He's Special Forces.
I was talking to an acquaintance (hi, Phillip!) who used to be peripherally involved in special forces. He made the case that, while most of the corps are good soldiers, Hal is more. Hal is a Special Forces guy.
The argument made sense to me. Like a Special Forces member, Hal can turn the "GL/soldier" persona off and on in a split second. In fact, he was like that in his earliest appearances and as Geoff Johns writes him. Similarly, while other soldiers are overly dependent on regulation, orders, and their weapons, Hal's an out-of-the-box thinker. Face it, Hal's as likely to hit you in the face as use his ring. He caught me off guard with the tactic of using the Shark against Gremlins in his last issue!
You want other evidence of independent and lateral thinking? Hey, it was Hal who colored outside the lines and figured out he could use his ring to take over Oa. Anyone of the GLs could have; but only Hal thought of it. People think what Hal did as Parallax was out of character. In some ways, it was precisely IN character. Hal is the Coriolanus of the Corps, which makes Sinesto, the other Corps "free-thinker", a perfect foil for Hal.
- John Stewart? Willful, but too weapon-dependent, too rigid a thinker. That's what led to the Unfortunate Incident on Xanshi. Engineers color between the lines.
- Guy Gardner? Has too much trouble staying in between the lines. Can't turn his GL persona on and off. An attack dog is not a police dog.
- Kyle Rayner? A bit too focused on the light show, I think, to use his ring too efficiently. And totally unable to balance his superhero life with his personal life, something Hal did almost casually.
Since Hal likes boxing (or, at least, the gloves) so much, look at it this way....
- John Stewart is the thinking man's efficient boxer. He's not going to do anything his opponent doesn't expect; he plans on winning by simply being better than you are.
- Guy Gardner is the palooka. Big, strong boxer with long arms who doesn't bother with finesse because he'd rather just knock your block off.
- Kyle Rayner is the dancing, weaving, bobbing boxer. He'll distract you with fancy footwork and creative attacks, then take advantage of your dizziness to knock you out.
Hal? All of the above, from one moment to the next. That's why people think he's better.