significant amount of his POW experience and shares the character lessons he took away from it in a way that I found riveting.
If you ever have the opportunity to meet or hear a presentation with Colonel Lee Ellis as I did, jump at the opportunity. Definitely check out the book.