Kirby Smart speaking into a microphone

The Cost of Leadership

Solidarity Sunday: The Cost of Leadership

I once asked one of the business managers we work with who I consider to have natural leadership skills what the biggest difference between the time he was running for office and after he was elected. "I thought I had a lot more friends", he replied.

Leadership is difficult. But as leaders in your local union you were well-liked enough to get elected or be appointed to your current position. Somewhere along the line, someone saw a leadership quality in you, or you wouldn't be where you are. You are a leader because you have followers.

Within our local unions, there are all sorts of opportunities to develop those skills, to lead committees, councils, and caucuses. Leadership is talked about at nearly every conference we attend. Moreover, there is also no shortage of material you can read/watch/listen to help you further develop those leadership skills. The list of podcasts, articles, books, and seminars on leadership is endless, and you may even have a favorite. I know I do. "Leadership" as a business book category dwarfs all other titles by a long shot. Amazon currently sells 57,136 books with the word "leadership" in the title alone.

Most talk about the strategies, techniques, tactics, but few talk about the cost of leadership.

Two-time national championship coach Kirby Smart, a great leader by anyone's measure, put it this way when addressing the media earlier this year:

"I think anyone can tell you the benefits of great leaders. Anybody can tell you what it looks like. They can tell you what leadership can do for you. They can tell you how to develop leadership.

"But you won't see, and what you will never see, is people talk about the costs of leadership and costs associated with leadership. If we truly want to be honest and up front about leadership, you can't ignore the costs of leadership."

Great leaders are willing to accept these costs:

  1. You will have to make hard decisions that negatively impact people you care about.
  2. You will be disliked despite your best attempt to do the best for the most
  3. You will be misunderstood and won't always have the ability to defend yourself"

In short, great leaders make decisions and decisions have consequences. Despite that, they lean in. They take risks, both great and small. That's why your members elected you or your administration appointed you. Your fellow members are looking for you to lead them. Yes, you will be criticized. You won't always be appreciated. But that's the cost of leadership.

Communication is Leadership

Part of effective leadership is transparent communication. How consistently are you communicating with your members outside of your normal union meetings? One effective way is through our digital newsletters. They deliver relevant information to your members with a clean, crisp, well-organized design, that has a positive reflection on your administration. They also allow others in your administration to show their face in front of your membership body every month, and our analytics reports show you how many people read it, what they are paying attention to, and how up-to-date your contact database is.


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