This past week, I had a chance to get some leadership training designed especially for new editors and other young leaders in news media.

I had applied in late July and was accepted to attend the American Society of News Editors’ Emerging Leaders Institute, which took place this week in downtown San Antonio. The institute is only offered four times a year in various locations around the country, so I was pretty fortunate to be able to attend one in Texas. The institute is meant particularly for folks who don’t necessarily look or sound like what a lot of people picture editors to be, but regardless of that, they have the potential to be good at the job.

I have the first part of that down pat — it’s not exactly normal for a woman to be a newspaper’s top editor. Ladies make up only about 35 percent of supervisors at any level in news media and fewer still get to sit in the chief’s chair.

Whoever was supposed to teach me to act like a normal person must have been sleeping on the job!

So I found myself zooming down I-35 this past Tuesday for a whirlwind visit to the town that’s known as the home of the Alamo. I had a grand total of about two hours of free time before I had to start preparing for the institute, and you better bet I paid a visit to the old mission grounds and museum, camera in hand.

The camera stayed off while I was inside the Alamo church structure, since it’s a memorial and needed to be respected as such. A set of displays in the apse of the church listed the names of those who perished in the fight. Undoubtedly, they felt they were defending the things that made Texas home to them: the lives of their families, the land they’d worked hard to tame, the freedom they’d come to cherish.

It struck me later as I pondered both what I saw at the Alamo and what I’d learned at the institute that those who led the Texan defenders had clearly embodied some of the qualities of leadership. They knew exactly what they were hoping to accomplish, and why, as they tried to save the Alamo. They made sure the men they led did, too. They knew what they valued and they were willing to stick to their guns, literally, to defend it.

I’m no Alamo fighter. But maybe I can at least learn from them.

Sarah Einselen is editor and general manager of the Gainesville Daily Register. Reach her at

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