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One Year Later:
The LEADER'S HANDBOOK

Sylvia Mitchell
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
LEAVEN Volume 35 No. 1, February-March 1999, p. 17

My basic Leader resources have required only about a hand's width of space in the family bookcase. THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, the BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK, a binder full of pamphlets and tear-off sheets and a few folders containing meeting reports, District Advisor responses and other Leader information are side by side.

Recently, however, my basic Leader resources experienced a growth spurt. The 1998 edition of the LEADER'S HANDBOOK widened the space by a full thumb's width. Its 308 pages contain time-tested information and ideas from the previous edition plus exciting new information and suggestions. What a welcome expansion!

Improved Cover and Binding

When my copy of the handbook arrived I was thrilled to see the improved spiral binding. Now opened pages will continue to remain flat. The sturdy cover makes the book durable. It's likely I'm not the only Leader whose previous handbook tumbled off the kitchen table or whose corners were chewed by a teething child.

Once again the front cover succinctly describes the contents - basic Leader responsibilities. In this edition the first five chapters correspond with these responsibilities. The Introduction describes LLL and its history and the sixth chapter discusses going beyond basic Leader responsibilities.

I was eager to read my new copy cover to cover in one sitting but settled on a more realistic goal: one chapter a day. If it was possible to stick to my plan, I'd be finished in about a week.

Immediately I settled into my favorite chair and started with the familiar "Why We Are La Leche League Leaders" section on page one of the Introduction. Reading it made me feel warm, appreciated and needed. It also reaffirmed why I've remained a Leader for 16 years: empowering mothers to breastfeed their babies has empowered me.

Wide Margins

The wide margins on each page allowed me to pencil in additional notes as I read. I'm sure I'll add to these as I use the handbook. Pertinent LLLI policies have been included throughout the handbook. Because I am a Leader from an LLL Affiliate some procedures differ so I added pertinent information in the margins.

In Chapter 1 I found the telephone helping tips most informative and I marked the ones I wanted to try. As suggested in the box on page 19, I researched the BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK for more information.

In just a few hours I had reached my first goal and I placed a bookmark on page 43 in preparation for the next day's reading.

On Tuesday, a quick check of the day's agenda confirmed I had the entire day free for reading. Returning to my favorite reading spot I delved into Chapter 2. I liked the many different examples of how to word questions effectively when planning and leading meetings. It had not occurred to me to send a follow-up letter to all newcomers, so I especially enjoyed the sample letter provided. "Eye Catchers" on page 79 caught my eye. I appreciated the exciting samples of Series Meeting outlines, complete with possible alternate titles and bibliographies are wonderful. The "Countdown Checklist" on page 83 appealed to me. I transferred the boxed information onto small index cards, putting a supply in my Series Meeting folder.

Wednesday was dismal outdoors so it was easy to continue my reading indoors to reach the day's goal. Chapter 3's inclusion of "Leader-Only Jobs" on page 130 was a good reminder about what jobs should not be delegated to members. The next page started with why a mother wants to help LLL and continues with how a Leader enlists her help. It then describes a variety of Group jobs and includes how to consistently express appreciation for the jobs done. I made a mental note to say "thank you" and "please" more often.

The section on pages 168-72, "Organizing LLL Materials," was of particular interest to me since I was preparing to present this very topic at our next Chapter Meeting. Many of the ideas became part of my outline.

When reading the tips about the job of the Group Librarian on pages 172-73 I pencilled in the margin that the Librarian (or Leader) could easily refer to the book summaries attached to the new library books when presenting a quick book review at Series Meetings.

Thursday's sunshine enticed me to read Chapter 4 in the backyard. I found it interesting to read about the different positions and departments within an LLL Area, as well as how LLL Affiliates and Divisions fit within the structure of La Leche League International. I decided to test myself to see if I could identify the names of the different resource Leaders in my Area. I don't want to brag but I did write in all the correct names. As one who likes to keep up-to-date with different LLL publications I enjoyed the descriptions of them. And since I subscribe to LLL newsletters outside my Area through LEAVEN classified advertisements I pencilled in the names of those I receive in the margin.

Chapter 5 is of particular interest to me. I work in the Leader Accreditation Department as Associate Coordinator of Leader Accreditation so I read the entire chapter twice. I wanted to be certain I didn't miss anything! I found myself nodding "yes" to its pages. I was happy to see basic Leader responsibilities repeated on page 229 in the section "Before the Application." It's important that a Leader gives a complete description of what is required of a Leader and what is optional.

Philosophy and Policy

I was delighted that LLLI philosophy and policy statements were included and thrilled to see that sample questions and references to THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING followed in a handy box. The ready-made checklist containing important topics to discuss with a Leader Applicant has been substantially expanded since the last edition. It's wonderful.

It was a satisfying experience to read Chapter 6. It was all about activities beyond basic Leader responsibilities: Chapter Meetings, District Workshops, conferences, special meetings, LLLI programs, telephone hot lines (help lines) and cooperative action opportunities. As I read about each I realized I had attended or participated in several. I felt good about having stepped "beyond basics."

Page 271 listed several topic suggestions for Enrichment Meetings. Many were appropriate for Chapter Meeting topics so I turned to page 246 and pencilled in some of them beside "Chapter Meetings."

The Appendices are handily located next. I was impressed with the many samples of news releases. Appendix 8, "6 Ways to Encourage and Promote Memberships," is a must-read. It's worth rereading before each Series Meeting.

Protection for My Investment

I wanted to preserve my LEADER'S HANDBOOK's fresh new look so I adapted the instructions from pages 177-78 and used clear plastic adhesive paper to cover my newly acquired Leader resource. Pockets were added to the inside of the front and back covers where additional papers could be kept. I also decided to color-code the five chapters of basic Leader responsibilities for easy reference. Using a broad-tipped green colored marker I outlined the outer edges of pages of Chapter 1, then used pink for Chapter 2, yellow for Chapter 3, blue for Chapter 4 and orange for Chapter 5. Each chapter is now easy to locate and gives my handbook a colorful look.

I applaud Dor Sachetti's description of the LEADER'S HANDBOOK and reasons why a Leader will want to keep it close at hand in the August/September 1995 issue of LEAVEN. Upon the first year anniversary of the 1998 edition of the LEADER'S HANDBOOK, join me in clapping hands and giving Dor and all who contributed to the new edition a standing ovation!

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