Information Segment: The Spirit of Rotation

Last Updated on December 14, 2011 by Area 53 Web Team

At the December 11, 2011 assembly, Dave C., Alternate Delegate spoke on the topic of “Spirit of Rotation.” Below is his talk.

I tried to research this topic looking first at the history.

I found rotation, as a practice, was used in A.A.s early days. And those Cleveland A.A. groups are credited with the first practice of rotation, as we know it. The old timers in Cleveland relied on rotation to give newcomers jobs. The practice, along with sponsorship, was a feather in the cap of Cleveland A.A. and provided A.A. with an experience that contributes to how we function and work together today.

I found in my research that rotation is a practical, organizational and spiritual principle. It is tied especially to the 9th Tradition. Let me read how it is noted in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Tradition.

“Each A.A. group needs the least possible organization. Rotating leadership is the best. The small group may elect its secretary, the large group its rotating committee and the groups of a large metropolitan area their central or intergroup committee, which often employs a full-time secretary. The trustees of the General Service Board are, in effect, our A.A. General Service Committee. They are the custodians of our A.A. Tradition and the receivers of voluntary A.A. contributions by which we maintain our A.A. General Service Office at New York. They are authorized by the groups to handle our overall public relations and they guarantee the integrity of our principal newspaper, the A.A. Grapevine. All such representatives are to be guided in the spirit of service, for true leaders in A.A. are but trusted and experienced servants of the whole they derive no real authority from their titles; they do not govern. Universal respect is the key to their usefulness.”

The 9th Tradition as I read it shows me at least two very important ideas. There is a connection that rotation has with the principle of leadership and being a trusted servant (2nd Tradition); and, that rotation is vital in A.A. from the home group to the intergroup to the General Service Office. It is vital from the top of the upside down triangle to the bottom.

As my home group has learned and, I’ll bet your home groups have learned, it is better to turn jobs over instead of letting one person do it forever. Can’t you see some connection here also with the often cited problems associated with the Bleeding Deacon element especially in the individual A.A. groups?

In Areas and Districts the two-year rotation is the conventional approach. The G.S.O. staffers rotate every two years. At the General Service Board of Trustees the 4-year rotation is more in practice.

I strongly see that leadership and rotation are important principles entwined in the 9th Tradition and 9th Concept writings of Bill W. As I read it, leadership and rotation are essential to well-functioning and responsible A.A. groups.

Bill wrote this about the Ninth Concept in 1962.

“With leadership we shall have a continuous problem. Good leadership can be here today and gone tomorrow. Furnishing our service structure with able and willing workers has to be a continuous activity. … We must continuously find the right people for our many service tasks.”

And later on he writes,

“Hence, great care needs to be taken by the groups as they choose these Representatives (GSRs) Hit-or-miss methods should be avoided.”

Bill’s words remind me that the task of rotating GOOD leadership is not easy.

I’ve experienced the trials and errors myself. I’ve seen and heard the stories about Districts and Groups that can’t get new blood to take on service jobs. It tells me it will never be an easy task for a group or a DCM or an Area to find and groom able leadership to step up to the responsibility.

What seems to work most often is pretty simple.

Rotation of leadership and service workers works best when there is a sense of continuously grooming alternates to fill in. It calls for sponsorship to play a vital role in this process of passing on the message.

It is not surprising that the idea of “we are responsible” is not just a saying it ought to be our practice. I have become more convinced it is a WE program in all three legacies, Recovery Unity and Service.

If you want more information about the spirit of Rotation, I suggest reading The A.A. Group Pamphlet, A.A. Comes of Age, Language of the Heart, the A.A. Service Manual, and the 12 Concepts for World Service, and the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

In the Concepts Checklist I found several inventory questions to be of value.

  • Do we discuss how we can best strengthen the composition and leadership of our future trusted servants?
  • Do we recognize the need for group officers?
  • What are our criteria for election?
  • Do we sometimes give a position to someone “because it would be good for them?”
  • Do I set a positive leadership example?
  • I would add … Do We?

I want to thank the DCMs and this assembly for your trust and direction.


Dave C., Alternate Delegate
Area 53, Panel 61

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