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Co-leaders: Establishing, Maintaining and Improving Relationships

By Maggie Heeger
LEAVEN, November-December-January 1995-1996, p. 97.

Co-leading is the ideal Group situation: the workload is divided into mother-sized jobs and varied approaches help us appeal to many types of mothers. Most co-Leaders sincerely want to work together productively because we all have the same goal--helping mothers breastfeed.

However, when more than one person is involved in any project, the potential for conflict exists. It's the wise LLL Group that prepares for this by respecting individuality and keeping lines of communication open.

One way to strengthen bonds between Leaders is to hold regular Leaders' Meetings. These meetings can be informal and should include Leader Applicants. They differ from Planning/Evaluation Meetings in that they provide an opportunity to discuss Group goals and Leader responsibilities in more depth than when the gathering includes Group workers. At first, you may want to use a discussion starter topic for Leader Meetings. If you have a very talkative Group of Leaders, one topic may be all that is needed per meeting. If you have a Chapter or District gathering, these subjects could make up a workshop agenda. Whether it's two Leaders sitting around the kitchen table or twenty Leaders at a workshop, remember that the goal is not to air everyone's grievances at once in a manner that may cause hurt feelings. The goal is to help all Leaders work better together, for that's when mothers in our communities truly benefit.

Discussion Starters:

* We all have our strengths.

On a large posterboard, make three columns labeled,
"I like to..."
"I dislike..."
"I'd like to learn more about..."
Going round-robin style or seeking volunteers, ask each Leader to contribute several items to each list. This can be very enlightening! When we see how our co-Leaders feel, we can direct enjoyable tasks to the appropriate people, relieve some burdens and help them learn more. (This is a variation on "The Window of Work" featured in THE LEADER'S HANDBOOK.)

* Co Leaders deserve respect.

If you have a problem with a co-Leader, don't gossip with other Leaders or Group members. You can't help but influence their opinions on this personal matter. Instead, find an objective, confidential person to serve as a sounding board, your District Advisor, for example. Read the District Advisor section in the LEADER'S HANDBOOK for help as well.

* There are many styles of parenting, each with merits.

The same applies for leadership. Would you call yourself a "feelings" kind of Leader or a "factual" one? Do you zero in on empathizing with a mother or do you strive to provide information? Why? What can we all do to broaden our approach and incorporate both feelings and facts in our dealings with women?

* LLL's philosophy statements can be interpreted in different ways that are all acceptable.

When a Leader has strong beliefs on one end of the concept continuum and another has strong beliefs on the opposite end, they may clash. To keep sparks from flying, how can we find a middle ground of agreement? How can we maintain respect for differing interpretations of LLL philosophy?

* "What surprised me most about leadership responsibilities was...."

Ask each Leader to finish this sentence, either in writing or orally.

* I feel comfortable in my knowledge of....

Ask Leaders to make a "yes," "no" or "sometimes" designation beside each of the following aspects of leadership:

  • local treasury information
  • Area reporting procedures
  • Leader liability
  • empathetic listening
  • speaking to outside organizations
  • preparation of Leader Applicants for leadership
  • correcting inaccurate information presented at meetings
  • (list others)

Leaders who answer "no" to certain topics can look for someone who said "yes." Partnerships can be formed to help educate everyone. The areas that generate the most discomfort are prime targets for discussion with a District Advisor. They may also be suggested as session topics for upcoming workshops and conferences.

Meet often with your co-Leaders. Keep it fun. Consider a potluck lunch to accompany the meeting. Don't plan on "having it out" with anyone in this setting. By sharing positive experiences, developing respectful relationships and establishing friendships, it's easier to get over the rough spots that may arise in a co-leading situation.

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