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The Spirit of Strike – Morale and Vision

In part one I explored the importance of team cohesion and unit identity in Strike Brigades. In this post I will outline why the British Army must nurture its new brigades during the experimentation phase, why it must guard its Strike Units morale and finally,  the significance of a clear vision for Strike.

“Determination to succeed in the purpose for which the individual is trained, or for which the group exists.” – US Army Definition of ‘morale’ during World War One

Strike will generate a demanding environment to operate in and the development of cohesion within this environment is essential but, to be successful, Strike units must also maintain morale throughout tactical actions.  Shibutani[1] defines the characteristics of a unit with high morale as “when [an organised group] performs consistently at a high level of efficiency, when the tasked assigned to it are carried out promptly and effectively.”  In order to achieve this state, every individual member’s morale must be high enough to achieve the levels of enthusiasm and persistence towards the activities of the unit.  This is possible if the unit’s purpose is clear, understood and believed by the team; this is difficult during any period of experimentation and therefore an early threat to the morale of a Strike unit will be the transition from experimentation.

With the likelihood of delay in the trails for equipment and capabilities, the Strike concept will remain unproven and risk damaging morale.  We therefore must focus on the messaging of the purpose, to further develop identity and belief in the cause, and create the conditions for individuals morale to grow.  To do this, soldiers must be at the forefront of the experimentation and understand the important role they play in the Strike enterprise.  The reward will be a workforce that has faith in the Strike concept.  Once this confidence is achieved, it will unlock soldiers’ enthusiasm towards a goal, a role and self-development.  Malone[2] stresses the importance of self-development because he believes that progression, during training, has a central role in morale “The wise leader will ensure not only that training is realistic, but also that his soldiers grow accustomed to success because nothing succeeds like success in building confidence.”  As soldiers are given the opportunity to succeed and experiment, through failing and retraining, they will progress, be happy, and more likely to form a cohesive unit that is able to handle the demands of the Strike concept.  To maintain morale, in a difficult operating environment, the Strike brigade must start acting and feeling more like a regimental family, caring for wellbeing as much as training.  Then and only then should commanders expect loyalty to the Strike purpose; a purpose that must be communicated clearly to the team, individual, and the families.

“…not numbers or strength bring victory in war; but which ever army goes into battle stronger in soul, their enemies generally cannot withstand them” – Richardson RM – Fighting Spirit

Our people win wars and we need to make sure the leadership of our people is taken into consideration when developing the Strike concept.  Success on operations is dependent on the human element to a greater degree than equipment or tactics. Without leadership, the Strike conceptual, physical and moral components will unravel when tested at war.  A clear ‘Strike vision’ for the leaders to handrail may be the answer.  The holistic approach to experimentation will enhance the understanding across the ranks of the strike concept, but the Strike leaders have the responsibility to sell the Strike vision.  They themselves must totally buy into the Strike concept and preach the vision of a professional outfit that they are proud to belong to, fight for and die for.  This ethos will set the conditions for the vision to manifest into an ‘image’ once the Strike experimentation phase is completed.   A strong Strike image and ethos will work both ways, towards the enemy and at home.  The enemy will avoid a fight with a unit that is perceived to be motivated, unbeatable and professional.  At home, the families of Strike personnel will also support and endorse a unit that they believe has purpose and will look after its members.  Simon Sinek[3] believes that military leaders are the best in the world because compared with commerce; they simply care more about their people than themselves. He explains that,

Leaders should take the risks first, they should eat last, they should sacrifice so their people feel safe, and so that their people can gain. When they do this, the natural response of their people is that they trust, and are willing to sacrifice for the good of the leader’s vision.  And then they can say that they did what they did because their leader would have done the same for them”.

The challenge for leaders within Strike units is to capitalise on the common military trait of trust by providing belief of a vision before there is evidence or an image.  The answer is a simple one for me: we must find a way to care, protect and support our soldiers in the design of the Strike concept regardless of the tactics, situation or logistic dilemmas.  This will allow leaders to trust the concept and promote Strike to their soldiers and families.

During an austere, and often negative, period it should be seen as an exciting time to be involved in the conceptual modernisation of the Army, particularly the experimentation of Strike.  The opportunities are limitless through critical thinking, innovation and experimentation in an otherwise financially limited world.  As General George Patton Jr said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what you want to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”  As we develop and work through the tactical and physical elements of the Strike concept we would be careless to not link the core purpose of Strike with a ‘Spirit of Strike’.  A Strike Brigade will only be as strong as its cohesion, people and leadership.


[1] Shitbutani TI.  The Derelicts of Company K: A sociological study of Demoralization.  Berkeley, Calif: California Press; 1978.

[2] Malone DM.  Small Unit of Leadership, Novato, Calif : Presidio, 1983.

[3] Simon Sinek.  TED Talk: https://tedsummaries.com/2014/07/09/simon-sinek-why-good-leaders-make-you-feel-safe/

The views expressed within individual posts and media are those of the author and do not reflect any official position or that of the author’s employees or employer. Concerns regarding content should be addressed to hi@wavellroom.com

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British Army

Andy is currently serving.  He has served in a variety of Units in Germany and the UK, as well as on the staff at a Divisional HQ. He has completed two HERRICK tours and has attended an Overseas Staff College.

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