Leadership is a good thing. So is structure.
Leadership in Meetings
When I got sober, secretaries led meetings. They chose topics and called on people. They did this without apology. Pretty simple and straightforward.
Having a meeting with a clear structure was very comforting to me as a newcomer. All I had to do was show up. The rest was handled, as it should be, by the people that had been around before I came to AA. My job was mainly to take it in. After all, I was there to learn about alcoholism and how AA approached it (at least at first).
The meeting started and ended on time. If someone talked a little longer than what was normal, the secretary would politely suggest, “could you wrap it up, please?” It seemed like the right thing to do.
Later, I learned the cliché, “if you share more than five minutes you’re either bragging or lying!” True.
Also, folks who turned up late to the meeting had to “wait their turn” until those who made it on time were able to share. That’s only fair.
Orderliness is Next to Godliness
The meetings I attended were very orderly, and, that order was mostly the result of a competent and secure secretary. Someone who was not only rooted in the steps and program of AA but also someone who was familiar with the specific meeting they were leading. Having been elected to the secretary position from the meeting, they had a real feel for how the meeting was historically run.
What I regularly witnessed in my first meetings were secretaries demonstrating leadership. They would come prepared with a topic. Then, they would strategically call on people knowing their lengths of sobriety and delivery style from watching them over the years. They would mix newcomers with old-timers. They’d engage the out-of-towner. Ask a birthday person to share. Or, they’d point to people, “would you like to share?”
These meetings were exciting. They were full of energy and excellent information. I gleaned so much from those meetings. Much of it the result of an experienced and capable secretary. The foundation to the way of life that has worked for decades keeping me sober (with no end in sight) was built on the backs of those great secretaries.
What is Wrong and How to Fix It
So why are so many meetings not led like that today? I think it’s because many have never seen one done correctly. Plus, directing a meeting requires some genuine skill. “Leading a great meeting is a work of art!” I was told. Sounded a bit grandiose, but turned out to be true.
Another reason is that many value fairness above goodness. Somehow by letting the meeting “run itself” by volunteers or using random numbers, is considered better than using discretion. Naysayers would label this picking favorites. But, this is not right. The Big Book reminds us, “God gave us brains to use!” So what not apply thought when leading meetings?
So, if you ever get the chance to be a secretary, I suggest you LEAD the meeting. Use your brains. Show off your artistic skills.
Show up with a topic. Tell people to wrap it up when they run long. Choose people to share who are either new (so you bring them into the meeting) or who you know have something useful to say. And keep it moving!
You’ll make a difference, and they’ll want to come back!