Thursday, November 19, 2015

Shadow Leadership--Part I--George's Post

[Note:   This is the first of what will be three or four consecutive posts on the principles of "shadow leadership."   Some may find the subject tedious; I understand that sentiment, and know some may wish to skip reading these posts.   It is hardly the most riveting subject.   Nonetheless, it is at  the heart of what we are doing in Malawi, as we work with local leaders and members.  It has taken me months to think through both the underlying principles and the potential pitfalls.]

A.   Principles of Shadow Leadership for MLS Senior Missionaries[1]

1.    Senior Missionaries As “Shadow Leaders”

Except in the few cases where MLS senior missionaries may be given “line responsibility,”[2] [3]MLS senior missionaries are expected to serve as “shadow leaders.”   Without getting technical, this means that senior missionaries are asked to provide support to existing priesthood and auxillary leaders, by giving largely behind-the-scene advice and guidance, to allow them to perform more fully their duties.   There are three keys to “shadow leadership:” first, it is in-service training of existing local leaders; second, the training is provided by experienced members, by assignment from their priesthood leaders, but those experienced members do not have line responsibility or supervisory authority over the local leaders being trained; and third, the training is to be administered in a manner (“shadow” in nature”) that is respectful of the callings of the local leaders, recognizing that it is they who have been called, not the senior missionaries, to serve in those callings.      These three concepts are critical to understanding the role senior missionaries are to play in working with local leaders.
Anyone asked to serve as a “shadow leader” recognizes the assignment has peculiar challenges—it being harder to pull off successfully than one might first anticipate.    Occasionally, one witnesses an exceptional example of “shadow leadership,” but more often, we have struggled,and we have watched other struggle, trying to balance constructive help with respect for existing authorities. [4]   Carole and I would be the first to confess that our attempts at “shadow leadership” have not been unqualified successes; we often wonder---whether local leaders want the support; whether we have really found the best ways to train without unduly interfering with the authority of local leaders; and, how likely it will be that our “influence” will extend much beyond the end of our mission.    Whatever changes in Church operations we witness during our mission—will they stick after we are gone or will everything just revert to the way it was before we arrived.  Perhaps, it is precisely these concerns that have caused me to wait so long to collect my thoughts about “shadow leadership.” [5]

2.    In-Service Training of Local Leaders

The first thing to remember about shadow leadership is that it is one of many ways of providing in-service training to existing local leaders.[6]   Given the lay nature of Church leadership, and the constant turnover in positions, the Church is continually training its members as to the duties that come with the various callings in the Church.   Each Church position has unique duties, which need to be learned, before the member can do all that is asked of him or her.   The duties of an institute teacher are quite different from those of a Sunday School teacher or Elders Quorum or Relief Society instructor, even though each position involves the teaching of gospel principles.   Through this training, the Church hopes to uplift the entire membership of the Church, recognizing that over a lifetime, each member holds a multitude of different callings.    One may serve for a while as a Sunday School teacher, then as a branch clerk, and later as a leader working with the branch’s young men.    Each calling is intended to bless the lives of those one is called to serve, as well as to bless the one called to serve.   
The Church does not consider these callings to be random.  Instead, it is believed that God himself is the source of the inspiration behind the callings.   Priesthood leaders, when listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, are inspired as to whom they should call to hold specific positions.   This process of inspiration is akin to the inspiration behind the calling of Aaron, Moses’ brother, to serve, together with his literal male descendents, as priests for the House of Israel.   “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:….And no man taketh this hounour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.”[7]   The same inspiration is behind callings, whether the callings are to serve in priesthood positions or to serve in Church auxiliaries.    At no time does the shadow leader replace the local leaders—the shadow leader is not called, not given priesthood keys or authority, not asked to minister directly to the needs of the saints under the jurisdiction of local leaders.   The only role senior missionaries are to play is that of giving support to local leaders.   All keys, responsibilities, powers, blessings, and attendant rights and responsibilities stay in the hands of local leaders.   They and they alone are the ones authorized to serve in the positions to which they are called.  

3.    Training by Experienced Members Not in the Priesthood Line of Authority

While senior missionaries help train local leaders, they are not in the priesthood line of authority, and have no direct supervisory control over local leaders.   The training assignment given to senior missionaries comes from the Mission President, who himself is in the priesthood line of authority.  For example, we serve at the direction of President Erickson, who currently is the presiding officer for all Districts, and independent branches, located in Malawi and Zambia.   The only members he does not have direct responsibility for are the members of the recently-organized Lusaka Zambia Stake.    The Mission President cannot feasibly handle the training of all local leaders, so it makes sense that he might choose to delegate to senior missionaries some of that responsibility.  
Each Mission President has discretion in how broadly or narrowly he delegates “training” responsibility upon senior missionaries working within his mission.    He can choose to be very specific in his assignments or give general instructions.  In our case, President Erickson has chosen to give rather general instructions—our mandate is to help out local leaders and members however we could, supporting in particular a couple of branches—Zingwangwa and Blantyre 2nd.   We were asked also to be a resource for the Blantyre District Presidency.   Those with whom we work do not report to us, but instead report, and are accountable to, the District Presidency, which in turn is accountable to the Mission President.  
The reason for using senior missionaries in this capacity is easy to decipher.   Most have years of experience in the Church, have held positions of the types held by the local leaders, are available on a full-time basis to help out with training and support, and are on-site.   They certainly constitute a resource for training, available to augment the other training tools used by the Church.

4.    Training in A Manner Respectful to the Callings of Local Leaders

Everything senior missionaries do in supporting local leaders must key off one seminal principle—senior missionaries must always train in a manner respectful of the callings of local leaders—meaning that they must recognize that local leaders are and must remain in charge, however much training they need at the hands of senior missionaries.   Senior missionaries should never undermine the authority of local leaders.   Wit this seminal principal in mind, the following are sub-principles to follow when training local leaders:

[1] All references in this section to “senior missionaries” should be understood to refer to “MLS senior missionaries.”
[2] A senior missionary would have line responsibility if called to hold, during his or her mission, a regular position in the Church, such as serving as a branch or elders quorum president or relief society or primary president.   Generally speaking, it is preferable to have local members hold these positions and to look to senior missionaries for advice and counsel, allowing local members to have direct hands-on experience, rather than to learn vicariously by watching senior missionaries serving in those positions.      
[3] During the first 11 months of my mission, I served as the First Counselor in the Mission Presidency.  This did put me in a line position, since serving in that capacity left me as the presiding priesthood holder at any meeting I attended, except when the Mission President himself was in attendance.   However, as the First Counselor in the Mission Presidency, my mandate was only as broad as the delegation of “authority” I received from the Mission President.   Each priesthood holder holding priesthood keys has certain non-delegable duties—duties he must perform himself and cannot delegate to others.  With respect to the duties that may be delegated to others, the priesthood holder has discretion as to how much or how little he wishes to delegate such duties to counselors or others acting under his supervision.   To the extent the duties are not delegated, they are retained by the presiding priesthood leader, and he is responsible for their performance.   President Erickson assigned some specific duties to me—such as calling and releasing full-time missionaries; conducting temple recommend interviews; and extending certain priesthood callings.   President Erickson expected me to provide some oversight to the activities of the District and its branches, but for the most part he did not want me to interfere with the local leaders.   President Ericksion himself was loathe to interference with the local leaders, affording them considerable discretion in the performance of their duties.  Moreover, President Erickson retained full and complete responsibility for the conduct and training of the full-time missionaries.   They were to report and account to him alone and not to either of his counselors.
[4] Early in our mission, we watched Amos Monjeza, then the Zingwangwa clerk, work with Alex(ander) Tsegula, who was a newly-called branch mission leader.  Both of us felt he was as good a “shadow” leader as we had ever seen.   He was patient, gentle, and content to stay in the background, while still providing useful guidance and support
[5] This section is being written after we have been in Malawi for 13 months.   By now we have worked with local leaders in two branches (Zingwangwa first and Blantyre 2nd second) and two different district presidencies for the Blantyre Distirct.   When we arrived in Blantyre, President Chinyumba was the District President, assisted by his two counselors, Presidents Mwale and Matale.   In early November 2015, the District Presidency was reorganized, President Matale the former 2nd Counselor being called to serve as the new District President, and Presidents Chikapa and Chnomwe were called to serve as his First and Second Counselors, respectively.   President Chinyumba in turn was called to be the First Counselor in the Zambia Lusaka Mission, replacing me in that assignment, and he was delegated the primary portfolio for overseeing the welfare of the Church members in Malawi, working under the direction of the Mission President.     
[6] See “Church Training” above.
[7] Heb. 5: 1; 4.