The leader’s best friend - momentum

Have you ever seen a so-so team play an unusually good game?

It catches you off guard – you think to yourself, “Wow! They really came out in full force today.” You rarely hear about this team doing so well, but that day, they were peak performers. It reminds you of that saying, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

There are other times, though, when a great group of players have the worst game ever. Maybe something feels weird with their chemistry and they are just not working in sync. Maybe they are having an “off day,” but whatever it is, it is not serving them well.

It may seem like a fluke, but really, both teams are experiencing the effects of momentum.

Inspired by a series of wins, an average team can play beyond their level of skill. The positive energy makes the team greater than the sum of its parts and the players work with great synergy. But a streak of “bad luck” can sap the life out of even the most talented team.

Newton’s first law of motion says that an object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion. In other words, momentum, or lack of it, keeps things going how they’re going.

The same is true for leadership.

For better or worse, a team’s recent energy flows into and impacts their future performance. As Dr. John Maxwell writes in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,

“Momentum is the great exaggerator.”

When life is good, life is really good; when it is not good, it is really not good.

Momentum is the power behind you, pushing you in a certain direction. It is like the current your team is swimming in; moving against it feels almost impossible, but moving with it propels you forward faster than you could ever go on your own.

But unlike the current, momentum is within the leader’s control – and responsibility – to create.

I have talked in other emails about the central role of a leader. Dr. Maxwell says that everything rises and falls on leadership.

In fact, the leader’s importance to the organization is described in the same list of irrefutable laws of leadership. Irrefutable Law #1: an organization cannot exceed the leadership capacity of its leader.

All this illustrates that the leader sets the tone for those he or she leads. You must initiate the atmospheric change you want to see in your organization – if your momentum is keeping you back, you can and must change it!

But that leads you to the question, how does someone change the momentum in their organization? 

Motivation is foundational to momentum. Most leaders know that they must show their employees that the leaders know the value of their people, but the timing with which they do it can throw off their momentum.

Many leaders celebrate after a big win. Maybe they will throw a party to punctuate a season of hard work, or maybe they will give the office a paid day off to relax. 

Instead, keep going. If you are winning, keep winning. Reward the success, but then move in the direction the power behind you carries you.

“Celebrate” when things are not going well. Sabotaging energy should be met with empowering energy. Take a step back and do some things to improve morale. Remind your team what is great about them. Recognize their role in the grander vision. Praise their effort and give them some motivating perspective. Then, watch the atmosphere shift.

That’s all for now.

Until next time,


P.S. Looking for more detail on the power of momentum? Join me on 7 February at 12 PM CET for Leading on Mondays! I will be discussing this leadership law live on LinkedIn. Discover some insights on what momentum is, how it works, and how you can build it in your organization.

I’ll also be featuring a special teaching from Dr. John Maxwell himself – so don’t miss the next Leading on Mondays!