Which Terry Pratchett character said something like "It doesn't matter if you are right or wrong, so long as you are certain"?

I'm almost certain this isn't a Discworld character; in fact, I think it's in The Carpet People or the Bromeliad trilogy. But I can't find the quote itself online, and I don't have access to the books right now. The gist of the quote is that it's better as a leader to show your commitment to a decision than agonise over picking the perfect choice.

  • "At least you are certain when you've heard a scream" ? Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 12:13
  • No wonder I didn't recognize it. I read everything from him, except that. Commented Jun 14, 2022 at 8:58
  • 2
    @BЈовић I recommend it!
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Jun 14, 2022 at 11:20
  • It seems to be a familiar trope; I wonder if some famous general was the original source. There is a bit in Ringworld where Louis Wu smiles at Speaker making an arbitrary choice which rimwall is closer, thinking much the same thing.
    – richardb
    Commented Jun 15, 2022 at 7:10
  • This quotation reminds me of The Forbidden Planet, when Dr. Morbius says a commander doesn't need a high IQ just a good loud voice. Commented Jun 15, 2022 at 15:04

2 Answers 2


Pratchett offers a range of opinions on the subject of leadership. You're likely recalling this quote from Truckers, the first part of the Nome Trilogy

'The important thing about being a leader is not being right or wrong, but being certain. Otherwise people wouldn’t know what to think. Of course, it helps to be right as well,' the Abbot conceded. He leaned back.


There's also the Mustrum Ridcully school of thought from Reaper Man

Intellectually, Ridcully maintained his position for two reasons. One was that he never, ever, changed his mind about anything. The other was that it took him several minutes to understand any new idea put to him, and this is a very valuable trait in a leader, because anything anyone is still trying to explain to you after two minutes is probably important and anything they give up after a mere minute or so is almost certainly something they shouldn’t have been bothering you with in the first place.

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    The first quote is exactly it. The second doesn't seem close at all though?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 12:39
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    @AncientSwordRage - I was merely musing on the principles of leadership.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 12:42
  • I also like Ridcully's stand on notes/memos/essays: Everythings that is written down and not immediately shouted out is not important.
    – Erik
    Commented Jun 14, 2022 at 14:34
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    Not quite about leadership per se, but your second quote reminded me of another one of my favourite Terry Pratchett quotes: “The trouble with having an open mind is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” Commented Jun 14, 2022 at 15:15

Captain Quirke in Men at Arms:

Many people are in jobs that are a little beyond them, but there are ways of reacting to the situation. Sometimes they're flustered and nice, sometimes they're Quirke. Quirke handled them with the maxim: It doesn't matter if you're right or wrong, so long as you're definite.

  • 2
    good find. I'd have thought it was something Lord Vetinari would have said.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jun 15, 2022 at 6:25
  • 5
    Oh, but Vetinari is always right! Commented Jun 15, 2022 at 8:29

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