General Dwight Eisenhower wrote, "Morale is the greatest single factor in successful war. Endurance comparisons with the enemy in other essential factors - leadership, discipline, technique, numbers, equipment, mobility supply and maintenance - are prerequisite to the existence of morale. It breeds most readily upon success; but under good leaders it will be maintained among troops even during extended periods of adversity. The methods employed by successful leaders in developing morale differ so widely as to defy any attempt to establish rules. One observation, however, always applies; in any long and bitter campaign morale will suffer unless all ranks thoroughly believe that their commanders are concerned first and always with the welfare of the troops who do the fighting. Any human understanding and a natural ability to mingle with all men on a basis of equality are more important than any degree of technical skill." (Crusade in Europe, 210)
Eisenhower wrote these words in reflection of the battles in Italy during WW2. America won the campaign, but there were periods when success looked bleak. Even more critical to victory than armaments and position was morale. If morale wasn’t sufficiently high, then even when conditions were favorable the men could despair and lose ground. So important was morale that the General could state emphatically, "Morale is the greatest single factor in successful war." A bold statement, and one that applies in situations far beyond the theater of war.
Think of business. How many potentially-successful businesses floundered, not because their product was inferior or their personnel and staff were deficient, but because they lacked confidence, either in their own merchandise or their own performance? A company and sales force with high morale will easily outperform a company with a far superior product that lacks a spirit of confidence and pride.
Think of church. Declining attendance, contributions and volunteers can strike at the heart of a church. "What are we doing wrong? What’s happening here? How long can we last at this rate?" Though a church has every needed resource, including structures and people, to continue to do good things in the lives of their members and community, a spirit of despair can envelop them. Declining morale will feed the continual decline of members and involvement.
Think of your own family. Like armies, businesses and church, not even families are exempt from the ravages of a negative spirit permeating the system and members. Every family has its corresponding strengths and weaknesses. Every family has its high performers, comedians, odd balls and stabilizing personalities. Somehow, they all have a place. Every family has its up and down times. Odds are, whatever family you are in right now has at least the potential to be a healthy and happy place if enough members choose for it to be. The deciding factor might be something has simple as the morale you are able to maintain in it. And we all have influence on the morale of the systems we inhabit.
The critical factor in maintaining high morale, according to General Eisenhower, is with the leadership of the system. He said, "One observation ... always applies; in any long and bitter campaign morale will suffer unless all ranks thoroughly believe that their commanders are concerned first and always with the welfare of the troops ..." In the military, the troops are the foot soldiers who face the fire and fury of the enemy. But every system has its leadership and troops. In business, church and family there are those entrusted with seeing that everyone has his place, identity and role. And we will visit more about this issue of morale in a future post. WB