In C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian, there’s a Dwarf named Trumpkin who is very important to the story. He’s presented as a cooperative and wise leader–happy to follow Prince Caspian, even when he disagrees with the plan.
These are difficult moments in leadership and followership. We’d like to make decisions by consensus–but also recognize the inefficiency and impracticality of making all of our decisions by consensus. So we delegate power, elect and hire leaders, and streamline the process of decision making so that we can get things done.
As terrible it seems to have to obey what seems like a foolish order–possibly a fool’s errand–most of the time, I think it’s worse to have to issue those orders in the midst of risk and uncertainty.
The best followers have some sense of empathy for the leader’s difficulty–and do their best to follow as they would like to be followed.
The best leaders are humble enough to recognize the wisdom in their followers–to heed their advice whenever they can–and to loathe fools’ errands.
In this stunning scene, Trumpkin doesn’t like Prince Caspian’s–now King Caspian’s–plan. He’s already said so. The King is asking for a volunteer to run an important errand. One of the other officers–who also thinks the plan is crazy–flatly refuses. Trumpkin gets upset and makes this amazing speech:
“Thimbles and thunderstorms!” cried Trumpkin in a rage. “Is that how you speak to the King? Send me, Sire, I’ll go.”
“But I thought you didn’t believe in the Horn, Trumpkin,” said Caspian.
“No more I do, your Majesty. But what’s that got to do with it? I might as well die on a wild goose chase as die here. You are my King. I know the difference between giving advice and taking orders. You’ve had my advice, and now it’s the time for orders.”
“I will never forget this, Trumpkin,” said Caspian.
If you’ve ever had followers follow you into a situation where the outcome was uncertain, where you had to go against their advice, and they respond in this way–you’ll never forget it either. It’s super humbling to lead such amazing people. And as a follower, recognizing that my leaders are often in this kind of bind–I’m challenged to respond with Trumpkin’s humble courage.