Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

The 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, the principles that hold our groups and society together.

Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby Tosh » Fri Jul 31, 2015 12:54 am

The Traditions seems to be the most appropriate place to put this (if I'm wrong, can the mods please move it?)...

From another post, ezdit (and my sponsor) has got me thinking about 'leadership' and what that actually means to me as a member of A.A..

The first part of Concept 9:
9. Good service leadership at all levels is indispensable for our future functioning and safety.


I believe (so my sponsor says) that Bill wrote about leadership; can anyone provide any references?

I think my confusion lies in the fact that I'm ex military, and leadership there is a huge subject; we even do some quite lengthy courses on the subject; but I'm fairly sure that leadership 'military style' and leadership 'A.A.' aren't synonymous with each other.

So out of interest, I thought I'd ask here what your thoughts, if any, were on the subject of leadership? For example does it simply mean 'leading by example'? And what does it mean by 'service leadership', as opposed to just 'ordinary leadership'?

Your thoughts/experience would be welcomed.
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)
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Re: Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby clouds » Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:56 am

I'll start by writing that

I believe Bill writes somewhere that we can't all be leaders of prominance.

I think that must be because he saw that as much as we are alike in many respects, in that we are alcoholic with similar symptoms, leadership qualities must be a bit special.

My personal take on it is that I try my best to lead by example. When I fail, no matter how many times, I apologize and try to do better.

We can all be leaders to some degree in that regard.

When I think a situation calls for it, I may have something to add that is of use for good. Saying what I believe is good and true about AA, especially about the Traditions which I still believe will keep AA in tact and serving its primary purpose, with the help of God can usually be useful if nobody else has already spoken it.

This is fantastic you started a discussion on a Concept! Cant wait for the replies. I stand to learn something here.
" Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house." page 98 A.A.
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Re: Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby clouds » Fri Jul 31, 2015 2:17 am

On AA.org there is an illustrated pamphlet that has a long form of the concepts.

Its only two paragraphs of reading, and easy to understand for anyone who hasnt read the concepts before.

It speaks of sometimes having to stick flat footed to our convictions until a problem is settled as well as the concept of leading by example, not bossing others.
" Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house." page 98 A.A.
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Re: Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby ezdzit247 » Fri Jul 31, 2015 11:55 am

Great topic. Thanks for posting it.... :wink:

I completely agree with everything Bill says in this Grapevine article.

Leadership in AA: Ever a Vital Need
By Bill W.

Copyright © AA Grapevine, Inc, April 1959

No society can function well without able leadership in all its levels, and AA can be no exception. It must be said, though, that we AAs sometimes cherish the thought that we can do without any leadership at all. We are apt to warp the traditional idea of "principles before personalities" around to such a point that there would be no "personality" in leadership whatever. This would imply rather faceless automatons trying to please everybody, regardless.

At other times we are quite as apt to demand that AA's leaders must necessarily be people of the most sterling judgment, morals, and inspiration - big doers, prime examples to all, and practically infallible.

Real leadership, of course, has to function in between these entirely imaginary poles of hoped-for excellence. In AA, certainly, no leader is faceless and neither is any leader perfect. Fortunately our Society is blessed with any amount of real leadership - the active people of today and the potential leaders for tomorrow as each new generation of able members swarms in. We have an abundance of men and women whose dedication, stability, vision, and special skills make them capable of dealing with every possible service assignment. We have only to seek these folks out and trust them to serve us.

Somewhere in our literature there is a statement to this effect: "Our leaders do not drive by mandate, they lead by example." In effect we are saying to them, "Act for us, but don't boss us."

A leader in AA service is therefore a man (or a 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. When a leader power-drives us badly, we rebel; but when he too meekly becomes an order-taker and he exercises no judgment of his own - well, he really isn't a leader at all.

Good leadership originates plans, policies, and ideas for the improvement of our Fellowship and its services. But in new and important matters, it will nevertheless consult widely before taking decisions and actions. Good leadership will also remember that a fine plan or idea can come from anybody, anywhere. Consequently, good leadership will often discard its own cherished plans for others that are better, and it will give credit to the source.

Good leadership never passes the buck. Once assured that it has, or can obtain, sufficient general backing, it freely takes decisions and puts them into action forthwith, provided of course that such actions be within the framework of its defined authority and responsibility.

A "politico" is an individual who is forever trying to "get the people what they want." A statesman is an individual who can carefully discriminate when, and when not to do this. He recognizes that even large majorities, when badly disturbed or uninformed, can, once in a while, be dead wrong. When such an occasional situation arises, and something very vital is at stake, it is always the duty of leadership, even when in a small minority, to take a stand against the storm - using its every ability of authority and persuasion to effect a change.

Nothing, however, can be more fatal to leadership than opposition for opposition's sake. It never can be, "Let's have it our way or no way at all." This sort of opposition is often powered by a visionless pride or a gripe that makes us want to block something or somebody. Then there is the opposition that casts its vote saying, "No, we don't like it." No real reasons are ever given. This won't do. When called upon, leadership must always give its reasons, and good ones.

Then too a leader must realize that even very prideful or angry people can sometimes be dead right, when the calm and the more humble are quite mistaken.

These points are practical illustrations of the kinds of careful discrimination and soul-searching that true leadership must always try to exercise.

Another qualification for leadership is "give and take" - the ability to compromise cheerfully whenever a proper compromise can cause a situation to progress in what appears to be the right direction. Compromise comes hard to us "all-or-nothing drunks." Nevertheless, we must never lose sight of the fact that progress is nearly always characterized by a series of improving compromises. We cannot, however, compromise always. Now and then it is truly necessary to stick flatfooted to one's conviction about an issue until it is settled. These are situations for keen timing and a most careful discrimination as to which course to take.

Leadership is often called upon to face heavy and sometimes long-continued criticism. This is an acid test. There are always the constructive critics, our friends indeed. We ought never fail to give them a careful hearing. We should be willing to let them modify our opinions or change them completely. Often, too, we shall have to disagree and then stand fast without losing their friendship. Then we have those who we like to call our "destructive" critics. They power-drive, they are "politickers," they make accusations. Maybe they are violent, malicious. They pitch gobs of rumors, gossip, and general scuttlebutt to gain their ends - all for the good of AA, of course! Well, in AA at least, we have at last learned that these folks, who may be a trifle sicker than the rest of us, need not be really destructive at all, depending entirely on how we relate ourselves to them.

To begin with, we ought to listen very carefully to what they say. Sometimes they are telling the whole truth; at other times, a little truth. More often, though, they are just rationalizing themselves into nonsense. If we are within range, the whole truth, the half-truth, or even no truth at all can equally hurt us. That is why we have to listen so carefully. If they've got the whole truth, or even a little truth, then we'd better thank them and get on with our respective inventories, admitting we were wrong, regardless. If it's nonsense, we can ignore them. Or we can lay all the cards on the table and try to persuade them. Failing this, we can be sorry they are too sick to listen and we can try to forget the whole business. We can think of few better means of self-survey, of developing genuine patience, than these usually well-meaning but erratic brother members can afford us. This is always a large order and we shall sometimes fail to make good on it ourselves. But we must needs keep trying.

Now comes that all-important attribute of vision. Vision is, I think, the ability to make good estimates, both for the immediate and for the more distant future. Some might feel this sort of striving to be a son of heresy because we AAs are constantly telling ourselves, "One day at a time." But that valued maxim really refers to our emotional lives and means only that we are not to repine over the past nor wishfully fantasy or daydream about our future.

As individuals and as a Fellowship, we shall surely suffer if we cast the whole job of planning for tomorrow onto a kind Providence. God has endowed us human beings with considerable capability for foresight and he evidently expects us to use it. Therefore we must needs distinguish between wishful dreaming for a happy tomorrow and today's use of our powers of thoughtful estimate - estimate of the kind which we trust will bring future progress rather than unforeseen woe.

Vision is therefore the very essence of prudence - a sound virtue if ever there was one. Of course we shall often miscalculate the future in whole or in part. But even so, this will be far better than to refuse to think at all.

The making of estimates has several aspects. We look at past and present experience to see what we think it means. From this, we derive a tentative idea or policy. Looking first at the nearby future, we ask how our idea or policy might work. Following this estimate we ask how our policies and ideas might work under the several differing conditions that could arise in the longer future. If an idea looks like a good bet, we try it on - always experimentally, when that is possible. Somewhat later, we revalue the situation and ask whether our estimate is, or may soon be, working out.

At about this stage, we may have to take a critical decision. Maybe we have a policy or plan that still looks fine and is apparently doing well. Nevertheless we ought to ponder very carefully what its longtime effect will be. Will today's nearby advantages boomerang into large liabilities for tomorrow? The temptation will almost always be to seize the nearby benefits and quite forget about the harmful precedents or consequences that we may be setting in motion.

These are no fancy theories. We have found that we must use these principles of estimate constantly, especially at world service levels where the stakes are high. In public relations, for example, we must estimate the reaction both of AA groups and the general public, both short-term and long-term. The same thing goes for our literature. Our finances have to be estimated and budgeted. We must think about our service needs as they relate to general economic conditions, group capability, and willingness to contribute. On many such problems we must very often try to think many months and even years ahead.

As a matter of fact, all of AA's Twelve Traditions were at first questions of estimate and vision for the future. Years ago we slowly evolved an idea about AA being self-supporting. There had been trouble here and there about outside gifts. Then still more trouble developed. Consequently we began to devise a policy of no outside gifts. We began to suspect that large sums would tend to make us irresponsible and could divert us from our primary aim. Finally we saw that for the long pull, outside money could ruin us utterly. At this point, what had been just an idea or general policy hardened firmly down into an AA Tradition. We saw that we must sacrifice the quick, nearby advantage for long-term safety.

We went through this same process on anonymity. A few public breaks had looked good. But finally the vision came that many such breaks could raise havoc among us. So it went - first a gleam in the eye, then an experimental policy, then a firm policy, and finally a deep conviction - a vision for tomorrow. Such is our process of estimating the future. Our responsible world leadership must be especially and constantly proficient in this vital activity. This is an ability much to be desired, especially among our trustees, and I think most of them should be chosen on the basis that they have already proved their aptness for foresight in business or professional careers.

We shall continually need many of these same attributes, insofar as they can be had, among our leaders of AA services at all levels. The principles of leadership will be just about the same, no matter what the size of the operation.

This discussion on leadership may look, at first glance, like an attempt to stake out a specially privileged and superior type of AA member. But this is not really so. We are simply recognizing that our talents vary greatly. The conductor of an orchestra is not necessarily good at finance or foresight. And it is even less likely that a fine banker could be much of a musical success. When, therefore, we talk about AA leadership, we only declare that we ought select that leadership on the basis of obtaining the best talent we can find, making sure that we land that talent, whatever it is, in the spot where it will do us the most good.

While this article was first thought of in connection with our world service leadership, it is quite possible that many of its suggestions can be useful to everyone who takes an active part in our Society.

Nowhere could this be more true than in the area of Twelfth Step work itself - something at which nearly all of us most eagerly work. Every sponsor is necessarily a leader. The stakes are huge. A human life, and usually the happiness of a whole family, hangs in the balance. What the sponsor does and says, how well he estimates the reactions of his prospects, how well he times and makes his presentation, how well he handles criticisms, and how well he leads his prospect on by personal spiritual example - well, these attributes of leadership can make all the difference, often the difference between life and death.

Thank God that Alcoholics Anonymous is blessed with so much leadership in each and all of its great affairs!

Bill W.
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Re: Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby Duke » Fri Jul 31, 2015 12:21 pm

Thanks ezdzit. You beat me to it.

If anyone's interested, Bill Wilson's complete (purportedly) writings are complied in a book titled "The Language of the Heart". It's available through Amazon. I treat it more as a resource and reference than a book to sit down and read like a novel. The articles are usually a lot more meaningful if I read them in the context of some question or issue that's come up. Regardless, there's lots of great stuff in there.

Thanks for the topic.
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Re: Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby Brock » Fri Jul 31, 2015 12:30 pm

The article above (from the grapevine) also is part of the book “Twelve Concepts for World Service,” concept 9 pages 38 to 42.
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Re: Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby PaigeB » Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:07 pm

Here is the link to the 12 Concepts Illustrated
http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/aa-liter ... llustrated

Please consider a purchase of Language of the Heart through the Grapevine itself
https://store.aagrapevine.org/Showgroups.aspx?

I don't know if you can find the literature there that Brock is referring to...

Good thread!

My sponsor told me, "We lead from behind." and I was like "Whhhaaaat?" :?

I think she meant humility. She then went on to talk about our inverted triangle which put the largest population, the Groups, at the top as most important and the GSO's at the smallest & lowest point, always in service to the groups.

Like many things we learn, I learned more when I jumped in and took action. I stepped up to be GSR before I knew what a GSR did. Someone told me it would be a lesson in humility, which I literally could not imagine. That is, until an on the spot vote came to the floor of the Area Assembly. I had no clue who the people were that had stepped up to immediately fill a service position that had been vacated without warning. HOW was I supposed to VOTE the group conscience if I did not know it! I mean it was one thing for them to discuss it and tell me... another thing altogether for me to be tasked with even a good guess at what they would all say... and inn so little time! I listened to them give their service resumes at the microphone. I had to imagine deeply - like a connected meditation - to what the gals in my group would want. I did not glance at my neighbor's vote - though fear had me believe that I should do what they would do. I took a deep breath and one more deep glance within. Then I trusted. Then I wrote down the name.

I served - my huge ego had to step aside so that it was possible for me to serve - the greatest entity in our service structure... The Group. As an elected General Service Representative I was not elevated to a position of power, but rather elected to a position of servant. A trusted servant.
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Re: Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby Tosh » Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:41 pm

I've opened up a can of worms. :lol:

I'd better do some reading then! :(
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)
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Re: Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby PaigeB » Fri Jul 31, 2015 2:15 pm

There is such a wealth of information available within AA and our literature further states that the Libraries are also full... Take your time! :lol:
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Re: Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby ezdzit247 » Sat Aug 01, 2015 1:02 pm

Tosh wrote:I've opened up a can of worms. :lol:

I'd better do some reading then! :(


LOL...I'm sure those poor worms desperately needed some fresh air and are very grateful.... :lol:

Silkworth and Barefoot Bob's websites both provide easy access to their copies of articles and speeches by Bill W. and other AA histories. In addition, AA has been the subject of many master and doctoral thesis in psychology, sociology, and anthropology and many really good, very well researched studies have been published which are available on the net. I'm guessing this is because for so many academics, the AA fellowship is to their area of science like the bumblebee is to physics. Like AA, theoretically that whimsical little critter shouldn't be able to even get off the ground, let alone fly, but it does both anyway.... :wink:

There's a paper you can google on the net entitled: "The effects of anarchism on cross-cultural community building in Alcoholics Anonymous" by Amy Levinson and Dean Worgan. It's a great read--not too long--that provides a really interesting perspective on Bill's sociopolitical views and his vision for leadership roles within the AA fellowship. It helped me to understand why Huxley would say Bill W. was "the greatest social architect of the 20th century". Bill's vision for AA recognized the need for a kind of egalitarian order that avoided the disastrous consequences experienced by the group described in Orwell's "Animal Farm", i.e. "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". AA's Traditions insure that all AA members remain equal and not subject to conform to the dictates of other members or any self-appointed AA hierarchy.

Quote from Bill W.:

"...When we come into AA we find a greater personal freedom than any other society knows. We cannot be compelled to do anything. In that sense our society is a benign anarchy. The word 'anarchy' has a bad meaning to most of us.... But I think that the gentle Russian prince who so strongly advocated the idea felt that if men were granted absolute liberty, and were compelled to obey no one in person, they would voluntarily associate themselves in the common interest. AA is an association of the benign sort the prince envisioned."

- Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, 1957
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Re: Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby Duke » Sat Aug 01, 2015 1:55 pm

Thanks EZ. That's some fascinating and terrific information. Good to know I haven't read it all. :wink:
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Re: Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby Tosh » Sat Aug 01, 2015 2:28 pm

ezdzit247 wrote:There's a paper you can google on the net entitled: "The effects of anarchism on cross-cultural community building in Alcoholics Anonymous" by Amy Levinson and Dean Worgan. It's a great read--not too long--that provides a really interesting perspective on Bill's sociopolitical views and his vision for leadership roles within the AA fellowship. It helped me to understand why Huxley would say Bill W. was "the greatest social architect of the 20th century".


I enjoyed reading that, thank you. It just makes me even more pleased to be a part of such a wonderful entity.
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)
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Re: Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby clouds » Sun Aug 02, 2015 6:28 am

In 1992 while I was in Rome studying philosophy I got aquainted, and eventually became friends with, a woman who had done her Phd. in philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris. I was in awe of her and learned everything she was able to teach me, soaking it all up like a dry sponge. She invited me to spend August with her at her cottage in Normandy. I got the train to France and was thrilled to be able to see all the castles from the train windows, arrived at Le Gare in Paris, she drove us to her cottage and over the days introduced me to her friends. They were real bonafide Fascists. I had had no idea what her political leaning was before then! So over the month of August, I learned much of Fascism in action from the Fascists themselves (one a runnaway from Ireland, another exiled from UK). My friend also taught me as much french as she could get in to me, for which I will always be grateful. Fascism worried me but I left France with a good knowledge of just what Fascism in action meant.

In Rome I had a boyfriend who was Communist. His mother, who was French, told me she was a Daughter of the Revolution, meaning the French revolution. He introduced me to many Commuists in Rome. One was a woman from Cuba who had a large library and she offered me a job cataloguing her books. They were all very warm and helpful people. Communism has a very romantic aspect to it and Communists really have a comaradarie amongst themselves in Rome. The thing about mainland Europe is that in a family you could find a Fascist, a Communist, an Anarchist and a Liberal Democrat. They would talk without argument. Neighbors (because their families live together in the same few blocks for hundreds of years) know how to get along with everyone around them, they are courteous without being condescending or placating. Heated argument is usually only heard when somebody dents somebody elses fender, not when politics are discussed. So that was good for me to see. I cant say I became a Communist, but that experience was gold for me. The fear my American childhood instilled in me for Comminists evaporated.

Later in 2006 I got reaquainted with an old school friend who, because our names were close together in the alphabet, had always been placed next me at class all of our school years. He was a bonafide genius and has several degrees; law, psychology, engineering to name three. I soon discovered he had been for some years an adament Anarchist. I had no idea before this of his political leanings! Also, an aetheist ever since I had known him, he had become a Bhuddhist. So I learned a lot about Anarchy and was very interested for some time. Eventually though, I found that most 'discussions' amongst anarchists became volitile. From their point of view everything the US government undertook was not only circumspect but a catalyst for antagonism. Basically if it was governement it was all wrong. My firtation with Anarchy ended mainly because political argument usually seemed like a battle of egos and many discussions seemed built on sophistism and with the only purpose being that of winning arguments with aparently small concern for little else.

I like AA. I found the principles of AA have stood me well in relationships with people of all kinds. Life is fascinating and many adventures possible in life grounded by embracing AA principles: steps, traditions and concepts.
" Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house." page 98 A.A.
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Re: Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby Tommy-S » Sun Aug 02, 2015 2:49 pm

The cited reference can also be found in the AA Service Manual

viewtopic.php?f=14&t=10387

Page 36 http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_bm-31.pdf

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Re: Concept 9 - What does this mean to you?

Postby ezdzit247 » Sun Aug 02, 2015 4:40 pm

Duke wrote:Thanks EZ. That's some fascinating and terrific information. Good to know I haven't read it all. :wink:


Tosh wrote: I enjoyed reading that, thank you. It just makes me even more pleased to be a part of such a wonderful entity.


Great.... :D

I was delighted to read Dick B.'s article on the book titles in Dr. Bob's library. It gave me a very different, more three-dimensional portrait of Dr. Bob knowing what books had influenced his thinking in sobriety. This article on the effect of Bill W's sociopolitical views on writing of the 12 Traditions gave me a very different, more three-dimensional portrait of Bill. The concept of AA being a"benign anarchy" really resonates with me for some reason so I'll definitely try to find more on this subject.
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