Leadership Found and Fought at the Alamo

Some historians regard the Mexican defeat in the Texas Revolution as among the most influential developments in the emergence of the United States as a hemispheric and, eventually, a world power.

The Diamond6 Alamo Leadership Study offers thought-provoking insights from a battle and campaign that seem familiar—but are not generally well understood. On-the-ground study of this Revolution opens up discoveries that can benefit today’s leaders as they grapple with unpredictable change, inter-cultural influences, powerful personalities, a highly volatile environment, and competing stakeholder aims.

The chaotic conditions in Texas and Mexico in 1836 presented leaders on both sides with wickedly complex challenges. In San Antonio both groups operated at the far end of their range of influence. Misunderstandings of the situation and of the opposition’s aims and qualities forced Samuel Houston, Travis, and David Bowie on the Texian side and Santa Anna and his political and military aides on the other to guess and improvise almost every day.

For the Anglo-Tejano rebels, unexpected attacks on their legal rights, uncontrolled influx of American adventurers, and economic penalties imposed by Santa Anna’s government provoked an ill-organized, mutually suspicious resistance. Disagreements over the question of independence or reform and disputed leadership at state level put Travis and Bowie in a tough, risky position in San Antonio early in the year. Their Tejano partners, led by Navarro and Seguin, faced choices that were doubly hard. In both groups a mistaken conception of Santa Anna’s intention and abilities led them to dangerously false assumptions and compelled rebel leaders to make snap decisions that had decisive effects.

On the other side, Santa Anna saw the resistance in Texas as yet another instance in a long line of Yankee incursions into Mexico. Insecure in power and dealing with opposition in Mexico City and in other states, he had to force a quick decision. His response was ingenious in some respects but deeply flawed in others. The leadership environment he imposed on his army and government played a central part in the contest’s outcome and is notably useful for study today.

The perceptions of observers on all sides constrained their choices and created problems analogous to those that leaders face today. The neutral citizens of Mexico, the population and government of the United States, several European powers, and the Native American tribes of the region all figured in the choices that the opposing leaders had to make.

San Antonio became a decisive point for both sides, unwittingly for the rebels and deliberately for Santa Anna. In the Alamo Leadership Study, participants examine how the actions of Travis and Santa Anna brought on a crisis for both sides. Diamond 6’s expert historians and authorities on leadership theory assist them in developing new ideas about the case itself and about the application of leadership principles to current problems. Past participants from both the private and public sectors have enhanced their leader skills individually and as teams through this event.


Don Holder is an independent consultant on leadership, Joint Force and Army doctrine, and training.  As one of six Battle Command Training Program (BCTP) Senior Mentors, he coached commanders of Army corps, divisions and brigades in advanced training exercises.  He advises doctrine writers and force designers on future operations and lectures on theater operations at foreign and US service schools.