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Leadership Attitude: The Stockdale Paradox

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James B. Stockdale was one of the highly respected Vice admiral in the history of United States Navy. He set a remarkable example and won many awards for his high levels of spirit, courage and endurance. He was also Vice Presidential candidate in 1992.

James Stockdale was prisoner of war from September 9, 1965 to February 12, 1973 in Vietnam War. Stockdale credited that his stoic nature helped him to survive as a Prisoner of War.

Jim Collins included Stockdale philosophy as Stockdale Paradox in his renowned book ‘Good to Great’ as “confronting the brutal fact of the situation, yet at the same time, never give up hope.”

When interviewed by Jim Collins about Vietnamese Prisoner of War (POW) camp, Stockdale said “I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

And when asked about who didn't make it out, Stockdale replied, “Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

Stockdale was born in Abingdon, Illinois in 1923. He graduated from Naval Academy in 1947 and joined Naval air station Pensacola, Florida for flight training. He received masters in International relations and Marxist theory from Stanford University and later preferred to be a fighter pilot. He rose through ranks quickly and reached highest position as a fighter squadron commander.

Stockdale was held as Prisoner of War in 1965 in North Vietnam while working on a mission in Vietnam War. There he was sent to one of the most infamous Hao Lo prison where he was brutally tortured physically and mentally. In the seven years where he was kept captive as prisoner of war, despite severely beaten, malnourished, asphyxiated, and spent few years in total dark room, he never succumbed to the North Vietnam captors.

During his seven years as POW, he resisted to cooperate with the captors, even when he was placed in solitary confinement. He was locked with leg irons in a bath stall, beaten, and whipped. He resisted them using him for propaganda by hurting himself relentlessly. When Stockdale came to know that he was to be paraded in public before foreign journalists by captors, he slashed his scalp with a razor to disfigure himself, so that the captors do not take him and use him for propaganda. When they put a hat, he had beaten his face with a stool to be swollen beyond recognition. When captors told him that other POWs are dying under torture, he slit his wrists to show that he preferred death rather to capitulate.

His uncanny determination is widely respected. He received ‘Medal of Honor’ in 1976, the highest military decoration awarded by the US government along with 26 other personal combat decorations.
 
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  Published Date - March 3 2010
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  Mr. Nate Rodnay
Management-guru.in provides information to help people improve their management skills and be able to put that into action right away. It caters to people those who have not studied management at all, and want to be good managers in practice. It also acts as a refresher for management professionals with various management concepts.
 
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