I've often witnessed this in one form or another, but never quite as profoundly as in this instance. My boss, recently back from holiday, went on sick leave. The next man in charge had moved to another business area. The final obstacle was also removed, he left only a few days earlier (a contractor of similar vocation). A colleague of mine was left without a choice, he had to take charge.
What amazes me is that I've seen him work like this before. In control. Not bogged down in detail. Just doing his job. Properly. He's a project manager and when in a situation like the one described above, really does shine.
Normally this man, a very nice man with a great sense of humor and an absolute passion for delivering on his word, is usually very unfocused. Project management is possibly the last thing you would see him do. He forgets how to communicate. He tries to do everything himself. It's as if he hides within the guise of somebody else's' job - not his.
Remove the barriers and he's magnificent. But why should it take so much to reignite this man's ambition and drive? Where should we look? At him? Or at the barriers around him?
Look around you. What barriers are around the people that you work with? How can you break those down and give your colleagues the opportunity to shine?
Think about it. It may be the change in work morale you are looking for.