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Michael Useem
Scholar

Michael Useem

Michael Useem is Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The brave: Salvatore Giunta

Question: Considering all spheres of endeavor, who would you nominate as Leader of the Year in 2010? Why?

During his second combat tour in Afghanistan, Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta and his combat team were ambushed by a well-armed insurgent group on October 25, 2007. When his squad leader was hit, he raced under fire to render aid. When other wounded soldiers became separated from their squad, he fought to help them as well. And when he saw two insurgents carrying away a wounded American soldier, he battled to retrieve his fellow soldier.

Salvatore Giunta received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama at the White House on November 16, 2010. The office citation reads: "Specialist Giunta's unwavering courage, selflessness, and decisive leadership while under extreme enemy fire were integral to his platoon's ability to defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American soldier from the enemy. Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta's extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service..."

When the president described Sgt. Giunta's "extraordinary heroism" during the White House ceremony, with the Medal of Honor recipient standing near the president, "the East Room was so silent," reported The New York Times, "you could hear a rustle from across the room."

As a leader of the year, Staff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta represents the potential in all of us to take actions than transcend our self-interest when the moment requires the best from us. He has reminded us that courage, selflessness and decisiveness are the very definition of great leadership.

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By Michael Useem

 |  December 22, 2010; 5:38 PM ET
Category:  Crisis leadership , Managing Crises , Military Leadership , Self-Sacrifice , Wartime Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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With more than 8,000 responses already in, the results of this poll are pretty clear, and pretty sad. I bet if you asked Ron Paul, President Obama, Coach K, the Gates and Nancy Pelosi, each of them would point to someone like Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta.

Thank you, Sergeant Giunta, for your self-less service to our country. You are an instinctive leader, and we are all better for it.

Posted by: ykc8 | December 25, 2010 11:26 PM
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Some leadership is well-thought-out, meticulous, planned and crafted - that is usually business or political leadership. Instinctive leadership - showing courage under literal fire while knowing that your actions may lead to your physical (not political) death - is impossible to train and is contrary to the brain's self-preservation instinct. Even generals and admirals will initiate a salute to this Medal-of-honor sargeant in recognition of his leadership and bravery.

Posted by: steveplaw | December 25, 2010 8:45 PM
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