[September 24, 2021] In the history of warfare, many examples show that a large, heavily armed military force was defeated by a small, under-resourced opponent. The difference has always been the level of morale in the force that won on the battlefield. The idea that morale is everything can be applied to all organizations and is why leaders focus so much of their efforts on keeping morale high.
“The morale is to the physical as 3 to 1.” – Napoléon Bonaparte
Through the ages, a basic rule of warfare has been that morale of the troops is a major factor in victory. It is no surprise that militaries worldwide devote a considerable part of their efforts to boost morale at every opportunity. For example, the U.S. Army spends over $50 million each year on “positive psychology” efforts through a resilience program to increase morale.1 The effort is not working well, according to a recent report and senior leaders are concerned about the downward trend in troop morale.
“War is not only a matter of equipment, artillery, group troops or air force; it is largely a matter of spirit, or morale.” – Chiang Kai-shek
Napoleon Bonaparte, Chiang Kai-shek, and the many senior military leaders of our time have recognized the importance of morale in their fighting forces. But, of course, morale of the worker is just as crucial in any business or organization. Keeping worker morale up is done through many means, but one sure way is to project a positive future image. To have high morale means that the wheels of an organization will keep turning smoothly.
There are many techniques to boost morale. Good leadership is the starting point. Effective communication, positive feedback and compassion, encouragement, incentives, and ensuring professional growth prospects are some of the classic methods that work. Not just anybody can help boost morale because it requires effort, skill, and resources to make it work … and it takes a hard-nosed leader.
A grizzled old sergeant, who’d spent six tours of duty in Vietnam as an Infantryman, told me once that “the secret to kicking the enemy’s butt is esprit de corps in the ranks.” Of course, he was telling me in his way that morale is more important than objectives, more critical than supplies, and is even more important than leaders. As long as morale remains high, it is impossible to lose.
For success, morale is everything.