In the 17th and 18th century when the British and French fleets clashed for control of the English channel and control of the Mediterranean Sea, the British inevitably came out the victor. Why was that? What was the secret of the British warships under the command of Admiral Nelson and other storied sailors?
Alfred T. Mahan in his famous book The Influence of Sea Power Upon History suggests it was because the French insisted that all the captains take orders from the admiral in his flagship. The French captains used flags to communicate with their commander. The English trained their captains to think for themselves and to adjust to the changing conditions of battle—shifts of the wind, vision blocked by the smoke of belching cannons, unexpected losses, unanticipated opportunities, and the rest of it. The English admiral set the overall strategy, but understood that his well-trained captains, in the heat of battle, had to make it work.