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Why I Am a Leader

Johanna Horton
Illinois
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 28 No. 1, January-February 1992, p. 12

I have been leading a Group for nearly twenty-six years and during this whole time I have often asked myself "Why am I a Leader?" "Do I want to continue?" I think every Leader does this.

I keep coming back to one overriding reason--I believe so overwhelmingly in what La Leche League stands for and what we do. I think we have changed the world and are continuing to change it further. Every time I hear of a "cause" I think to myself, "La Leche League is already making an impact on that."

We in LLL touch people in so many ways, and we help the world as we do so. We certainly don't erase the ongoing ills of the world, but I'm convinced we do ease them significantly. We help mothers and fathers and families learn things that directly affect their physical and mental health. We very often break chains of restrictive parenting that may have existed for generations. We help people learn how to interact constructively with one another. We ease ecological concerns. The philosophy we advocate does not cost money. We affirm the mothers and fathers who make it a priority to be with their young children as much as possible.

As Leaders, for the most part we do these things indirectly. We provide information and support, and we share experiences. But the mothers and fathers decide what to do for their own families, and we respect and endorse their responsibility to do so. We are not primarily doing things for people--we are helping them do things for themselves and for their families. I am not a Leader because I want people to rely on me--I'd feel awkward and uncomfortable and unqualified if that were the case. I'm a Leader because I want to pass along to others the things that have meant so much to me and to my family.

Many Leaders I've talked with have expressed the feeling that being a Leader is a "mission" for them. I think this feeling is not uncommon. I use the word "mission" not in a religious sense but in the sense of having the realization that what we are helping others to do really matters. We are meeting their lives at the point where thoughts become actions.

In addition to this pervasive and primary reason, there are many other reasons I value being a Leader and want to continue being one.

Being a Leader is something I can do with my family as an essential part of it. I don't have to pretend I don't have a husband or children. I don't have to deny their needs in order to be a Leader.

For the most part, leadership has flexibility. We can schedule our Group's regular meetings for the time my co-Leaders and I find most convenient. We can change our time or day as our own needs change. I can ask to phone a mother back if she calls at an inconvenient time. I can choose whether or not to participate in optional activities that come along.

I also continue being a Leader because my co-Leaders mean so much to me. We are friends, but we are much more than that. We listen to each other with respect and acceptance. We share insights and perspectives and experiences. They are always there for me, in a way that no one else is.

I am still a Leader because I find our Group meetings interesting and inspiring. Even though I've lead more than 300 meetings (I just added it up--I thought it'd be about 3 million over the course of twenty-six years!) I still find new ideas to ponder and new insights at every meeting. I always come home inspired. The topics for the four meetings in the series provide a wealth of discovery. I sometimes feel like a Where's Waldo? book, as I unexpectedly discover another nugget of wisdom hidden away and brought to life through a mother's comment.

I'm a Leader because what I learn from others continues to help me daily in my own life, even with grown children. The attitudes and insights help me as a person, a wife, and a mother. This networking is irreplaceable.

I'm a Leader because of the other people who are Leaders. I am awed by them, challenged by them, affirmed by them, educated by them, and constantly strengthened by them. They affect me in person at meetings, workshops, and conferences and on paper or tape in Area Leader Letters, LEAVENS, and conference tapes.

I'm a Leader because it's never boring. There is always something to fit my interests. I can write newspaper articles, do public speaking, send out meeting notices, hostess a workshop, be on television, do the bookkeeping--or none of the above, if that's what works better for now. I truly feel that in LLL we have no "busy work." Everything we do is meaningful.

I'm a Leader because my husband and children share my pride in La Leche League. They support what I do and what La Leche League stands for. They value and respect what we accomplish. My husband places value on what we do because it is real and genuine, not just for show.

I'm a Leader because as my children got older I realized this was a very real thing I could do to help make the world a better place for them.

I'm a Leader because I value the skills I've learned through La Leche League, not necessarily as means for any future employment (although I am certain they'd be valuable there) but because of how they enrich me and my life now. I've learned to be more organized, to be a better manager, to listen to others more carefully, to respond more helpfully, to plan ahead, to be more conscious of how looks, words, and actions affect others, to be more aware of the long-range results of things I might do or say, to work cooperatively with others, to choose words carefully, to appreciate the differences in people, to respect the choices others make, to explain my thoughts and convictions to others and (possibly most valuable of all) to continually evaluate what I'm doing in my own life and to think about whether it's helpful to me, to my family, to others, or not--and to make changes (gradually, and with love) if it isn't.

I am a Leader because I am extremely grateful to the Founders and others who developed and built La Leche League so it would be there to help others. I feel humble to be a part of the passing along of this wisdom.

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