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The Leader's Apprentice

Lenore Kilmartin
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 35 No. 4, August-September 1999, p. 96

Some days ago I was reminiscing with my husband about the years that he spent apprenticing to become a skilled tradesperson. As he recounted the hours he spent watching, listening, reading, writing exams, attending classes, taking on more responsibility under the watchful eye of his supervisor and the excitement he felt when he became qualified, I realized that what he was describing was very much like preparing for LLL leadership.

In many ways, the Leader Applicant is apprenticing to become a Leader. She watches and listens to experienced Leaders, reads, thinks about her experiences while writing her personal history and attends meetings. She learns to lead meetings and help women breastfeed, gradually becoming acquainted with the many aspects of a Leader's job.

Like my husband did as an apprentice, the Applicant may sometimes misstep. She may speak inappropriately at meetings, misunderstand a procedure, not communicate clearly. A simple, friendly reminder from a Leader can be helpful, for example,

What a wonderful publicity idea; let's be sure to ask the District Advisor for her input, too.

The side conversations at the meeting were distracting to me; was it difficult for you when the new mother was chatting with you during our round robin?

The Applicant's preparation for LLL leadership is a progressive learning experience. As time goes by, there are many teaching and learning opportunities. By keeping her ears and eyes open and modeling the skills a Leader uses, the Leader can help an Applicant learn about what is expected and how to fulfill the responsibilities of a Leader.

As the application progresses, the Applicant can be given more and more opportunities to practice leadership skills. Ask her to write the Group's monthly meeting report, lead the enrichment topic during a Planning/Evaluation Meeting, work with the Group Librarian if the library needs reorganising or revitalizing, plan a fundraiser, help plan a Series Meeting. This will give her lots of learning experience and pave the way for a smooth transition to LLL leadership. Be ready with loads of enthusiasm, information, resources, encouragement, support and understanding. A cooperative learning environment now will lend itself beautifully to co-leading in the future.

An Applicant brings marvelous enthusiasm to her preparations for leadership. Her joy in breastfeeding and mothering is invigorating as well as her desire to bring that joy to others. Your enthusiasm for LLL, breastfeeding and mothering will inspire her.

At the end of an application that includes a thorough apprenticeship, the Applicant is ready to begin her duties as a La Leche League Leader. After all, with your help, she has been moving steadily in that direction from the beginning.

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