Concept Three – Right of Decision in My Leadership Role

Concept Three – Right of Decision in My Leadership Role

Concept Three – Right of Decision in My Leadership Role

(This post was contributed to Take the 12 by Brandy H., Panel 73 Convention Chair, Area 65 Northeast Texas at the request of the creator of this website after hearing her present on this topic at the 2023 NETA65 Fall Assembly and Service Workshop)


“I was asked to give a brief presentation at area assembly on Concept 3. Brief, Ha! Being brief was the biggest challenge of the task at hand. One cannot talk about one Concept without touching upon others, because all the Concepts connect together like a puzzle. They naturally progress 1 thru 12 like the Steps and Traditions.

Without Concept 1 – Concept 2 doesn’t make sense. Without Concept 9, which is in essence leadership, GOOD Leadership, we can’t really be trusted with the “Rights” provided to us in Concepts 3, 4, 5 –

Right of Decision, Participation and Appeal.
Therefore, I want to touch base on a few now. Concepts One gives the groups Final Responsibility and Ultimate Authority. “In 1955 the groups confirmed the permanent charter for the General Service Conference, delegating the Conference authority for the active maintenance of our world services. The conference is the actual voice and the effective conscience for our whole society.” This is concept 2.
How do the groups exercise their final responsibility and ultimate authority? It’s through Concept 2 – We do this by delegating our responsibility and our authority to our leaders/trusted servants in various ways up and down the triangle.

At the area we elect a delegate, at the district level that person is our DCM, at the group level it’s the GSR. Our area approves a slate of committee chairs – who’s responsibility is to create a committee mostly of district and or group reps in specified position to ensure they have the resources and information to assist them in carrying out their position. We trust these folks will carry our voice and work for the good of the fellowship. In this way we are delegating our responsibility and giving our leaders authority to match their responsibility.

Which is Concept 10’s main talking point, that our authority should match our given responsibility. GSR’s responsibility is to represent their home group, committee chairs build committees, put on workshops, provide information. We must give our leaders/trusted servants the latitude to do that according to their own conscience. This is Concept 3 – Right of Decision.

As I’ve stated Concept 9 describes qualities of good leadership, what qualities we should strive for. Delegates, GSRs, DCMs, Committee Chairs and members are agents of the AA groups and must take great care of the privileges afforded to them through the Concepts.

Like the Traditions, the concepts have both a short and long form. The Concepts can be found in the second half of the AA Service Manual and the Twelve Concepts for World Service. The Service Manual is often just referred to as simply the Service Manual. But did you know the Service Manual is technically two books in one. The first half is about all AA’s service entities up and down the triangle and the second half is all about the Concepts, hence the name The AA Service Manual and the Twelve Concepts for World Service.

Long form of Concept 3
“As a traditional means of creating and maintaining a clearly defined working relation between the groups, the Conference, the A.A. General Service Board and its several service corporations, staffs, committees and executives, and of thus ensuring their effective leadership, it is here suggested that we endow each of these elements of world service with a traditional “Right of Decision.”

Short for of Concept 3
To ensure effective leadership, we should endow each element of A.A.—the Conference, the General Service Board and its service corporations, staffs, committees, and executives—with a traditional “Right of Decision.”

The guiding principle behind Concept 3 is Trust.

The second half of Tradition 2 provides for our trusted servants. “For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority — a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.” We trust our responsible leaders, Concept 9, to decide within the understood framework of their duties, Concept 10, how they will interpret and apply their own authority and responsibility. That is the essence of our Right of Decision.

We trusted the individual enough to elect them, we should therefore trust them enough to make the best decisions. Again, you can’t argue one without the other. We ultimately made the decision to put the individual in the position to be our voice and to act for us!

“Every trusted servant and every AA entity – at all levels of service – has a RIGHT to decide how they will interpret and apply their own authority and responsibility to each particular problem or situation as it arises.”

Right here we see that Concept 3, Right of Decision doesn’t just apply to a position, it applies to all levels of service, Areas, Districts, Groups, Inter-groups/Central Offices, AAWS, Grapevine/La Vina, etc.

The kicker is that with the gift of Right of Decision comes great responsibility. Our Delegates are not only acting for our area but more importantly acting for the fellowship as a whole! What makes the most sense not for the individual, or group, our district, area, our committee BUT for Alcoholics Anonymous.

The same is true for everyone who stands and holds a trusted servant’s position. Our reach or the magnitude of our decisions may not be as far reaching as the delegates yet it still holds true within the scope of our responsibility or the responsibility of the position.

The DCM is responsible for ensuring the district is well informed and that committee chairs at the district level have the resources they need to execute their responsibilities. Area Committee chairs disseminate information, through committee meetings and workshops. The GSRs informs the groups. It’s the trickledown effect. What we do and how we do it either set us and the folks we serve up for success or failure, to be informed or ill informed, and even to encourage or discourage service in general.

My current responsibilities as the Convention Chair stops at the area level in our upside triangle. However, my reach, whether good or bad, extends further than that. I am given a list of responsibilities to fulfill. I am not told how to fulfill them. If venues and assemblies are disorganized, it can turn people off to area service work. However, If I don’t do a good job, the body I serve can boot me out! A right provided through Concept 5 – allowing for minority opinion and redress for personal grievances.

Let’s face it people talk! So, my reach, whether good or bad, extends further than this platform or the three assemblies we have a year. It extends as far as all of you do! For better for worse. This not only applies to me but to all of you as well.

So it is with your trust that I decide how to act within my authority and given responsibilities. What is best for NETA65. Assembly location, cost, and organization. Right of Decision allows me to account for all information and needs of the area and proceed according to my conscience.

Does Right of Decision mean I can do what I want!? The short is NO – We have agreed when we made ourselves available to serve that we would be responsible to those we serve. To the groups, districts, area and more importantly the fellowship.

There are many ways to ensure we are taking great care with the ability to decide. Here are a few:

  • Am I well informed? I become well informed by making the business meetings or assemblies I said I would. And if I can’t, I task someone else, like an alternate to do so. I review what has been done in the past – what has worked and not worked.
  • Am I a careful listener? I don’t sit in the back or the front chattin’ it up with my service BFF. When we talk, we typically don’t listen, or we miss information.
  • Do I know where my authority ends? Do I realize I am not the boss of everything or know everything? What does my service position’s responsibilities say I am responsible for?
  • Do I remember it’s not all about me, although sometimes I wish it was! I must take into consideration the opinions of those I serve and consider the needs of those I serve.
  • Do I understand when I need to consult and when I don’t? And am I okay when I can’t consult those I serve. I’ve heard GSRs say I must take this back to my group regularly. If I am honest there are times, it is at the detriment of the area or discussion. Remember you were elected, therefore trusted to make the best possible decisions. Not all decisions can be taken back to the groups or committees.
  • Am I honest about what I know and don’t know? It’s hard to believe but we rarely know everything. We have limitations in talents and knowledge. It is absolutely ok to ask for help, direction or just plain information. What is dangerous is going with the crowd when decisions need to be made. This is especially true during elections. We want the best possible person for the job – not who we like, who we know, or who the person next to me is voting for.

It’s easy to accept and inform others that I have the Right of Decision on how to fulfill my responsibilities. Whether it is how to execute the position, spend my budget or how vote and participate, Concept 4. But what about those “other people” who have the same right to decide?

  • Allowing others, the same privilege you have is yet another way to exude leadership! If that isn’t enough here are additional reasons, we send our TRUSTED Servants informed but not instructed.
  • “Good management of all our service levels seldom means full exercise of final responsibility and ultimate authority.” We simply cannot micromanage people. When we try to dominate folks may turn away from us hurt or annoyed. Or worse, they rebel, they do the complete opposite of what we want, they resign because no one enjoys being under a microscope, or they submit and rot, they lose their passion for service and walk away.
  • More is always revealed if we let God speak through the conscience of the fellowship. This happens because we have a wider, more diversified collection of thought. Concept 4, Right of Participation provides for everyone’s voice to be heard if we are bold enough to share it! Because of this we are better informed, better equipment to make the best decision.
  • If we don’t allow our trusted servants to make decisions based on the information they have or obtain, or we force them to submit – We don’t have leadership – We have rubber stampers – YES MEN & WOMEN! There is no innovation, no new thought – NO CHANGE –no personal growth – no growth of the fellowship – It’s BORING! And let’s face it, we don’t do boring, chaos maybe but rarely boring.
  • The last and most important reason to send our delegate, DCMs, GSRs, Committee members informed and NOT instructed is that we want them to make decisions based on what is best for our society as a whole, not for a select few or worse individuals desires.

The good news is or bad depending on how you look at it, is that part of our responsibility is to provide honest reporting of what went down, whether it is at conference, ACM, district, or committee meetings.

  • “Right of decision should never be made an excuse for failure to render proper reports of all significant actions.”
  • Should not be used as a “reason to exceed our define authority.”
  • Or a reason for “persistently failing to consult those you serve.”

Concept 5, Right of Appeal provides measures to hold our trusted servants accountable to the fellowship as a whole, to the area, to the district or to groups. Of course, it this looks different up and down the triangle. One thing is certain, we aren’t lacking ways to account for poor execution, inefficiency, ineffectiveness or even abuse of power.

  • We can elect someone else
  • We can “have a talk” with the offending member
  • We reorganize
  • Censure

We should remember that in AA we are all equal, we are all human, and we all deserve grace. There must be charity for mistakes not only for others but for ourselves as well.

I would be remiss to not mention a few of the other ways Right of Decision can be implemented at all levels of service.

  • How we choose to provide our reports, what we choose to put in our reports, how we choose to present our reports are all Right of Decision. The presenters today were given a PowerPoint template and asked to use it for our presentations and provided a topic. It was my choice to use graphics and color. I got to decide what information to share on the topic.
  • The budget – We loosely have right of decide how we spend our budget. For area officers and committees chairs we are provided general guidelines and a few hard nos. However, I can choose to be prudent and thoughtful with the fellowship’s money. If I choose to neglect my budget – Trust, the collective conscience can decide at minimum to have “a talk” with me and/or to decline an increase to my budget for poor stewardship.
  • How we facilitate meetings or workshops – all Right of Decision. What is truly beautiful about our society is that we leave room for growth. Service is another way we learn to ask for help, take action, and be accountable.
  • As a trusted servant I have authority equal to my responsibilities, Concept 10. Nowhere does it say I have to do it by myself – In fact we pride ourselves on the first Step and the word “We”. Together we make the magic happen. But if it falls under my responsibility, I need to ensure it happens – It does not mean I cannot ask someone else to execute.
  • We are all visionaries – We all have varying talents. We can decide how we put it all into action. Some people are big picture people, some are detail oriented but lack creativity to make it visually or auditorily pleasing. Additionally, we can decide that an idea or previous ways of doing a task is not the direction we want to go. We build upon the success and failures of those who had the position prior to us. There is freedom in the Right of Decision.
  • Lastly, we can decide what type of leader we want to be. Do we want to boss people or inspire people, do we want to do everything ourselves or allow others the opportunity to serve. We all lead to one path, or another Ask yourself are you inspiring people to serve or are you pushing them away.

We started our discussion of Concept 3 stating that Trust is the guiding principle. Bill ends concept 3 with this. “Our entire AA program rest squarely upon the principle of mutual trust. We Trust God, We Trust AA, We Trust Each Other. Therefore, we cannot do less than trust our leaders in service.”

Brandy H., Panel 73 Convention Chair
Northeast Texas Area of Alcoholics Anonymous – Area 65


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