When I think of the phrase “legacy leader”, I think of leaders that we will remember for the positive impact they leave on others and their ability to motivate those within their organization. Great leaders are also role models that those that work for them. The purpose of this paper is to talk about my legacy leader, First Sergeant (1SG) David Delgado. 1SG Delgado was not only a great leader, but also displayed many of the attributes and competencies that a great leader should have and was the epitome of Be, Know, and Do. (Headquarters, Department of the Army, 2012). We should also remember that even good leaders can have their bad moments, and it is what they do to get through those moments that characterizes them. Poor or counterproductive leadership creates uncertainty, fear, and anger in a team. Good leadership, however, can improve productivity, esprit de corps, and cooperation in the organization.
I first met 1SG Delgado when he arrived to Alpha Battery, 3-27th Field Artillery Regiment. 1SG Delgado came in as our Battery’s new First Sergeant, and with that, inherited a group of Soldiers and NCOs that were unmotivated and held little regard for doing quality work. 1SG Delgado came into the unit, identified work ethic as a major issue, and immediately started making changes. One of the major changes that he made was in how NCOs delegated tasks. 1SG would give a task, as well as detailed instructions on how completed we should complete the task. The Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) in our unit didn’t appreciate this at all, as it made them look like they were unable to do their jobs. Additionally, 1SG was not very approachable, and wasn’t open to their ideas on improving the way he was doing things.
1SG Delgado treated the unit’s NCOs far different than its junior enlisted Soldiers. 1SG treated the junior enlisted like adults, while the NCOs were micro-managed and held to impossibly high standards1SG would often call out the NCOs in formation and tell them how incompetent they were in front of the Soldiers. This behavior was starting to detrimentally affect the NCOs in the unit. Many of the NCOs couldn’t understand why 1SG was doing things that way. The NCOs couldn’t understand why 1SG was counseling them for everything, especially when it was something they could handle with a simple conversation. The NCOs knew that they were to abide by a higher standard, but the way that 1SG was handling things was more than a standards issue.
On the other hand, 1SG Delgado had many positive traits. He was the standard bearer when it came to technical and tactical proficiency, and his level of artillery knowledge was impeccable. 1SG always ensured everyone knew what he expected from them. He often took the time to go around and check on all the Soldiers in the unit, whether in garrison or the field. He genuinely cared about the Soldiers and wanted to know what was happening in their lives. 1SG Delgado enforced standards like no one else in the Battalion. He would correct Soldiers for the minutest of reasons. While it seemed like 1SG was correcting everyone for the smallest things, it is important to remember that actions have a purpose and all words have meaning. At the end of the day, 1SG Delgado’s actions were meant to take care of us as Soldiers.
1SG Delgado continuously showed his presence in the barracks and ensured that Platoon Sergeants did the same. He was big on the health and welfare of the Soldiers. He made sure that there were plenty of resources available for the Soldiers as well. He wanted to make sure that they weren’t just in the barracks drinking. Many of the Soldiers were only interested in video games, but 1SG Delgado felt that it was important to get them interested in something else as well and would do his best to convince them of this. We all commended his efforts in trying to make sure that the Soldiers applied themselves in their free time.
1SG Delgado made sure that all the Platoon Sergeants knew their Soldiers. Every time an NCO would accompany their Soldier to a board, he would ask many personal questions about their Soldier’s lives. We also had to tell him why we thought our Soldiers should win the board or why we recommended them for promotion. Before our Soldier came in, he would ask us situational questions about our Soldier, and then ask the Soldier the same question when they came into the board. When NCOs were incorrect in their answers, 1SG wouldn’t say anything. He would just look at the NCO, as they knew it looked very poorly on them. He did this to ensure that we were doing their best to know their Soldiers.
As time passed, the situation started to improve in the unit. The morale and esprit de corps in the unit got much better. 1SG wasn’t as overbearing, nor did he micro-manage to the level that he had when had first arrived at the Unit. As it turns out, the Battery had started to function more efficiently because 1SG’s actions. His methods were not ideal, but he eventually changed the way he did things. 1SG’s tactics started doing things in a way to better develop the NCOs in the Battery. As the NCOs started doing what they were supposed to, 1SG became much less abrasive, and started letting the NCOs take charge of things.
I soon started seeing 1SG Delgado as a leader that I wanted to emulate. The more I saw the way he did things, the better I started to see his leadership in a different light. He taught me that everything we do goes towards building our legacy, for better or worse. Every action that we take and every word that we say that we say tells our seniors, peers, and subordinates who we are and what we stand for. I don’t micro-manage, but I learned just how important not micro-managing can be from 1SG Delgado. He also taught me the importance of understanding the “why” of a given task. He always harped on ensuring that our Soldiers knew the desired end-state of their task or mission, as knowing what you are trying to accomplish is essential to being successful.
Things were rocky in the beginning for 1SG Delgado, but he was a great leader. He consistently displayed the Army Leadership attributes in everything that he did. He showed that he was a leader of character by always doing the right thing for his Soldiers. He wouldn’t let someone telling him no stop him from taking care of his Soldiers. He was a leader of presence because of the positive impact that his actions had on the Soldiers in our Battery. He put his all into developing every single one of us, and the effects of that spread throughout the unit and beyond. 1SG Delgado displayed his intellect through the numerous ways that he implemented change for the better within the Unit. He always had new and innovative ways to both improve our Soldiers and to get them to want to better develop themselves.
1SG Delgado always led by example. He lived the Army values and each of his Soldiers and NCOs to the same standard. His goal was to develop us not only into better Soldiers, but also into better people. He created a positive, productive environment in the Battery, and in return we all started to become more professional. Lastly, 1SG Delgado was a leader that was able to achieve, as all that he did for the Battery culminated in a high-performance unit. In the end, the Battery had improved greatly due to 1SG Delgado’s leadership and ability to achieve positive results.
I want to be a leader that never stops learning and developing myself and others. I also want to be seen as an empathetic and understanding leader. I am already doing my best to have a positive and meaningful impact on my Soldiers, but my goal as a leader is to one day see them doing the same for their Soldiers . I am not a perfect leader and I have many flaws, but I will do all that I can to continue to grow a Soldier and a leader, as well as do my best to help others grow as well.
In conclusion, I think that 1SG Delgado’s actions when he first arrived to the Battery were done with the best of intentions. Micro-managing is counterproductive, but he saw that the leaders in the weren’t taking the steps needed to ensure that they were doing things correctly, or even done at all. 1SG Delgado later told me that it wasn’t a measure that he took lightly, or that he enjoyed doing. He felt that it was the only way to fix the issue, and in doing so, eventually changed us all for the better. 1SG Delgado was one of the best leaders that I have ever known and meeting him greatly changed us for the better. We became more efficient, which in return improved the Battery and the Soldiers and NCOs in it, including myself. 1SG Delgado helped mold me into the person and leader that I am now and showed me the importance of being a good leader.
- Headquarters, Department of the Army (2002). Army Leadership (Army Doctrine Publication No. 6-22). Retrieved from https://Armypubs.us.army.mil/doctrine/index.html