Leader Development: Mat Cauthon
Mat, letter in hand, leaves the Tower under pretenses of a night of gambling, with the end goal to leave Tar Valon entirely. He fills his pockets and multiple purses with gold; his luck on an incredible winning streak. Leaving his final inn for the evening, he's (poorly) pursued by footpads.
Hefting the quarterstaff, he briefly considered turning to confront them. But it was dark, and the footing on the cobblestones uncertain, and he had no idea how many there were. Just because you did wll against Gawyn and Galad doesn't make you a bloody hero out of a story. ...
Mat tensed. If they came just a few steps closer before they noticed him hiding in the deeper shadows of the corner, he could take them by surprise. He wished his stomach would stop fluttering. Those knives were a great deal shorter than the practice swords, but they were steel, not wood.
Mat, The Dragon Reborn, p. 284
Unlike the overconfidence and bluster the Black Ajah showed Nynaeve and the others in the last chapter; Mat's tilted the scales the other direction. Beating Gawyn and Galad in a practice match earlier shows that Mat has considerable skill with the quarterstaff; however, instead of rushing headlong into an unknown situation like he would have mere months earlier, he pauses to analyze and think it through. He knows his own skill level, but keeps his ego in check by making few assumptions about his opponents. Instead of turning to face them openly, he seeks opportunities to set the battlefield to his own advantage as best he can - sometimes surprise is the only option. He keeps himself focused on the overall mission, escaping Tar Valon, instead of falling victim to youthful exuberance and an egotistical desire to prove himself; thereby influencing his decision to avoid the battle to win the war. Mat's put considerable distance between his current self and the smug, snot-nosed trickster he was.