We’ve often seen the epic moments of leadership when someone like Steve Jobs would take the stage to introduce a revolutionary Apple product, or a famous athletic coach leads his or her underdog team to an upset victory. But we don’t often get glimpses into the small moments that few notice – and those quiet moments often reveal what makes a great leader.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Robert R. Garnett tells the story of Admiral Chester Nimitz, who led the US Navy during the epic battle for Midway in World War II’s Pacific theater. Certainly there are plenty of stories about the tough decisions that led to that victory (which changed the direction of the war), but Garnett also mentions a small moment after the battle. As he writes:
“Three weeks later, flying to San Francisco to confer with his Washington superior, Nimitz was shaken but uninjured when his seaplane, while landing, struck floating debris and flipped over. As the capsized plane sank, he stepped aboard a small crash boat, where he stood watching rescue operations.
“Sit down, you!” the coxswain barked—before noticing, with horror, his faux pas. He stumbled out apologies.
Nimitz sat down. “Stick to your guns, sailor,” he said. “You were quite right.”
Never forget – moments like that are what reveal a great leader.