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A Firm Foundation

Penny Piercy
Tomball TX USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 39 No. 2, April-May 2003, pp. 36-37.

Hoping to help a mother build a great application for leadership from the ground up? Check out this newly revised "blueprint" for making those preapplication discussions easier and more productive!

The form titled, "In Preparation for an Application: Leader’s Guide" in the Application Packet emphasizes discussing the prerequisites early in a mother’s exploration of LLL leadership, provides ideas for thoroughly exploring LLL philosophy, includes updated information about a Leader’s work and the revised definition of an active LLL Leader, and encourages detailed discussion of the work involved in an application. This article explores the four major areas to discuss with prospective Leader Applicants.

The LLLI Prerequisites to Applying for Leadership

Mothers may wonder why we have prerequisites to applying or may misunderstand them as some kind of "good mothering" test. You can clarify that the prerequisites list the essential experience and traits upon which a Leader Applicant will build as she prepares for Leader work. Leaders are mothers with specific beliefs and experiences. Leaders have met certain job requirements and completed specific training. These beliefs, experiences, job requirements, and training are not better or less than others. They are specific to and descriptive of a "La Leche League Leader."

The Application Packet also includes "The Guidelines for Leaders," which come from Appendix 18 of the LLLI Policies and Standing Rules (PSR). These guidelines offer information and suggestions for discussion about the prerequisites that Leaders can use in their conversations with an interested mother. If you, a co-Leader, or the prospective Leader Applicant have any questions or uncertainties about whether she meets the prerequisites, contact a Leader Accreditation Department (LAD) representative in your area.

La Leche League Philosophy

LLLI’s Concept Policy Statements (LLLI PSR Appendix 17) elaborate on LLL philosophy and how we understand or interpret the individual concept statements. Newly added to the Application Packet (Editor’s Note: contents may very in Division/Affiliates), they are an excellent tool for your discussions about how LLL philosophy is revealed in a prospective Applicant’s experience.

It is vital to devote time to discussing the concepts separately as well as how they relate to one another, even if you feel intuitively sure that a particular mother is a wonderful example of LLL’s philosophy in action. That is because LLL philosophy underlies and supports the ideas and options Leaders provide. For example, we offer suggestions that encourage sound nutrition, mother-baby togetherness, nourishing and nurturing at the breast, and reading the baby’s cues to determine developmental readiness for changes. Mothers who attend LLL meetings or call a Leader come to understand LLL philosophy at least in part from watching or listening to the Leader. The woman who seeks help from an LLL Leader or Group receives mother-to-mother help based upon LLL’s breastfeeding/parenting philosophy.

The Work of a Leader

Discussing the basic Leader responsibilities and other types of service to LLL helps a mother to see how her goals as a Leader will fulfill LLL’s mission. The pamphlet Becoming a La Leche League Leader from the Application Packet is a good starting point for this discussion. If a prospective Applicant’s goals are not compatible with LLL’s, she may wish to consider different ways she can help other mothers and the cause of breastfeeding.

Some mothers may express enthusiasm for using their specific experiences—breastfeeding during employment or nursing a premature baby, for example—to help other mothers facing similar situations or challenges. The Leader with a specific experience may indeed have specialized knowledge. Her experience can give her rapport with mothers who share it. At the same time, all La Leche League Leaders need to know about basic breastfeeding management. Our area of expertise is "the normal course of breastfeeding." This includes knowledge about how to avoid and overcome many difficulties. Leaders need to be prepared to offer information and support to all mothers. An Applicant’s personal knowledge and experience are enhanced during her application time as she learns how to help in situations she is not familiar with. To apply for LLL leadership, mothers need to be interested in helping and willing to learn about and work with mothers with a variety of experiences and difficulties.
Discussion of this section should also include a Leader’s opportunities for continuing education, a Leader’s accountability to LLLI and what she can expect from the organization, LLL’s approach of mother-to-mother help, and how Leaders fit LLL work into their lives.

The Application Work

A prospective Applicant needs to know what to expect during the application time, what is expected of her, and why. The "Overview of Training Curriculum for Leader Accreditation" (included in the Application Packet) can serve as a guide for this discussion. You can acquaint her with the basic requirements for accreditation as an LLL Leader by:

  • Talking about the required reading with her
  • Going over the checklist of topics for discussion
  • Outlining her correspondence with a LAD representative
  • Explaining the Breastfeeding Resource Guide and the Preview

If the mother finds the requirements daunting, discussing a preliminary plan of what you will do to assist her to attain these goals may reassure her. It can be helpful for a prospective Applicant to:

  • Consider the work involved in an application
  • Meet with her Group’s Leader(s)
  • Read, write, develop, and practice skills that are helpful to have as an LLL Leader
  • Figure out how her role as a Leader Applicant/future Leader fits in with her busy life and family obligations

While there may be aspects of the application requirements you can encourage a prospective Applicant to begin working on—by beginning some of the required reading, for instance—you may not want to encourage her to invest financial resources in materials or to include her in Leader/Applicant-only gatherings before her application has been officially initiated. (An application begins when a LAD representative finds all application materials in order and confirms to the mother that she meets the prerequisites.) While most applications proceed without difficulty, sometimes the LAD representative may have questions to resolve before the application can begin, and occasionally a mother does not meet the prerequisites and should not be encouraged to apply. If you have questions about a prospective application, it is wise to contact your LAD representative before giving the candidate the material intended for her from the Application Packet.

Using "In Preparation for an Application: Leader’s Guide" along with other resources in preapplication discussions can help avoid disappointment or misunderstanding about the application time or about LLL leadership, laying a firm foundation for the work that Leader and Applicant will pursue together during the application time.

This article was adapted from "Understanding the Prerequisites" by Nancy Spahr, LAD Lifeline 2002 #3. Penny Piercy has been a Leader since 1995 and currently serves as a Regional Administrator of Leader Accreditation for the Pacific West region of the US Western Division and interim Coordinator of Leaders Accreditation for the Areas of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico. She and her husband, Van, are the parents of Patrick, 10; Sarah, 5; and Eric, 2. Penny currently leads with the Tomball/Klein Group outside Houston, Texas, USA. Deb Roberts is the Contributing Editor for this column.

Medela Donates to Leader Accreditation for 2003

"I have been a member of LLL for 23 years, and over those years I have often seen many interested mothers who would likely be very good Leaders, but they decide not to apply because it costs so much to become and be a Leader," writes Dee Kassing, a Leader in Illinois, USA. Have you had a similar experience?

Thanks to a generous $20,000 (US) donation from Medela, Leader Applicants in the United States and Canada who find the application costs unaffordable will receive grants for expenses associated with their LLL leadership applications. These expenses can include application and accreditation fees, membership renewal, application packet, or published resources, such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, the Breastfeeding Answer Book, and the Applicant Reading Set.

The grants will cover only new costs and will not reimburse previous expenses. If you know an interested mother or a current Leader Applicant for whom the application expenses are a barrier, please encourage her to apply for a grant. Grants will be awarded to at least 100 Applicants who meet the prerequisites to applying and the following criteria:

  • Financial need
  • Strong support/help from the recommending Leader
  • Commitment to completing the leadership application in an expedient manner

Grant application forms are available from the Coordinator of Leader Accreditation or LAD Administrator for your Area, Affiliate, or Division and online at

We are eager to make this new program an outstanding success. You can help by conducting thorough preapplication discussions (see "In Preparation for an Application: Leader’s Guide" in the Application Packet) and writing a recommendation explaining why the mother deserves the grant for her to attach to her grant application.

If you have questions, contact Nancy Spahr at NSpahr at (email) or 174 E. Main St., Peru, IN 46970 USA or the LAD Administrator for your Division/Affiliate.

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