Ethics, Leadership, and the Alamo: Where's Your Line in the Sand?

Line in the Sand

The story of the Alamo has always captured my attention, both as a kid and as an adult.

I don’t know if this fascination grew because I have been a history buff most of my life, or if it has more to do with the spell that was cast upon me as a child by the Walt Disney movies about Davy Crockett. Business and professional meetings have taken me to San Antonio many times and each trip includes a stop at the Alamo.

The story is a powerful part of Texas history, in which this year 2011, marks the 175th anniversary of the battle and fall of the Alamo.

Leading a Gigantic Task

The task of leading the Alamo defenders fell to Colonel William Barrett Travis. It is difficult to imagine the range of emotions that he experienced as a leader….specifically as he came to the awareness of these dramatic facts:

  • They were alone in a small adobe church-turned-fort
  • Help was not coming
  • They faced certain defeat and death

When it came time to make a decision and convey it with strength and conviction, Colonel Travis stepped forward, tracing a line in the sand with his sword.  He asked the defenders to cross the line if they wanted to stay with him to fight to the end.

The  image of that moment spoke to me about leadership, courage, and making difficult choices.

Draw a Line in the Sand

I use this story to illustrate that there are times and circumstances that may require us to “draw a line in the sand,”

Or conversely, we may be faced with a situation where we may be asked to “cross a line.” While we may never be asked to respond to a request as serious as the one made by Colonel Travis, it is quite possible that we may be asked to make a choice that is quite difficult.

As much as it would be ideal, we cannot count on always having the luxury of long and careful deliberation on difficult issues. A little advanced thought and planning might help if we are ever in a tight spot down the road and charged with making a difficult choice.

Is there something we can do now about a possible future situation? I think so!

1. Keep alert and periodically check what is going on in your industry, department or workplace.

2. Make sure that you are familiar with your industry’s best practices and your organization’s code of ethics and conduct.

3. Consider, before something really serious happens, what would you do if you are asked to do something which goes against your personal code and/or your organization’s code of right and wrong.

Draw your own “line in the sand” ahead of time and keep mindful about where you stand on difficult issues.  Doing so can help to make good choices, for good reasons, on auto-pilot.

The defenders of the Alamo knew why they were there and 189 men crossed that line.  Those men crossed the line knowing they would never go home, never see their wives and children again, yet they were willing to sacrifice themselves for the future of Texas.

What’s your line in the sand? When are you going to be called to duty for a greater cause? What are you doing today, tomorrow, and beyond to prepare for your next line in the sand? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Frank Bucaro
 is President at Frank C. Bucaro and Associates, Inc. 

He is leading the crusade for ethics in business and leadership
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L2L Contributing Author

1 Comment

  1. leadingquotes on August 2, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    I also think it is really important to have firm beliefs, values, and ethics. That way when it comes to decision making, you know exactly where you stand, and your decision can be effectively and efficiently. This shows courage and leadership among your peers. I wrote about it: