For them, a wooden staff is a symbol of leadership, not because their leaders hold it high above everyone else’s heads to lord the law over them and abuse the power they have, but because it’s a sign of the burden they carry. They’re expected to shoulder the problems of everyone they lead, and thus the staff helps them support such a weight.
An ideal leader’s back is bent, not from old age, but from wisdom. A chosen leader’s staff buds and blooms, because in the presence of a chosen leader, even dead things can come to life.
So when the followers start believing that they’re all going to die because they’re not good enough as followers, the chosen leader thinks they’ve lost the meaning of what their relationship represents, because while it’s true that he can give the dead, wooden staff life, it’s the staff that supports him and his wisdom, so if that wisdom then turns into folly or is treated as such, then they’ll all fall down.
It’s a tenacious relationship at best, but maybe, just maybe, if leaders and followers alike are willing to work hard, then things will eventually fall into place, and happiness will slowly pile up like the trickling of sand into a box.