|From midshipman ...|
Now, undoubtedly, combat is the final arbiter, when it comes to a clash of arms. In the end, the man in the trench has to be given due consideration on the day of battle. But, especially in modern war, events at the trench level are usually the culmination of a long progression of events and forces that begin long before the trench was dug -- and sometimes even before the trench digger was born.
Because of this, its not uncommon for a leader to play an enormous role in the eventual victory of his side, while never being close enough to hear the sound of the guns, From World War II we have the example of George C. Marshall, who was sorely disappointed when Eisenhower was picked to be Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces. FDR was convinced that Marshall did much more for the war effort as Chief of Staff -- and few doubt that FDR was entirely correct. Marshall, himself, probably realized it.
|... to First Sea Lord -- twice|
Likewise, Jackie Fisher was not at sea in 1916 when the Battle of Jutland was fought. Indeed, he wasn't even First Sea Lord any more, having been retired from the job for the second time the year before. But the British Grand Fleet at Jutland was Jackie Fisher's fleet -- as sure as it would have been if he had been on the bridge of the HMS Iron Duke himself. Admiral John Jellicoe, who was on that bridge, was Fisher's hand-picked man to lead the fleet. There was hardly a ship in the entire fleet that was more than a decade old. With the exception of a handful of older types, nearly all the ships were directly or indirectly his brainchild. The dreadnought battleships and battle cruisers were his conception. The fleets of destroyers, too. He coined the term "torpedo boat destroyer" for the new class of ships.
Circumstances prevented Fisher from ever leading a fleet into battle, but I'd rank him right along with Nelson, myself.
Adm. Chester Nimitz is another was a