Sam Houston: A Study in Leadership

By Strus, Lt Col Katherine | Air & Space Power Journal, Summer 2018 | Go to article overview

Sam Houston: A Study in Leadership


Strus, Lt Col Katherine, Air & Space Power Journal


Sam Houston: A Study in Leadership by Bill O'Neal. Eakin Press, An Imprint of Wild Horse Media Group, (http://www.eakinpress.com), P. O. Box 331779, Fort Worth, Texas 76163, 2016, 270 pages, $19.95 (softcover), ISBN-13: 978-1-68179-037-4.

"Remember the Alamo" was a phrase I heard when studying and taking field trips to the Alamo. A few decades later, a sense of pride overwhelms me when pondering how in "October 1835 . . . Gen Santa Anna and an invading army were bombarding the Alamo" (p. 99). During the same month 181 years later, I humbly led my 700th US national anthem in front of this historic mission for the Team Red, White, and Blue "Old Glory Relay."

The description of the gallant defense, defeat, and rallying cry of Gen Sam Houston resulted in Texans declaring independence on 2 March 1836, and the defeat of Santa Anna less than two months later. Today's global conflicts may overshadow these and other events in our nation's history; however, the leadership lessons and behaviors mentioned in the biography Sam Houston: A Study in Leadership remain relevant for today's and future leaders.

Mr. O'Neal, the state historian of Texas, is a prolific and eloquent storyteller. Dedicated to his art, he documented General Houston's journey in a literary and pictorial format that included inserting his photographs in the book. An in-depth scholar, Mr. O'Neal provides a robust bibliography and leadership influence overview to help readers explore the general's continuous personal and professional growth.

Much of the book predates the United States of America, the War Department, (that is, the present-day Department of Defense [DOD]), and airpower. However, the rich leadership lessons, resilience, and characteristics of General Houston make this book a must-read for anyone who has doubted themselves, desires to enhance their leadership skills, has made a leadership mistake or two, or endeavors to strengthen their resilience.

General Houston embodied "integrity," "service before self," and "excellence in all we do." These were characteristics ingrained in him by his parents and Sam wished to emulate his military hero father. Because of his curious, live outside-the-box nature, Sam lived with a Cherokee tribe as a Cherokee. His charisma and ability to make friends resulted in him being called "the Raven, a Cherokee symbol of good fortune" (p. 7).

This name was prophetic because more than once General Houston was severely wounded on the battlefield but continued to lead from the front. He made what some in his command deemed bad leadership decisions, and they sought to undermine him. Understanding the depth of leadership, the general adapted his leadership style to complete the mission and developed options to include even those with dissenting opinions.

General Houston made a transactional decision to not consult with his leaders and take the burden on himself when he directed a strategic retreat from Santa Anna's Mexican Army. …

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