Several years ago I was in Kalamazoo, Michigan. We were making final preparations for a four-day character development training that was to commence the next morning. As Ennio Salucci, the lead trainer, and I prepared the volunteer team he received a phone call. Acknowledging its importance, Ennio stepped away from our preparations for several minutes.

Late that night, after we’d finished with the team, he shared with me the content of that phone call. He’d been struggling with medical symptoms for some time and had a series of tests. Ennio’s doctor called to inform him that his tests confirmed the medical team’s worst fears: he had chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Rather than cancelling the training, calling another facilitator to stand in for him, or to log hours on the phone with his wife and doctors, what I witnessed floored me. Ennio prepared me for the next day’s training, then gave himself fully and passionately to our participants for the entire four days. Other than our brief conversation, there was no evidence that my friend had received the devastating news. He was clear about why he was alive: to champion those around him to live their lives fully, passionately, and powerfully.

Ennio led by example those first days after his diagnosis and for the nearly twenty years that have followed. In that time, Ennio has been in and out of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston more often than I’ve been to my dentist. And, he’s poured his heart and soul into thousands of people in the hundreds of trainings he’s conducted since. Just recently, he finished his battle with leukemia and is in the presence of the Lord.


–Kirk Kirlin, from the book “Leadership Courage,” more at

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