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Active Leader Definition

From: LEAVEN, Vol. 37 No. 3, August-September 2001, p. 74.
Lynne Coates, Nan Jolly, Carmen Vandenabeele
LLLI Board of Directors

At the annual session in March, 2001, the Board of Directors revised the definition of an active Leader in the glossary of the Policies and Standing Rules (PSR).

What's Different?

  • The revised definition begins with an emphasis on what a Leader does-she pursues the mission of La Leche League; the previous definition started with fee payment or waiver.
  • The PSR is now the reference for the list of basic responsibilities; the previous definition referred to the LEADER'S HANDBOOK.
  • The revised definition allows for future flexibility in LLL structure. The previous definition limited the activity of Leaders in their service to LLL by specifying only Area, Affiliate, Division or International levels.
  • The new definition recognizes the Leader's responsibility for decision-making about how she will pursue the LLL mission. The previous definition required Leaders to seek authorization in order to do anything other than the basic responsibilities.

What led us to make these changes?

For the last several years, members of the LLLI Board have been looking at our policies about the roles of Leaders, and asking others about their activities as Leaders. In 1999, organization-wide conversations began about the role of Leaders, and Leaders everywhere talked about what they were doing as Leaders. (See article on 'Conversations on the Roles of Leaders' LEAVEN Dec-Jan 2001, page 115). In addition, the Program Services and Global Structures Committee encouraged Leaders to tell the stories of their LLL activities. This storytelling idea is now a feature in LEAVEN, "Our Stories: Leader to Leader."

As these conversations and stories were shared in ever-widening circles within La Leche League, the point was brought home again and again that Leaders actively pursue the LLL mission in a wide variety of situations. Some Leaders live in places where they are the only source of breastfeeding information and support in a huge geographic area. Others live where there are many Leaders and Groups. Some live in breastfeeding-friendly cultures and others live in cultures that are unsupportive of breastfeeding. Leaders respond to the needs in their communities and are creative in making and taking advantage of opportunities to meet these needs. The Board wants the definition of an active Leader to acknowledge this and respect how Leaders pursue the LLL mission; we want to encourage initiative rather than restrict activities.

These changes reflect developments within La Leche League in the ten years since the earlier definition was adopted in 1991--and provide an open framework for the future. Of course, LLL Groups are central to the nature of LLLI, and most Leaders will continue to lead meetings and manage Groups. These Leaders will continue to receive assistance, support, and encouragement from the LLL support network. As an organization, LLL wants this essential form of Leader activity to be enjoyable and rewarding!

When the motion for the new definition of an active Leader was passed, we recognized that it is a step in the direction of increasing decision-making at the local level. There is room for discussion and growth in understanding while we're moving ahead. The policy is still evolving, and we are all learning together. Now we are asking Leaders throughout the organization to help.

The Board of Directors' Program services committee has formed a work group which has been commissioned to facilitate a discussion of policies about Leader Roles in the context of the new definition of an active Leader. We hope as many Leaders as possible will be part of the group's email discussion, and that all Leaders will give their opinions by whatever means they can-email, snail mail, fax, telephone, and carrier pigeons are all acceptable! Addresses of the chairs of the work group are below.The work group will consider questions such as these:

  • How will Leaders communicate with the organization-will they find their own ways? Will we have set procedures to follow? Both?
  • What education is necessary for a Leader's work in pursuing the LLL mission? How will Leaders keep up-to-date with this education?
  • Is the payment of fees the best way to keep a central database of Leaders? Should we consider another method of registering Leaders so that payment of fees does not become part of what defines a Leader?

We also intend to look at the possible effects this action might have, for example, on attracting women to leadership, building membership in the organization, and strengthening Groups in many different settings.

Working with this new definition will be a learning experience. We may be surprised by some of the results, and we may decide to revise the definition yet again. We believe, however, that we risk less by relying on Leaders' creativity and sound judgment than by trying to restrict them. When Leaders keep LLL purpose, principles, and philosophy at the heart of their pursuit of the LLL mission, La Leche League will become ever more effective in helping mothers learn to breastfeed their babies.

Definition of Active Leader

An active LLL Leader pursues the La Leche League mission through basic Leader responsibilities as defined in the Policies and Standing Rules Notebook and/or other service to LLL. An active Leader's fees are current, she keeps up-to-date with Leader education, and she communicates regularly with the organization (March 2001).

Previous Definition

An active La Leche League Leader is one whose current Leader fee is paid (or waived) and who is available to fulfill the basic responsibilities of leadership as defined in the LEADER'S HANDB00K, or who has replaced one or more of the basic responsibilities (excluding Leader education) with service to La Leche League at the Area, Affiliate, Division, or International level. An active Leader may request a change in her responsibilities to take on special projects or to help mothers by telephone only. Each special request will be evaluated individually by the ACL (Area Coordinator of Leaders) or her designate (October 1991).

To join the work group, or to send your comments and questions, please write to:

Nan Jolly
64 Louis Botha Crescent
Port Elizabeth 6001
FAX: 27.41.583.1577 (call first)
Brianj at (email)

Carmen Vandenabeele
8, chemin de Launay
78990 Elancourt
CarmenVanden at (email)

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