In the year 468, the crumbling Roman Empire (broken into the eastern and western halves) attempted to regain control of the Mediterranean and conquer the Vandals (the tribe whose pillaging of Roman cities gave rise to the term we still use). The expedition had over 1,000 ships and 50,000 soldiers. Unfortunately, the show of military might resulted in a great disaster when the Roman commander and later emperor Basiliscus fled in the middle of the battle, abandoning half of his troops and marking the last time the Western empire raised a great army.

About 70 years later, a general called Belisarius from the Byzantine Empire (the surviving eastern half of the Roman Empire) landed on the same shore with 15,000 men facing over 100,000 Vandals. Belisarius, possibly one of the most brilliant and lesser known generals in history, led his troops to a decisive victory, when this time the Vandals fled upon the first clash with the veteran Byzantine soldiers. Morale makes all the difference, and morale starts with having the right leadership.

It’s often an abstract concept, but we can turn the ideas about leadership into actions. Specifically, we must:

• Communicate—in other words, confront and answer difficult questions;

• Be honest and speak and act with integrity;

• Be confident and positive, since a team that does not believe in its own success is rarely successful;

• Adapt, since a crisis will require flexibility of approach and means;

• Focus on what matters the most, since a crisis often entails trade-offs that are very difficult. It is the job of leaders to determine what is most important;

• Listen and make sure that no one feels forgotten;

• Remove the bad apples (more on this later).

Leadership sets the tone for influencing both individuals and the team’s motivation.

Individual motivation and team morale can be quite different. In fact, it is very possible that a highly motivated professional acting in his or her own self-interest will damage rather than help team morale. The enthusiasm of a team is not always a sum of the parts.