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Myths of Leader Accreditation

Tammy Veatch
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 40 No. 1, February-March 2004, pp. 12-13.

Myths of Leader accreditation can appear out of nowhere or can be based on fact. They are sometimes humorous and sometimes horrible. While myths can make for a good story, they are not generally true. Myths about Leader accreditation can affect the future of our breastfeeding support community. These myths could prevent a Leader from actively helping other mothers find out about leadership or from helping mothers prepare to become LLL Leaders. Here are some myths and realities of Leader accreditation.

Myth: The first step to accrediting new Leaders is to give a Leader Application Packet to every mother as soon as possible.

Fact: Before giving an interested mother an application packet, it is important to discuss with her the LLLI Prerequisites to Applying for Leadership, LLL philosophy, and the work of a Leader. A Leader’s close contact with mothers, along with her knowledge, observations, and use of LLL resources, places her in a unique position to help a mother decide if leadership is right for her. Then, if the Leader and mother agree that LLL leadership is an appropriate goal, the Leader gives the mother the Leader Application Packet (removing the Leader’s Guide and Leader’s Recommendation form).

Myth: It is okay to recommend a mother for leadership even if the Leader has doubts about whether she has met the prerequisites.

Fact: If the Leader has doubts, it is important to voice them and gather more information before the mother sends in her application. A mother deserves to know if LLL leadership is a realistic goal. Leader Accreditation Department (LAD) representatives are available and willing to dialogue with a Leader and/or interested mother to help determine if LLL leadership will be a good fit for this mother.

Myth: A mother can apply for leadership even if all the co-Leaders in a Group do not agree with the recommendation.

Fact: It is possible that a mother may apply for leadership without the recommendation of all co-Leaders in the Group. The Leader’s Handbook emphasizes: "If a Leader has a concern or question about a mother’s readiness to submit an application for LLL leadership, she needs to discuss it with the other Leaders in the Group" (2003 edition, page 138). Along with written resources, the LAD representative can help by clarifying the prerequisites and suggesting helpful approaches for exploring the issues.

Myth: If the mother is involved in other organizations, she shouldn’t apply for LLL leadership because she might have conflicts of interest.

Fact: Involvement in other organizations is not a barrier to LLL leadership. Many Leaders are involved in organizations or causes outside LLL. A Leader Applicant needs to understand and help maintain LLLI’s main focus—mother-to-mother support for breastfeeding mothers.

Myth: If the mother has a large active family, she shouldn’t apply for leadership because she will be too busy.

Fact: It is important for an interested mother to understand the five basic responsibilities of LLL leadership. LLL offers the mother an opportunity to combine volunteer work with her family. Only a mother and her family can determine what level of involvement she can contribute to LLL.

Myth: If the mother works she can never meet the mothering prerequisite.

Fact: LLL supports a baby/child’s need for mother’s presence in the early years. The issue of working is not the consideration; rather the extent of separation from a child is what may be in question. A mother can combine commitments that take her away from her baby with an experience of mothering through breastfeeding that is consistent with LLL philosophy. A mother who experiences extensive, ongoing separation from her baby is unlikely to fulfill the mothering experience prerequisite. If a mothering experience that includes separation is in question, the Leader can consult a LAD representative before encouraging an interested mother to apply for leadership.

Myth: A Leader Applicant should hurry through her application if a Leader is ready to retire.

Fact: An Applicant deserves time to write, think, read, and observe in preparation for LLL leadership without being hurried. Some Leader Applicants need more time than others.

Myth: There is no point in recommending a mother if her communication skills are questionable.

Fact: Communication skills, such as organizational skills, time management, critical reading, and phone helping can be learned. As she prepares for leadership, there are many ways for a mother to gain important skills, including dialogue with the sponsoring Leader and/or LAD representative, attending Leader Applicant workshops, and attending Communication Skills or Conference sessions.

Myth: Only one Leader can work with a Leader Applicant.

Fact: It is an advantage for a Leader Applicant to observe and communicate with more than one Leader. The Applicant can develop rapport and a working relationship with each future co-Leader. She can learn from the Leaders’ different experiences, strengths, and areas of expertise and gain a variety of insights.

Myth: A Leader Applicant can help a Leader fulfill her responsibilities.

Fact: A Leader Applicant can assist a Leader in planning meetings and in completing monthly reporting forms. In addition, an Applicant is encouraged to take on a Group job. A Leader Applicant is not authorized to represent LLL. She may not fill in for a Leader at a Series Meeting, take helping calls, speak to outside groups or sign documents on behalf of LLL. To avoid any possible confusion, an Applicant is not introduced to the Group as a Leader Applicant.

Myth: A lone Leader must find a Leader Applicant before she can retire or move.

Fact: It is important that the Leader take the time to get to know the candidate and conduct thorough pre-application discussions (see "In Preparation for an Application: Leader’s Guide" in the LLLI Leader Application Packet) before writing a recommendation. In a rush to identify a Leader Applicant, a Leader could overlook important discrepancies in the mother’s fulfillment of LLL leadership prerequisites. Though it is disappointing to see a Group disband, protecting the credibility and authority of LLL is more important.

Myth: If a Leader Applicant moves into an Area that does not have a Group, she must discontinue her application for LLL leadership.

Fact: The Leader Applicant can continue her application with the support of her LAD representative even if there is no sponsoring Leader in her new community. Sometimes a Leader from another Group in the Area is eager to be a mentor to an Applicant, or the Applicant might be able to continue working with the Leaders from her former Group.

Myth: If a Leader Applicant or newly accredited Leader moves, all of the Group’s work is wasted.

Fact: Any work with a future Leader benefits LLL and the global breastfeeding community.

Myth: A Group can have too many Leaders.

Fact: More Leaders mean more mother-to-mother support! For example, a Group with many Leaders can consider holding additional meetings, splitting into more than one Group, doing more fundraising, or participating in outreach. The possibilities are endless. You never know when a Leader may move or retire as her family needs change. It’s always great to have co-Leaders!

Myth: Leaders should fill a Leader Applicant in on all the Group "gossip."

Fact: Leaders need to be respectful and keep confidences. The Leader Applicant needs to establish relationships with members and Leaders in a Group without the bias of other people’s opinions and experience.

Myth: Leaders should have one year of experience before sponsoring a Leader Applicant.

Fact: During her application, a newly accredited Leader has developed the skills and acquired the tools necessary to guide another mother as she prepares for leadership. In the case when a Leader is working alone, she has the ability to work with a Leader Applicant right away. Co-Leaders often work together in supporting a mother’s preparation for leadership, and a newly accredited Leader may find it helpful to work along with her co-Leaders in sponsoring a Leader Applicant.

Myth: Once a mother applies for leadership and the Leader has written her recommendation, the LAD will take care of the rest of the work.

Fact: The application time is a partnership between the Leader Applicant, Leader, and LAD representative. Mutual communication and support continue in the triad throughout the Leader Applicant’s journey to accreditation. Together, the Leader, Leader Applicant, and the LAD contribute to the future of La Leche League and the global breastfeeding community.

To dispel further myths, refer to Chapter 5 of the LEADER'S HANDBOOK or contact a LAD representative.

Tammy Veatch has been a Leader in Tampa, Florida, USA for 5 years. Her sons, Benjamin (6) and Stephen (2) are second generation LLL children. Tammy’s husband, Brian, attended LLL meetings with his mother in Hawaii over 30 years ago. She currently serves as CLA to Florida and the English speaking Islands.

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