Good service leadership at all levels is indispensable for our future functioning and safety. Primary world service leadership, once exercised by the founders, must necessarily be assumed by the trustees.
While the trustees hold final responsibility for AA's world service administration, they should always have the assistance of the best possible standing committees, corporate service directors, executives, staffs and consultants. Therefore, the composition of these underlying committees and service boards, the personal qualifications of their members, the manner of their induction into service, the systems of their rotation, the way in which they are related to each other, the special rights and duties of our executives, staffs and consultants, together with a proper basis for the financial compensation of these special workers, will always be matters for serious care and concern.
Questions in service
· When I start a service assignment, do I seek guidance from the previous incumbent?
· When I complete a service assignment, do I do a full handover to the next incumbent, where relevant with a full write-up of my experience?
· Do I make myself available to others who come after me in service to answer questions and provide sponsorship?
· Does my group, Intergroup, etc. take care due care in how representatives and officers are selected?
· Within the service structure, I do take responsibility for encouraging representation where there is none?
· Do I exercise leadership by originating plans, policies, and ideas for the improvement of our Fellowship and its services?
· Do I exercise leadership by consulting widely before taking decisions and actions?
· Do I look past the manner in which ideas are presented to their substance?
Questions in service and life
· Do I seek leadership out of personal ambition?
· Do I lead to be served or to serve?
· In each area of service and life, do I act with care and selfless good spirit?
· Do I seek advice when necessary?
· Do I listen for God's will from unexpected sources?
· Do I stand on principle where necessary, even when it is unpopular?
· Do I ever block progress or a good idea because of pride or resentment?
· Do I suffer from black-and-white thinking?
· Do I compromise cheerfully if it brings a little progress?
· Do I listen to constructive and destructive criticism with an equally open mind, admit where I am wrong, and adjust where necessary?
· Am I defensive—what does that defensiveness teach me?
· Do I detach from (i.e. stop identifying with) my thoughts and actions so I can hear criticism without taking it personally?
· Do I forgive and ignore unwarranted criticism with good nature?
· Do I disagree without being disagreeable?
· Do I actively seek a vision of God's will for the future?
· Do I avoid my responsibility for seeking a vision of God's will by citing 'one day at a time'?
· Do I consider the effects of my decisions on the medium- and long-term as well as the short-term?
· Do I consider the effects of my decisions on those distant from me as well as on those close to me?
· Do I get lost in vision and fail, consequently, to deliver?
Five aspects of leadership:
· Seeking advice
· Accepting criticism and disagreement
· Taking tough stands
· Developing vision
From Bill W.'s essays on the Twelve Concepts:
'With leadership we shall have a continuous problem. Good leadership can be here today and gone tomorrow.'
'When making their choices of GSRs, the AA groups should therefore have such facts well in mind. It ought to be remembered that it is only the GSRs who, in Group Assembly meetings (or in caucus), can name Committee Members and finally name the Delegates. Hence great care needs to be taken by the groups as they choose these Representatives. Hit-or-miss methods should be avoided. Groups who name no GSRs should be encouraged to do so. In this area a degree of weakness tends to persist. The needed improvement seems to be a matter of increased care, responsibility, and education.'
'Our Area Assemblies need only to continue to act with care and in selfless good spirit.'
'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 apt to demand that AA's leaders must necessarily be people of the most sterling judgement, 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.'
'Our leaders do not drive by mandate, they lead by example.'
'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.'
'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.'
'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 recognises 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 more humble are quite mistaken.'
'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.'
'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.'
'To begin with, we ought to listen very carefully to what [destructive criticism] 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 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 sort 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 those we are not to repine over the past nor wishfully fantasise or day-dream 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 of Providence. God has endowed us human beings with considerable capability for foresight and he evidently expects us to use it. Therefore, we must 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.'