There is no more an enduring leadership quotation than British Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson’s message to his sailors and marines as they faced the enemy in 1805 in the Battle of Trafalgar: “England expects that every man will do his duty.” Nelson did not command the guns to be aligned or direct any of the usual preparations of battle. Rather, as a great leader, his goal was to make other men rise above themselves. It was my standing guidance at the Pentagon.
This year, as we begin our observance and celebration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, it is useful to bear in mind that the Royal Navy’s supremacy at sea at Trafalgar would soon come into doubt with the spectacular victories of ships of the young U.S. Navy such as the Constitution, United States, Hornet, and Wasp. Those victories were quite astonishing. It is remarkable that the most powerful navy in the world in 1805, having handily vanquished the number-two French and number-three Spanish, was then losing to an unranked opponent less than ten years later.