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How Leaders Make a Difference to Leader Applicants

Susan Moore
Division Administrator of Leader Accreditation for USWD
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 44, No. 3, 2008, p, 8

We often refer to the period during which a Leader Applicant prepares for leadership as an apprenticeship. In addition to completing each part of her application, an Applicant observes how Leaders work together to facilitate discussion at Series Meetings and plan for the Group. She becomes aware of how the women she is working with find the rewards in LLL leadership that keep their participation alive and meaningful over many years.

In addition to talking with the Applicant about the Checklist of Topics to Discuss in Preparation for Leadership (Checklist) and participating in the Preview of Mothers' Questions/ Problems and Group Dynamics/Management (Preview), one of the most important roles of the sponsoring Leader during an application is to support and encourage a Leader Applicant in accomplishing her goals. Does the Leader make a difference to an application? You bet she does!

What can a Leader do, in practical terms, to help keep a mother's enthusiasm for leadership high while she completes her application? Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Let her know she is unique. A mother who has personally breastfed and has personal experience of LLL philosophy is a valued treasure who will have a lasting impact on her community. Many people can fill the shoes of other volunteer or community positions that may come her way.
  • Let her know what kind of difference she might make in the world. Share with her "the ripple effect"; give her a specific example of an instance you may be aware of where helping one mother breastfeed had a far-reaching effect that may not have been expected.
  • Meet regularly and make it an occasion. Ask her how often she might like to meet to work on her application -- every two weeks, once a month? Keep meetings in time frames workable for each of you. Finish each meeting with a cup of tea or lunch, and casual conversation. Many Leaders remain active in LLL due in part to the camaraderie we share with co-Leaders.
  • Surprise her every so often with small gifts -- a tea bag with a funny card in the mail to let her know you are thinking of her; a small candle, bar of special soap, or decorated pen to add a touch of lighthearted fun to your work together. These can often be found at discount stores for a small price. (Editor's note: In some cultures, candles may be associated with religion and thus may not be appropriate as gifts in this context.)
  • Seek out her opinion. Let her know her thoughts are important in planning for the Group, and in knowing how you can best support her during her application.
  • Build community: connect with other Leaders and Leader Applicants. Split presentation of the Checklist with Leaders from another Group or invite Leader Applicants to a Chapter Meeting so they may have the opportunity to get to know other Leaders and Leader Applicants.
  • Offer to be a mother's helper to play with toddlers while the Applicant works on her Breastfeeding Resource Guide, her correspondence with the Associate/Coordinator of Leader Accreditation, or her reading.
  • Let her find her own pace. Life happens to all of us, including Leader Applicants. This is her opportunity to find out how to work the time needed for leadership into her busy life as a mother. She may make faster progress at some times than at others, especially if her family needs more of her attention from time to time.
  • Family matters. Share the day-to-day advantages of offering time and talents to La Leche League. Few other organizations have the flexibility offered by LLL for a mother to actively participate while keeping her family's needs a priority.
  • Take the Preview "fear factor" out. Before starting the Preview, set up a helping role-play by telephone with a co-Leader and answer one or more of the questions from the Preview while Leader Applicants observe. Share what you are thinking during the conversation so that the Applicants can have a better understanding of why you ask certain questions. While Applicants often see Leaders lead Series Meetings, they rarely get to hear them answer helping calls. (Editor's note: The Preview can be used throughout an application and/or as a "dress rehearsal" at the end.)
  • If she's feeling less enthusiasm for her application work, talk about the reasons she first considered becoming a La Leche League Leader. Remembering the source of her original enthusiasm can help her to regain it later on.
  • Remember why you first applied to become accredited as a La Leche League Leader and why you remain active in LLL over time.
  • Find ways to let her know she is special ...because she is!

A Leader Applicant corresponds with a representative of the Leader Accreditation Department in completing her personal history and correspondence. She completes the Breastfeeding Resource Guide and required reading at her own pace. The concrete tasks of the sponsoring Leader during an application include presenting information and resources to cover the items in the Checklist of Topics to Discuss in Preparation for Leadership, and participating with the Leader Applicant in the Preview of Mothers' Questions/Problems and Group Dynamics/Management.

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