Friday, October 29, 2021

2020 - Leadership and Respect

Amanda (Top L) Kelly Top R) Lisa (Lower L) Alec (Lower R) Circa 1999


(Fifty Nifty Years in the United States Series)

I previously mentioned Amanda in my BLOG post from2003. I often tell my own children that Amanda is my oldest daughter, who is not my daughter.            

Amanda and her sister Lisa, entered our lives in 1998 when our family moved to YMCA Camp Edwards in the mountains of Southern California.

Just some perspective, if you have ever flown into Los Angeles on Ontario International airports, chances are that part of the flight approach brought you over the San Bernardino Mountains. As you near San Gorgonio at 11,503 feet, (highest point of the San Bernardino’s) depending on your approach altitude (and if it is night time), you may see a lone light or a few in different areas. Folks may wonder what or who might live there. We did.

San Bernardino Mountains, Southern California

Anyway, Amanda and Lisa grew up with us helping take care of Alec and Kelly (my two oldest children) who were 1.5 and 3.5 years old respectively. The spent most weekends are our home and as we all grew and eventually moved away, they have continued to intertwine in our lives. It was always a lesson in preparation that I got from Amanda. She would prep things and often would tell me about how they went or that perhaps, my daughter would have none of it and she would do something different. They all helped with clean up in and around camp. When a group would leave on Sundays, they would go from cabin to cabin and clean up items that were under bunks. They would help doing dishes with the institutional dish washing machine. Amanda could get them to do things that my wife and I could not.

Amanda joined the Army and for the last 18 plus years has served proudly. In my proud dad (not dad) moment, she was the second woman to be the Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of the Year for the US Army (All of the Army; everywhere in the world US Army). It is quite the accomplishment. She tells lots of stories about making grown men cry as a drill sergeant.

Most of these stories are quite funny and a few years ago, our entire family got to spend Thanksgiving weekend with her listening to story after story of drills, physical training, assignments around the world and more from someone who has built a life serving their country.

In 2020 Lee Anne and I had the opportunity to stop by her home outside of Washington DC where she lives with her husband, Micah (who also serves in the Army) and her two kids, Kaylee Mae and Jameson. It was a great opportunity to catch up and see the life that she has partnered with to create such a great family.

My reason to mention all this is that a short time later we talked on the phone after she had texted about a challenge she was facing. As an accomplished leader in her field, she wanted my opinion about a life matter. Did I mention she often calls me “dad?”

It’s in these moments that I have gained great clarity and respect about who she is, knowing where she came from and how her early life was of conflict and hardship. I am inspired by the person she is and how she inspires so many others who have the opportunity to follow her as well.

John Maxwell’s Law of Respect in his 21 Laws of Irrefutable Leadership states, “When people respect you as a person, they admire you. When they respect you as a friend, they love you. When they respect you as a leader, they follow you.”

I think of those years at camp and how she and Lisa, always had games and activities to help and support our children. Amanda, being the oldest took on great responsibility and at 11 years of age, I knew she would be a leader always. What I did not know, is how thoughtful a leader she is. John Maxwell often quotes Theodore Roosevelt who says that “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

As Amanda and I talked that afternoon, I realized how much anguish she was sharing over a decision and recent life event. Her respect, concern, and care were overwhelming and as noted, the mark of a good leader. Amanda has added value to others and as a result they afford her great respect.

Staff Sgt. Amanda Kokkonen, an advanced individual training platoon sergeant with Alpha Company, 344th Military Intelligence Battalion, Goodfellow Air Force Base, San Angelo, Texas, was named the 2010 Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

I am in awe of how I can learn from so many folks and continue to learn. Amanda is just the one I gained the most this past year, as I have celebrated well over 50 plus years in these United States.

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