Leadership Principle #6 – Build Teamwork and Cohesion

Building a confident, cohesive, effective team is the goal of every leader worthy of the title.  “High morale” is military shorthand for this state.  “Low morale” is a dangerous thing and should be a warning sign to any leader.  “Morale” is not just about mood or temperament.  A soldier can be cold, wet, miserable and scared and still possess “high morale”.  Conversely, a well fed, well rested, well paid soldier can suffer from low morale.  This is true in any context, not just the military.

Field Marshal Viscount Slim of Burma, Commander of the UK’s 14th Army during the Second World War observed that “Morale is a state of mind.  It is that intangible force which will move a whole group of men to give their last ounce to achieve something, without counting the cost to themselves; that makes them feel they are part of something greater than themselves.”  Morale, therefore, is not about circumstances, it’s about a purpose that transcends circumstances.  Viktor Frankl, the great psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor, wrote “What man actually needs is…the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him, the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

Slim (writing many years ago when the masculine pronoun was used to refer to men and women collectively) considered the following to be essential to high morale:

1.  Spiritual

a.  There must be a great and noble object.

b.  Its achievement must be vital.

c.  The method of achievement must be active, aggressive.

d.  The man must feel that what he is and what he does matters directly towards the attainment of the object.

2.  Intellectual

a.  He must be convinced that the object can be attained; that it is not too out of reach.

b.  He must see, too, that the organization to which he belongs and which is striving to attain the object is an efficient one.

c.  He must have confidence in his leaders and know that whatever dangers and hardships he is called upon to suffer, his life will not be lightly flung away.

3.  Material

a.  The man must feel that he will get a fair deal from his commanders and from the army generally.

b.  He must, as far as humanly possible, be given the best weapons and equipment for the task.

c.  His living and working conditions must be made as good as they can be.

Do you lead a confident, cohesive, effective team?  Do they enjoy high morale?  Ponder those questions for a moment.  If the answer is “no”, then why is this the case?  Can you, as their leader, correct the problems that are leading to low morale?  If you can’t (corporate compensation policies, for example, may be “above your pay grade”) then what changes are within your power?  Do those that you lead have a “noble purpose” or are they simply there because they have to be?  If they don’t have a “noble purpose”, how can you, as their leader, help them to find one?

Hard questions, but then nobody ever said that being a leader was easy!  Would you like a thinking partner? Let’s talk about it!