The Hidden Costs of Leadership: A Lesson from Kirby Smart

A Slice of Wisdom from Kirby Smart

Kirby Smart, head coach for the University of Georgia and architect of a thriving dynasty, has recently shared a powerful personal anecdote that offers a unique perspective on leadership. In Athens, Georgia, Smart’s leadership has won his team back-to-back National Titles in the College Football Playoff era. However, a recent discovery Smart made at his desk gave the outside world a glimpse into his personal approach to effective and impactful leadership.

The Sticky Note Lesson

As many do during a well-deserved break, Smart found himself tidying up his workspace after returning from a vacation with his family. It was during this mundane process that he stumbled upon an aged sticky note. The note held three key points that particularly resonated with him and that he had had chosen to revisit. The impactful contents of this note served as a vivid reminder of the demanding nature of leadership, especially when it involves guiding a team to victory in the competitive world of College Football.

The Real Cost of Leadership

Leadership comes with a multitude of universally recognized benefits. However, the sticky note reminded Smart of an often overlooked aspect—its cost. The note highlighted this in three succinct points. Firstly, leadership sometimes comes with the burden of having to make difficult decisions that may affect those you care about negatively. Secondly, it may also attract disapproval despite the best intentions and efforts. Lastly, it highlighted that leaders can be misunderstood without always having the opportunity to defend their actions.

Embracing the Cost

These three “costs” of leadership have been a guiding framework for Smart and his three chosen players from UGA, whom he believes exemplify this reality beautifully. The three players have learned to confront these costs without fear, fully accepting and embracing them. They have been able to recognize these challenges as not only the costs but also as the benefits of being leaders in their team.

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