Concept 9

Short Form:

“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.”

Long Form:

Good service leaders, together with sound and appropriate methods of choosing them, are at all levels indispensable for our future functioning and safety. The primary world service leadership once exercised by the founders of A.A. must necessarily be assumed by the Trustees of the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Principle of the Concept:


One Thing You Need To Know:

We Lead to Serve Rather Than Leading to Govern

We Lead to Serve Rather Than Leading to Govern

As we study the Concepts, the ninth change that is taking place in us is that we understand we must become selfless leaders.

What are the changes that need to take place in our lives in the ninth concept in order to serve as good leaders? We need to surrender old ideas about leadership and be willing to put aside any personal ambitions, feuds, and controversies that prevent us from offering effective leadership.

We need to become a spiritual example, someone who can personally put principles, plans, and policies into such dedicated and effective action that others want to back us up and help us with our job.

from Twelve Concepts of World Service Illustrated

“No matter how carefully we design our service structure of principles and relationships, no matter how well we apportion authority and responsibility, the operating results of our structure can be no better than the personal performance of those who must man it and make it work. Good leadership cannot function well in a poorly designed structure . . . . Weak leadership can hardly function at all, even in the best of structures.”

Due to A.A.’s principle of rotation, furnishing our service structure with able and willing workers has to be a continuous effort. The base of the service structure — and the source of our leadership — is the General Service Representative. The G.S.R. is the service leader for his or her group, the indispensable link between the group and A.A. as-a-whole. Together the G.S.R.s are A.A.’s group conscience — and together, in their areas, they elect the area committee members and ultimately the delegates and the area’s candidates for trustee. Groups who have not named G.S.R.s should be encouraged to do so. And as the G.S.R.s meet in area assemblies, care and dedication are required. Personal ambitions should be cast aside; feuds and controversies forgotten. “Who are the best qualified people?” should be the thought of all.

“No society can function well without able leadership in all its levels, and A.A. can be no exception. Fortunately, our Society is blessed with any amount of real leadership — the active people of today and the potential leaders of 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.

“A leader in A.A. 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 and help him with his job. “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.

“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 . . . . We cannot, however, compromise always. Now and then, it is truly necessary to stick flat-footed to one’s convictions about an issue until it is settled. “Our leaders do not drive by mandate, they lead by example. We say to them, ‘Act for us, but do not boss us.’”

The text above is an excerpt from the A.A. conference approved pamphlet (P8) The Twelve Concepts for World Service Illustrated. Download your own copy of the full pamphlet.


  1. Do we discuss how we can best strengthen the composition and leadership of our future trusted servants?
  2. Do we recognize the need for group officers? What is our criteria for election?
  3. Do we sometimes give a position to someone “because it would be good for them”?
  4. Do I set a positive leadership example?

This checklist offered as part of Service Material from the General Service Office (SMF-91).  Download your copy of the complete checklist.