The Law of High Morale

When You’re Winning, Nothing Hurts


A winner realizes that high spirits come with winning. The mood can be so intense that it holds you up through the training, hurts, and cost associated with high-level accomplishments. High morale aids a team in doing its finest. High morale can be the difference between success and failure. When a team experiences high morale, the circumstances it is in can change, because the team can create change.


When a team is triumphant, then morale is elevated. And when morale is elevated, then the team is situated for more victories. But which comes first: elevated morale or victory? John Maxwell, leadership and teamwork expert, believes elevated morale comes first. This is because elevated morale amplifies what is constructive about a team.

  • High Morale Enhances Perception

When a whole team is upbeat and all the members believe good things about themselves, the world looks good. Training appears to progress effortlessly. Every opportunity appears to go in your favor. The small successes are enjoyable, and the large ones get you feeling unbeatable. The superstars on the team supply excellence at critical points, and even the minor members of the team appear to be performing above their typical competencies.

A time like this may be called a winning streak or a stretch of good luck, but it’s also high morale at work. For a sports team experiencing high morale, everyone is their fan. For companies with publicly traded stock, investors buy their stock. For stars in the entertainment industry, the media asks for interviews. Is the team really outstanding? Maybe not. The team could be benefitting from high morale. 

  • High Morale Creates a Boost

When a team is enjoying high morale, its members’ accomplishments reach new heights. The team sees its possibilities, not its troubles. Team members grow to be more dedicated and selfless. Their expanding confidence enables them to operate on a higher plane.

When a team has low morale, the opposite happens. Team members look at their troubles and become less dedicated and more selfish. The fans abandon the team. When a team is on a losing streak, everything hurts.

  • High Morale Creates Energy

High morale imbues a team with strength. Team members can go the extra mile. Hurdles are cleared. Tasks are completed. Passion and drive increase, and the team acquires positive momentum. 

  • High Morale Creates Freedom

Another thing that high morale gives a team is freedom. Winning produces space. A sharp team with high morale will utilize that space to take chances and test innovative ideas. The team will take the time to ask daring questions.  And seeing to these details gives a return of improvement. High morale frees up the team to attain its potential.

The Four Phases of Morale

You may already subscribe to the concept that when you’re winning, nothing hurts. What you may be wondering is how to get your team to that point. For a player’s part, the solution is to have a good attitude, at all times contribute your finest, and hold up the players and leaders on your team. If you don’t have much pull, then use your position to show excellence by example.

If you are a leader, then you have more duties. You need to use your position to show excellence by example, but you must do more. You must foster in your team the high morale and momentum of a winning team. The basics of knowing what to do can be understood in the following four phases of morale.


Phase 1: Poor Morale – The Leader Takes on All the Duties

Is anything more distasteful than being on a team that the members don’t want to be on? A team like that is typically pessimistic, slow moving and hopeless. That’s usually the attitude of a losing team.

If you are in that atmosphere, then take the following actions:

  • Study the team. Begin by tackling what is going poorly for the team. Start by correcting what’s wrong. This by itself will not lead to high morale, but at least the team won’t have reasons to have poor morale.

  • Introduce confidence. A team will transform when the team members have confidence in themselves. That confidence comes at first from you, the leader. Express confidence in yourself and your team members.

  • Generate energy. The aspiration to transform without the energy to transform discourages people. To produce positive energy on the team, you need to be that energy. Be energetic often enough, and someone on the team will pick up on it. Then someone else will. That’s how energy circulates.

  • Convey hope. “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all… As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength,” said G.K. Chesterton. The leader needs to be the strength of the team.

In phase one, the way to begin change is to be the change. As the leader, that’s your role.

Phase Two: Low Morale – The Leader Delivers Results

At first, any positive activity by the team or leader is a success. However, to generate affirming morale, a series of efforts is needed. You must be industrious in order for the team to progress.

  • The leader sets the example. Your team doesn’t want to have low morale; but it is unable to produce high morale on its own. Show the team the way. Your positive attitude will be the catalyst for the team’s turn around.

  • Build up relationships with team members of promise. For a team to develop along the right path, one or more of the team members has to have potential. Develop a relationship with that team member or those team members. If your team lacks producers, acquire some and begin with them. Start out with small expectations. Leaders stir a heart, then ask for performance; it’s important to start by developing relationships.

  • Establish little triumphs and discuss them with the team. What aids people in increasing in competence and sureness is to acquire some little victories. All that is what you want to bring to your team. Again, start with the team members with the most promise. The assurance gained from the little achievements of these team members will rub off on less skilled team members.

  • Impart vision. The Law of the Compass comes into play here. Vision provides team members guidance and self-assurance.

As soon as the team is advancing forward, then the leader can command.

Phase Three: Moderate Morale – The Leader Must Work Hard

It’s a victory to consolidate the team and shift it out of negative morale. But to move it in a positive direction requires a strong leader willing to take action. To reach the goal of high morale, a leader needs to:

  • Effect adjustments that improve the team. You may have read my blog on the Law of the Chain that explains that leaders sometimes need to make difficult choices. Leaders are tasked to diminish the harm a team member may deliver because of lack of talent or a poor mindset. Leaders boost the value of team members by situating them in their most suitable niches. Many times these arrangements necessitate difficult decisions.

  • Obtain the cooperation of team members. Simply sharing vision with the team isn’t enough. The team members must want to cooperate with the leader. To develop higher morale, that needs to happen. Each team member must decide in favor of you as the leader, accept the team’s values and mission, and line up with your expectations. If you can make all that happen, you will be in a position to drive the team forward.

  • Convey dedication. Displaying dedication to the team’s vision is one element of convincing people that you are leading them. People accept the leader first, the vision second. When you dependably show superior ability, exemplary virtue, and steadfast dedication, you have established the groundwork for your team members to cooperate.

  • Grow and outfit members for victory. High morale is the ultimate success builder. A large number of people are unable to succeed by themselves. They need assistance, and so they need a leader. If you empower your people by growing them, you aid them and the team to move towards victory.


Phase Four: High Morale – The Leader Must Have a Light Touch

In phase four, your role as a leader is to sustain high morale and momentum in your team.

  • Sustain the team’s engagement and direction. High morale precedes success and success sustains morale. You can see why there’s value in keeping team members engaged and going in the right direction. If team members disengage or go astray, then the successes will disappear. So, making room for corrections to stay on course is important.

  • Enjoy successes. Understanding what they’re doing well improves people’s chances of continuing to do well. You can facilitate that by announcing the team’s victories. What boosts morale is grabbing success and then enjoying it.

  • Take away morale reducers. Momentum is a leader’s ally. That’s why it’s important to shield the team from matters that will damage the team.

  • Permit leaders on your team to lead. When a leader grooms teammates to lead and then allows them to do so, that brings about two advantages. First, the leader is making new leaders for the team. These leaders will start off well when a team is experiencing high morale. Second, the leader is creating more success for the team by increasing the number of leaders. More leaders equal more success. And that creates a positive cycle of victories that strengthens the team’s high morale.

The development of high morale requires time, so as a leader you need to sustain yourself through the progression of phases. But it’s worth it, because when you’re winning, nothing hurts.

Being a Better Team Member

To obtain the benefits of the Law of High Morale, don’t wait for high morale to happen. That’s not how it works. Action comes first, then the elevated feelings. Begin with carrying out your responsibilities in a quality manner. Your commitment and passion will better your performance – and will enthuse some of your teammates.

Being a Better Leader

If you are the leader of a team, begin by assessing the phase of morale your team is in:

  • Poor morale: The team is losing and is discouraged.

  • Low morale: The team is somewhat positive, but for the most part is fragmented and unsure of itself.

  • Moderate morale: The team has some wins. Difficult determinations need to occur to take the team to the next level.

  • High morale: The team is performing near its highest capability, it’s having a winning season, and it just needs slight adjustments to keep it progressing.

After you’ve assessed the phase your team is in, use the strategies in this blog post to bring the team to the next phase.

The ideas in this blog post were taken from John Maxwell’s book, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork.