When I joined Alcoholics Anonymous the sight of the Steps seemed daunting. As I progressed in my recovery the introduction of the Traditions seemed even worse – and then my sponsor suggested that I get to grips with the Concepts! I wasn’t looking forward to studying the essays in the yellow pages of the AA Service Handbook for Great Britain it has to be said, but when I started to investigate them further and get over my contempt prior to investigation I was amazed at how relevant and important they were to my recovery and to the fellowship of which I was a part.
Faced with the prospect of getting familiar with Concept 9, I was astonished at how frequently I had observed the essence behind this Concept throughout my time in AA thus far. It speaks of the need to have good service leaders and good means of choosing who was going to lead us. Upon hearing this previous statement some may be tempted to say “we ought never be organised” and “we don’t have leaders”. We are organised and we do have leaders. An example of this Concept, with which we can probably relate the closest, is in sponsorship. When we ask a person to sponsor us we are asking them to lead us, to guide us, to advise us. Another example of this is when we organise service boards or committees as Tradition 9 states. This can be at group level, intergroup, region or board level. Just think if you were sitting on a committee discussing a subject which members felt passionate about and it didn’t have a leader in the form of the committee chairman. What would happen when all the alcoholics present wanted to speak, debate and reply to comments made? In this respect the chairman acts as the leader.
The reason that Bill wrote this concept was because he had the foresight to see that he was not going to be around forever to guide and advise the fellowship, and therefore he wanted to know that the mechanisms to choose the right people for service roles were in place. In Concept 9 he makes specific reference to the right kind of people being voted into the GSR role as they then have to name the delegates who then go to Conference on our behalf. He also highlights the importance of the composition of the Board who he states will have to “exercise AA’s primary leadership in world service administration”.
In order to effectively lead, a person needs to have certain qualities and we need to elect the right people as leaders. If we do not have the right people doing the service then it will be ineffectual no matter how good the structure of the fellowship is. The Concept goes on to describe the qualities that each leader should have. It says that “a leader in AA service is therefore a man or woman who can personally put principles, plans and policies into such dedicated and effective action that the rest of us want to back him up and help him with his job”. As well as implementing plans and policies a leader is also someone with vision and foresight for the future of AA and what will be best to continue to effectively carry the message of recovery. A leader will also recognize and give credit to others good ideas; will realise that large majorities can sometimes be badly disturbed, uninformed and be wrong; will lead by example; will accept responsibility and never pass the buck; will have tolerance and the ability to compromise towards a better outcome. If you think of a leader in your own life, someone that inspires you, then I bet they have these same qualities.
This is just a quick summary of what I’ve learned about Concept 9. As I said at the start – I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of getting to grips with the Concepts but with good leadership from my sponsor, the oldtimers at my home group and the AA literature I have come to understand a little more.