Mac’s Message #14: Shadow Leadership

Mac McIntire

Mac McIntire

In your calling with the young men the Lord wants you to recede into the shadows. One of the key purposes of Scouting is to “train boys to lead boys.” The Aaronic Priesthood program is designed to help each young man to “serve faithfully in priesthood callings and fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices,” “to prepare to serve an honorable full-time mission,” and to “prepare to become a worthy husband and father.”  (Handbook 2: Administering the Church [2010], 8.1.3). Each of these roles requires leadership abilities.

Young men cannot learn to lead from behind. Your boys will become more faithful priesthood leaders, missionaries, husbands, and fathers if you give them ample opportunities to practice their leadership skills. The Young Men and Scouting programs are perfect stepping stones to missionary work. When carried out properly, these programs prepare boys to become “elders” by teaching them self-motivation, self-direction, and self-accountability—the very attributes they will need on their mission.

In the mission field nobody else plans the young man’s day. No one makes his appointments. No one checks on his daily obedience. He is responsible for himself. Young men need six years of leadership experience in the Aaronic Priesthood so when they are on their mission they can concentrate on serving the Lord rather than trying to learn what they should have learned under your tutelage.

Shadow leadership was implemented in the APMIA (Aaronic Priesthood Mutual Improvement Association) program on September 1, 1973, to better prepare young men for the future. In shadow leadership you should advise, remind, encourage, train, and mentor your boys in private. You should meet with your quorum presidency and youth Scouting unit leaders to go over rules and responsibilities, to discuss the realities of the budget, and to teach boys how to plan with a purpose.

Show your boys how to conduct effective meetings and meaningful activities that will strengthen their quorum brethren and help them face the challenges of life. Take a few minutes when activities are over to let the boys evaluate the event and determine how they can improve their leadership skills.

The boys should be the choreographers and actors of all that occurs on the performance stage in Young Men and Scouting. When you resist the temptation to take over you allow your young men to grow into the next generation of Church leaders. A young man who learns to lead and take upon himself the burdens of those he serves will strengthen his testimony as he sees the Church in action through the magnification of his priesthood calling.

Take a Moment to Reflect

  • Are you a mentor to the boys rather than a puppeteer? Are you in the shadow rather than the spotlight?
  • Do you meet with boy leaders before and after meetings and activities to help them plan and conduct successful events?
  • Have you provided your boys with the information, tools, and resources they need to be effective leaders?
  • Are you providing opportunities for your boys to improve their leadership skills by making sure they plan, conduct, and evaluate every meeting, activity, and outing?


Turn Your Reflection Into Action

  •  What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?


Wherefore, now let every [young] man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence. He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand.” (D&C 107:99-100).


 -Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and acute understanding of the Scouting program. He currently lives in Evanston, Wyoming.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

  1. Randy Sorensen says:

    Thanks Mac.
    What is the difference between shadow and servant leadership?

    1. Mac says:

      Shadow leadership is described above. It is where a Scouting leader only pops out of the shadows when there is a safety issue or a sincere need to intervene. All of the rest of the time the boys should be in charge — this includes, in many cases, unit discipline. The boys are very capable of running their Scouting unit (with, of course, direction from their adult leader using the EDGE method).

      I don’t know what you mean by servant leadership. I’m not sure I have ever heard the term “servant leadership” in reference to Scouting. However, when I teach customer service skills to the employees of my client companies I talk about having a “servant mentality,” which means the employees should serve the customers’ needs completely, as a servant would fulfill the needs of a master. This is particularly true with the 5-Star Hotels with whom I work.

      I definitely don’t believe adult Scouting leaders are there to serve the needs of the boys — for they are not the masters. Adult leaders are there to fulfill the role that has been explained in my previous blogs and which shall be explained in future blogs to come.

      When it comes to serving the Lord, however, an Aaronic Priesthood Young Men leader should bow to the will of the Lord, for he IS the Master and we are His servants.

      1. Randy Sorensen says:

        Servant Leadership is a concept that is being put forward in many Scouting activities. It is being taught at Wood Badge, NYLT, NAYLE and the Philmont Leadership Challenge. The concept was first developed by Robert Greenleaf. The theory of Servant Leadership and the EDGE method could help Aaronic Priesthood advisors magnify their callings as “Shadow Leaders”.

        1. Mac says:

          I guess I went to Wood Badge too long ago. Maybe you can explain more thoroughly your understanding of servant leadership based upon what you have heard/learned from Wood Badge, NYLT, NAYLE and the Philmont Leadership Challenged. I would be interested in learning more.

          1. Randy Sorensen says:

            Mac, I will send you a copy of the Servant Leadership presentation from NYLT. I hope it helps.

          2. Bill Chapman says:

            Mac, you are exactly right; servant leadership as taught in all the BSA materials mentioned relates to the scouts learning to gain trust as leaders by serving those they lead. The first module of “Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops” covers this principle. Although this is a BSA document, it obviously is very consistent with the gospel. “But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

            “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

            “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25–28).

        2. Mac says:

          So far, in every reference I’ve seen in doing an Internet search on servant leadership in the BSA, servant leadership applies to the boy leaders, not the adult leaders. From this I conclude that adult Scouting leaders are to use shadow leadership to help the boys to become servant leaders.

  2. Lars Evans says:

    I have a new Bishop, he never participated in Scouting. This my question/concern. I approached he this past Sunday that we needed to about implementing the Methods of Scouting and specifically the “Patrol Method” in our ward, so that our young men would have the opportunity to use and exercise there Priesthood Keys. He asked me to present him with what he called an “COE or Executive Brief” on the pros and cons of utilizing the scouting methods in our ward, and the specific steps need to implement them.
    Do you have any suggestions and or ideas?

    1. Mac says:

      Dang, this question is just a couple of weeks ahead of me. Blog message #17 is going to be about the patrol method. Email me ( and I will send it to you now.

      Also, this link will give you some good information:

      However, it sounds like your bishop wants an executive summary, which usually is a page or less. A paragraph is probably even better. Try this:

      The patrol method teaches boys to lead boys and prepares them to be leaders of men — on future missions, in Melchizedek priesthood quorums, as bishops of wards, and presidents of stakes. Through the patrol method the boys learn cooperation, collaboration, communication, decision making, problem solving, planning, organizing, delegating and numerous other skills they will need as Church leaders, whether as a youth or as an adult. The patrol method is a perfect laboratory to allow boys to experience many of the challenges they will face later in their lives as missionaries, husbands, fathers and future leaders of the Church. Boys are organized into patrols in Scouting and led by a youth leader for the very same reasons boys are organized into quorums in the Aaronic Priesthood and led by a boy who is given keys of authority from God. The purpose of the quorum, and the patrol, is to develop strong men of character and faithful priesthood holders in whom the Lord can trust. The patrol method is the testing ground to see how well a young man fulfills his stewardship to God, his country, and his fellowman.

      1. Geoff says:

        Mac: I look forward to message #17. As a new scoutmaster, your blog posts have been very helpful in affirming my resolve to run the full scouting program, not a watered-down LDS version of it. In message #17, I would be interested in a discussion about the impact of the ages of our scouts on the patrol method. A typical non-LDS troop normally has a 16+ scout as senior patrol leader, which we do not have in a typical LDS troop. I have spent a lot of time on this the last couple of weeks as I have attempted to plan out ‘my’ program. The age difference is one of the more common excuses I hear preventing full implementation of the scouting program. Thus, I look forward to some encouragement that the patrol method ‘works’ for LDS units.

        1. Mac says:

          Geoff, I hope others with more experience than me will respond to your question.

          I agree that the automatic movement of LDS boys into Varsity and Venturing units makes it almost impossible to have seasoned leadership in a patrol. Additionally, in order to give more boys leadership experience in a priesthood quorum, there seems to be a tendency to change out the quorum presidency every six months. Since the Deacon’s quorum president typically is the senior patrol leader (SPL), this diminishes the change of mature, experienced patrol leadership even more.

          My solution was to place a non-member boy in the position of SPL (with the bishop’s approval). This meant he could stay in his position as long as he was effective–and as long as the boys continued to sustain him. Unfortunately, a year later I was called to a new non-scouting position in the ward and the SPL dropped out of the troop after I left, so I don’t know how long this solution would have lasted. And I don’t know if the non-member SPLwould have been forced to move to the ward varsity unit (which was non-existent) when he turned age fourteen.

          I’m hoping we have some good discussion on this topic both here and with message #17.

        2. Mac says:

          I shouldn’t tell people the number of upcoming messages because I keep changing them. The Patrol Method is discussed in message #18.

      2. Lars Evans says:

        Thanks, for the executive Summary, it is great. Your suggesting is a good start, but he wants to know, what has to be implemented, how it would need to be implemented and when we would need to implement the changes. I am saying now, but he does not want to over burden the Leaders, by putting to much on there plate at one time.
        I also told him that we need to get our committees fully staffed so that we can relive some of that burden our leaders are under.
        FYI – I am the Committee Chair for the Troop, Team and Crew, and have been Scouting for going on 40 years.

        1. Mac says:

          The “Scouting Handbook for Church Units” says, “The bishop provides general direction for Scouting in the ward and ensures that it is properly organized and functioning as outlined in this publication and in Handbook 2 (8.13.4, 11.5.3).” (4:1). Therefore it is the bishop’s responsibility to ensure the Scouting units are organized and functioning properly, including having the boy leaders called and functioning in their quorum and Scouting leadership roles.

          Perhaps you could use the link I gave you in my previous reply to show your bishop what the patrol method entails. You could break it down into steps to show what needs to be done first, second, etc. For example, 1) Determine patrol leaders and other patrol positions; 2) Have boys determine patrol name, yell, motto, etc.; 3) Create patrol flag; etc.

          One of the purposes of having boy led units is to take the burden off of the adult Scouting leaders. Rather than overburdening the leaders with the patrol method, once the patrol is functioning properly the burden of the adults will be greatly lessened.

          Perhaps you also can help your bishop understand his role in scouting, particularly in providing “general direction for Scouting” rather than becoming too heavily involved in the minutia of the program. He should encourage the Scouting leaders to get trained and then “let every man learn his duty” and “act in the office in which he is appointed.” (D&C 107:99)


        2. JD says:


          Here is a great article that may help your cause, with your Bishop.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Vanguard Scouting