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. With this seminal principal in mind, the following are sub-principles to follow when training local leaders:
(a) Senior missionaries should not take control from local leaders.
Senior missionaries should not take control from local leaders. Local leaders should understand that they, and they alone, are authorized to act within the scope of their respective callings. They should not defer or abdicate their responsibilities to others (even experienced senior missionaries). After getting advice and counsel, local leaders should make all final decisions related to their callings. Senior missionaries may teach principles, review with local leaders the Handbooks, and give counsel and advice. Often they may act somewhat as a “counselor” would act within any of the Church presidencies. But never should they act as though they have the “final say.” Instead, they should clearly point out to local leaders that they are the decision-makers and that, in making decisions, they should seek for the Lord’s guidance, after doing all they can to figure out for themselves the best course of action (which may include getting advice from senior missionaries). Senior missionaries should insist that all final decisions come from local leaders.
(b) Senior missionaries should understand that their role is that of teaching, advising and giving support.
Once it is firmly in mind that senior missionaries are not “decision makers,” it is easier to describe what they should and may do. They should teach; give advice and guidance; demonstrate how things might be done; review and distill for the benefit of local leaders principles and lessons in Church publications. They should provide support as requested and needed.
(c) Except in rare instances, senior missionaries should operate in the background, working directly with local leaders, and leaving it to local leaders to conduct meetings, give directions to members, and be the public face of the Church.
The qualifying term “shadow” in the phrase “shadow leadership” is used advisedly. Senior missionaries are to operate in the “shadows” or “in the background.” This means they are work directly with local leaders, meeting in private, to help them understand their duties in the Church. It further allows senior missionaries to be direct, when such candor is called for. Doing so allows local leaders to be trained, and on occasion corrected, without compromising their authority in the Church or standing before other members. Since senior missionaries should not take an active role in “public,” members should not be confused about who is “in control,” looking solely to local leaders for decisions and counsel.
(d) The ultimate goal of “shadow leadership” is to teach “repeatable” skills, and once they are taught, to get out of the way allowing local teachers to use the skills taught to do their duty.
Without question, the training of senior missionaries may, on occasion, be intrusive (or at least more intrusive than one might like). This may occur because local leaders are inexperienced, or new to the Church, or lacking in some basic skills, and consequently need more direction and help than they will need in the years to come after they have had more experience in the Church. A new primary president, just baptized, never having seen a primary operate, or having watched children grow up in the Church, may require extensive training. Some of the training may have to be done openly or in “public; in order to give the primary president the vision, the senior missionary may, for example, need to conduct “sharing time,” help primary children learn songs, or demonstrate how to give a lesson, with enthusiasm and enough energy to keep the kids attention. Yet even when this is necessary, a couple of key points must be remembered. First, the purpose is to teach skills—and skills are best taught by “doing” rather than watching. Hence, as soon as possible, the local leader should be entrusted to try on their own the “skill” being taught. Second, there is not “one” right way to do most things in the Church, and senior missionaries should and must tolerate deviations, as long as they are not “destructive” or clearly “wrong” or not in keeping with the order in the Church. Lastly, senior missionaries must resist being sucked into “doing” more than they should. Senior missionary should not fall in the trap of “doing the same thing,” over and over again, because the local leader is lazy, shy, uncomfortable, or absent.
(e) Public “correction” can be terribly corrosive to the authority and standing of local leaders. It should only be done when absolutely necessary to preserve the order and good name of the Church. And even then, the correction should be done in a loving way and not done to embarrass, belittle or undermine local leaders.
Senior missionaries must be very wary of publicly correcting local leaders, recognizing how embarrassing this may be for them and appreciating how it might undermine their authority. For the most part, correction can be done behind closed doors and in private settings. In privacy it will be far easier to teach the right lessons, without facing resistance that might otherwise arise due to embarrassment, bruised pride, or stubbornness. But, on occasion, it may be appropriate for senior missionaries to ask for something to be “corrected” during the course of a meeting. Examples might include requesting that a baptism be repeated because the baptismal prayer is not said properly; that a member not be confirmed upon learning that the member was not baptized by a priest or one holding the Melchizedic Priesthood; that false doctrine be publicly disavowed when no one else in the congregation steps up to comment; or and, that an excommunicated member not be permitted to perform a priesthood ordinance. Local leaders should be given a chance to correct these mistakes on their own, but if they fail to do so, senior missionaries may take action. Unlike some other Christian denominations, the Church has few ordinances, and very little of what one might think of as ritual. But as to the ordinances it does have—Church order requires that they be performed strictly in accordance with the prescribed guidelines. Hence, it is appropriate to intervene to correct the performance of these ordinances, even if it is done publicly. Such public correction sends several critical signals for members:--ordinances are so sacred and important that they must be done in the Lord’s prescribed way; and if not, they must be repeated until done properly; the Lord’s kingdom is a kingdom of order; and lastly, Church leaders should not permit others to hijack Church meetings for their own agenda as a platform for promulgating false doctrine or attacking the Church.
As noted above, even when public correction is justified, it should be done in the right spirit—conducted solely for the purpose of protecting the interests of the Church and not to embarrass, belittle or undermine local leaders. Only in the rarest occasions should it be used to admonish local leaders in the performance of their duties—such correction can generally be done privately. And even then, such admonishment should come, not from senior missionaries, but from their presiding authorities. One is reminded of the counsel found in the 121st Section of the Doctrine and Covenants: “Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase in love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.”
 D&C. 121: 43-44.