SFC Collazo’s Influence on My Leadership Philosophy

Effective leadership plays a crucial role in the success and development of any organization. All leaders must strive to possess a series of core competencies and attributes to effectively lead Soldiers and shape the future leaders of their organization. “We forgot that those of us who are fortunate enough to lead great companies are the stewards of legacies we inherited from past leaders” (George, 2004). The purpose of this paper is to discuss and compare my experiences with Sergeant First Class (SFC) Rodney Collazo.

This paper will examine SFC Collazo’s leadership strategies, core attributes and competencies, impact on the United States Army, and multinational organizations. SFC Collazo’s leadership style shaped and influenced my leadership philosophy, and his legacy continues through me and every person he coached and mentored. SFC Rodney Collazo is a Puerto Rican native and moved to the United States when he was a young man. SFC Collazo is married and has a young boy. Due to his Puerto Rican upbringing, SFC Collazo is a fierce family man and dedicated to his Soldiers, unit, and mission.

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I first met SFC Rodney Collazo in November 2009 when I worked with the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion in Bamberg, Germany.

From the first day we met, SFC Collazo exhibited the traits of a consummate professional. I served with SFC Collazo for 7 years across three different duty assignments. I will describe several events I witnessed from SFC Collazo to explain why his core attributes and competencies made me want to emulate the type of leader he is.

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SFC Collazo and I worked in a five-person office during our assignment in Bamberg, Germany. Our special mission required us to wear professional civilian attire and conduct meetings with high ranking United States and German Officials. “The impression a leader makes on others contributes to his success in leading them. This impression is the sum of a leader’s outward appearance, demeanor, actions, and words” (Department of the Army, 2012, p. 4-1).

Over the span of a few months, a fellow Soldier in our office noticeably gained weight and no longer fit into his suits. Upon noticing the Soldier’s lack of professional appearance, SFC Collazo conducted a courtesy height and weight to ensure the Soldier was still within the Army standard. Even though the height and weight determined the Soldier was still within regulation, SFC Collazo explained to the Soldier his expectations pertaining to outward appearance, professionalism, and military bearing. SFC Collazo directed the Soldier to generate a rigorous physical fitness routine to help him maintain a professional appearance and exercised with the Soldier until he met expectations. SFC Collazo’s presence left a long-lasting impression on every member of that office. SFC Collazo taught me that even though we weren’t associated with the United States Army, it is the responsibility of every member of the team to maintain a high standard of physical fitness and appearance. This is a lesson I share with every Soldier I coach and mentor. SFC Collazo consistently exhibited keen intellect, mental agility, and interpersonal tact while stationed at Bamberg, Germany.

When I first arrived at the office, SFC Collazo emphasized the importance of learning the target country’s language and culture and mandated everyone take a class on German culture and language. I did not understand the significance of culture until I conducted my first meeting with SFC Collazo. To facilitate continuity within the office, SFC Collazo brought me to meetings with his German counterparts. SFC Collazo began every meeting in the German language and brought a small gift based on the official’s marital status and personal tastes. SFC Collazo taught me the importance of interpersonal tact, intellect, and mental agility as it pertains to our daily affairs. Now whenever I travel to a new area, I meticulously research the culture and language to aid in establishing relationships. SFC Collazo’s continuous effort and understanding of German culture and language laid the groundwork for a successful and long-lasting relationship with our foreign counterparts.

After some time, SFC Collazo and I deployed with the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion to Iraq. During that deployment, SFC Collazo continued to develop and influence my leadership philosophy. SFC Collazo was the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of an interrogation facility during our deployment to Iraq in 2010. SFC Collazo’s responsibilities included the management of more than 70 interrogators and interpreters, as well as supervising and approving all interrogations the facility conducted. Halfway through the deployment, my Soldier notified me his mother had a vehicle accident resulting in paralysis from the neck down. The Soldier told me his mother’s condition was stable, but expressed difficulty concentrating due to the situation. SFC Collazo did not hesitate when he heard about the accident.

SFC Collazo instructed me to do whatever it takes to complete my Soldier’s emergency leave paperwork and cancel his interrogations for the week. My Soldier flew home that very same day. “Army leaders show empathy when they genuinely relate to another person’s situation, motives, and feelings” (Department of the Army, 2012, p. 3-3). SFC Collazo showed character and empathy by ensuring the Soldier received the proper support at the right moment. SFC Collazo taught me that sometimes to complete the mission, you must put Soldiers needs first. SFC Collazo extended this philosophy towards every mission and person he worked with during that deployment. In addition to his duties as the Interrogation NCOIC, SFC Collazo lead the way by overseeing an in-depth Iraqi training program for various Iraqi Government Officials. This program consisted of several months of intense training that culminated in real world Iraqi lead operations.

Despite SFC Collazo’s busy schedule, he made a point to aid in coaching and mentoring every Iraqi Official in the training program. SFC Collazo went above and beyond and focused on their professional improvement, family, personal lives, and the future state of Iraq. During each graduation, I watched as Iraqi Officials showered SFC Collazo with gifts and praise. Many Iraqi officials expressed their desires to emulate SFC Collazo and someday become an influential leader like him. “Leaders can influence beyond their direct line of authority and chain of command. Influence can extend across units, to unified action partners, and to other groups” (Department of the Army, 2015, p. 7-12). SFC Collazo’s actions during the deployment were that of a true leader. SFC Collazo not only influenced the Soldiers and unit he worked with, but also every Iraqi Official he coached and mentored.

SFC Collazo instilled trust between U.S. Forces and Iraqi counter parts. His influence will be passed on by myself, other members of his unit, and Iraqi leaders alike. One month prior to our redeployment from Iraq, our leadership informed us the facility needed to be closed and turned over to the Government of Iraq. SFC Collazo only had three weeks to complete our active mission and prepare the facility for turnover. SFC Collazo acted without hesitation and immediately held a meeting with surrounding leadership. SFC Collazo assigned all tasks that required completion prior to redeployment and stressed the importance of mission success. The next three weeks were hectic, but with SFC Collazo’s leadership, every individual within the facility knew what their tasks were, why they were required, and how to complete them. Despite SFC Collazo’s pre-deployment meetings and preparation, he still maintained a constant presence to ensure mission completion and all questions and discrepancies were addressed. “Getting results embraces all actions to get the job done on time and to standard” (Department of the Army, 2012, p. 8-2).

SFC Collazo exhibited necessary leadership competencies to achieve all of his unit’s missions and tasks. SFC Collazo prioritized, organized, and coordinated taskings for every member of the facility. SFC Collazo empowered subordinate leadership to accomplish the tasks at hand by providing purpose, direction and intent and trusted everyone within the facility to accomplish the task. Watching SFC Collazo accomplish the complex task of closing an entire facility truly inspired me to become a better leader. SFC Collazo had the trust and confidence of every Soldier in that unit, and he did so by effectively leading and empowering Soldiers.

Following the deployment, SFC Collazo and I moved to Arizona, where he continued to mentor and develop my leadership abilities. Throughout my career, SFC Collazo consistently reviewed my records and commented on my low scores on the Defense Language Aptitude Battery and General Technical score on my Enlisted Record Brief. Due to our special missions and isolated locations, I did not have time to increase the score to his desired standard. In 2011, we moved to Arizona to become instructors at the Human Intelligence Collector Course. Less than one month after I arrived in Arizona, SFC Collazo pulled me aside and said “I understand you didn’t have time to increase your scores in Germany, but now you have no excuse. Take care of yourself, then focus on being an instructor” (R. Collazo, Personal Communication, December 2011).

SFC Collazo didn’t give me an option. He knew that focusing on my career during my transition into becoming an instructor would aid in my promotion potential and overall development. SFC Collazo created a positive environment focused on my future professional growth and potential. He cleared my schedule and acquired a month-long General Technical Improvement Course and Defense Language Aptitude Battery reservation. Because of SFC Collazo’s dedication to leading and developing Soldiers, I exceeded standards on both tests and successfully graduated from the Defense Language Institute in the Persian Farsi Language.

I continue to strive to follow in SFC Collazo’s footsteps by developing Soldiers to reach their maximum potential and fostering a positive work environment to achieve their goals. SFC Collazo’s leadership will continue to have an impact for generations to come. SFC Collazo’s leadership extended far beyond the units he served. By using core leader attributes and competencies, SFC Collazo directly empowered and influenced every person he worked with. SFC Collazo’s intellect, mental agility, interpersonal tact, and innovation in learning the German culture and language proved vital to increasing and enduring joint liaison relationships with the German Government. SFC Collazo’s astute focus on presence and physical fitness taught all members of our office the importance of maintaining a professional appearance, which directly influenced the community’s perception.

SFC Collazo extended his influence not only towards the interrogation facility he oversaw, but also the Iraqi Officials he subsequently coached and mentored. He showed unwavering character and empathy by effectively managing the needs of the Soldiers and the mission. SFC Collazo developed Soldiers and leaders every step of the way and tailored each development opportunity to the Soldier. This fostered a positive environment for learning and self-improvement and left Soldiers hungry for additional development opportunities. Every Soldier and official SFC Collazo influenced left with a newfound understanding of what it meant to be a leader and subsequently passed on their knowledge to their subordinates. This passing of knowledge had a positive impact on the United States Army, German and Iraqi leadership structure, and my overall leadership philosophy.

Although every leader has an impact on an individual’s leadership philosophy, SFC Collazo had the greatest influence on me. SFC Collazo taught me valuable life lessons, and through his actions, the importance of effective leadership. SFC Collazo taught me about core attributes and competencies and emphasized being a well-rounded leader. Due to SFC Collazo’s leadership, I learned that at times, it is important to place the Soldier’s needs above the mission. I learned that being an effective leader requires a great deal of character and empathy and is paramount in developing trust and confidence within a respective unit. It is especially important to do what is required to accomplish the mission and achieve success and to do so with a calm demeanor that builds confidence and commands respect. Appearance and physical fitness effects how we are perceived and knowing the culture and language of an area of operations significantly contributes to the success of the mission.

To be an effective leader, one must develop Soldiers and trust their capability to complete the mission. We must at the same time empower our Soldiers to complete the mission by providing the task, purpose, and intent. An effective leader establishes presence with the Soldiers and never shies away from a difficult tasking. This is the leadership philosophy I learned from SFC Collazo and is a philosophy I try to live up to every single day. If I can have the same impact on my Soldiers that SFC Collazo had on me, I will consider myself truly fortunate. In conclusion, this paper described SFC Collazo’s core attributes and competencies to explain why he influenced my leadership philosophy and how he helped develop me into the leader I am.

As the NCOIC during our deployment to Iraq, SFC Collazo showed character and empathy for his fellow Soldiers and knew when to place their needs above the mission. He lead from the front by extending influence and building trust while coaching and mentoring Iraqi Officials. SFC Collazo exhibited presence, and the ability to achieve any task while closing the facility and preparing for redeployment. SFC Collazo showed intellect, mental agility, and innovation while learning the German language and culture, and inspired everyone in that office to follow in his footsteps. He emphasized the importance of presence, fitness and military bearing by identifying the overweight Soldier and working with him to resolve the issue.

Finally, He developed me as a leader every step of the way. Immediately when we had time between assignment duties, he pushed me to further develop my capabilities and professional career. SFC Collazo is the true definition of the term legacy leader. SFC Collazo created a positive environment of trust and confidence everyone desired to emulate. Through his actions, SFC Collazo directly influenced my leadership philosophy and taught me what it means to be an effective leader. For my military career and onward, I will strive to live up to SFC Collazo’s standards and live by the attributes and competencies that made him such an influential leader.


  1. C. Rodney, personal communication, December 2018. Department of the Army. (2012). Army Leadership (ADRP 6-22). Retrieved from http://data.cape.army.mil/web/repository/doctrine/adrp6-22.pdf
  2. Department of the Army. (2015). Leader Development (FM 6-22). Retrieved from http://www.milsci.ucsb.edu/sites/secure.lst.ucsb.edu.mili.d7/files/sitefiles/fm6_22.pdf
  3. George, B (2004). Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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SFC Collazo’s Influence on My Leadership Philosophy. (2021, Dec 17). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/sfc-collazo-s-influence-on-my-leadership-philosophy-essay

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