43 And now, whether they were overtaken by Antipus we knew not, but I said unto my men: Behold, we know not but they have halted for the purpose that we should come against them, that they might catch us in their snare;
44 Therefore what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?
Helaman’s first battle with his 2,000 young soldiers began with a moment of anxious uncertainty. The Lamanite army which had pursued them for three days had suddenly halted. Helaman could think of two possible explanations for this:
- The Nephite army led by Antipus had attacked the Lamanites from the rear.
- The Lamanites were trying to trick Helaman’s army into attacking them.
Helaman’s army was not strong enough to fight these Lamanites alone. Therefore, if Antipus’s army wasn’t there, attacking the Lamanites would result in certain defeat. But if Antipus had attacked, then he needed their help. There was no way to know.
I’m impressed with Helaman’s approach to this decision. After explaining the situation and identifying the risks, he asked, “What say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?”
Asking the opinions of these young soldiers on a decision of such urgency strikes me as an unusual approach to leadership. I’m not sure how it worked logistically, but I imagine him addressing all 2,000 of them at once to ask this question. There wasn’t time for a debate, a discussion, or a vote. It was time to decide and to act. Still, Helaman genuinely valued their opinions and wanted to know if they were willing to commit to this course of action.
I can imagine these young soldiers respecting their leader for asking these questions. I can imagine them being much more energized and confident as they entered their first battle, knowing that they were part-owners of this decision. I imagine Helaman leading them with more confidence knowing that they were aware of the risks and had committed fully to this choice.
Today, in my leadership roles, I will remember Helaman’s example of respect for the agency of those he led. Some decisions may be urgent, and others may allow for more deliberation, but either way, I will make time to assess the opinions of the people who are affected by the decision.