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Substitute Leading

Originally published in LLL of Western Pennsylvania’s PennsyLLL Points West, Summer 2000

You’re a lone Leader, it’s meeting day, and your child is suddenly ill and needs a trip to the doctor. Or your co-Leader has the flu and you are coming down with something and can’t imagine yourself in a roomful of mothers and little children the next day. The meetings have had substantial attendance and you’re expecting some new mothers to attend. If you cancel the meeting, you may not be able to contact everyone who plans to come. Not only is there a lack of time and good health, but it would be difficult, if not impossible, to recall every person to whom you’ve sent a meeting announcement.

There are several things you can do to prepare yourself and the Group for the possibility of having a substitute lead the Series Meeting.

Be active your Chapter. Develop an attitude of “beyond-Group co-Leading” with the Leaders in your region or Chapter. Get to know the Leaders in nearby (and sometimes no-so-nearby) Group in the area whom you would feel comfortable calling on when you need a substitute.
Visit nearby Groups. Become acquainted with nearby Leaders and their meeting location(s). Invite other Leaders to your meetings.
Leaderless doesn’t mean leaderless. A Leader Applicant may be willing to hold a “mothers’ meeting” in your absence. The Leader Accreditation Department recommends that Applicants attend meetings of other Groups. Encourage Applicants you know to do this. They can then become comfortable helping another Leader in a crisis (and they may one day need the help themselves). Brand new Leaders sometimes feel more comfortable leading or practicing at another Group’s meeting and maybe able to fill in for you.
• At Evaluation Meetings, talk about the times when someone other than a Leader may be facilitating this kind of support group. State that this person will not officially represent La Leche League, but a representative will be able at future meetings and by telephone. Experienced Group members can also facilitate a meeting in situations like this.
Arrange for nearby Leaders to be on call for circumstances when you anticipate you will need a substitute. To ensure that the Group will run smoothly, situations such as impending childbirth, a chronically ill child or parents, etc., may require some advance planning.
Prepare an emergency meeting plan for each topic. These could be plans from former meetings. A substitute Leader/leader might especially appreciate discussion aids you’ve made ahead such as posters, index card questions, and baby item baskets.
Prepare maps and written directions to the meeting. You may need to include nearby Leaders in your newsletter mailings.
Look for prospective Leader Applicants. One day they will be your co-Leaders and you won’t need a substitute!

In addition to being a La Leche League Leader, Kathy was also a substitute elementary school teacher in Ohio and New Mexico.

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