Make us your home page
Instagram

San Francisco 49ers coach a picture of leadership

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, center, watches as quarterback Colin Kaepernick, left, and tight end Vernon Davis run a play during practice Wednesday in New Orleans as they prepare for Super Bowl XLVII.

Associated Press

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, center, watches as quarterback Colin Kaepernick, left, and tight end Vernon Davis run a play during practice Wednesday in New Orleans as they prepare for Super Bowl XLVII.

On the football field he's a superstar coach, but in business school classrooms Jim Harbaugh is an MBA MVP. Leaders from the boardroom to the battlefield can steal a page from Harbaugh's playbook, experts say, because the fiery head coach of the San Francisco 49ers displays universal leadership traits that work equally well off the field.

"There are different styles and approaches to managing different situations and different types of people," said Chester Spell, who teaches organization and management at San Jose State University. "But showing people that you care and understanding the work and getting out of the way are qualities of most good leaders."

At Santa Clara University, leadership professor Barry Posner uses Harbaugh as an example for his MBA students of the kind of leader who uses his intensity to fire up those around him and isn't afraid to make tough decisions — whether it's sticking with troubled place-kicker David Akers or replacing quarterback Alex Smith with the untested Colin Kaepernick.

"The stuff we're teaching about leadership isn't just about sports," Posner said. "It applies in families. It happens in volunteer organizations."

Harbaugh is clearly confident in his leadership skills, which he demonstrated as an NFL quarterback and as a college coach in San Diego and at Stanford before taking over the head coaching job with the 49ers in 2011.

"Harbaugh very clearly has a strong sense of who he is," said Bill Reckmeyer, a former college point guard and lacrosse player who is now a professor of leadership and systems at SJSU. "While I don't know what goes on in the locker room, it's also clear that his players have an awful lot of respect for him. If people are willing to run through a brick wall for you, there is really good leadership going on. If not, you have bad morale and passive-aggressive behavior."

Posner said Harbaugh also keeps his team focused on success by demonstrating "what we call 'inspiring a shared vision' and getting people to think about winning the Super Bowl."

But he has not shied away from making tough decisions in the public arena, such as sticking with the change in quarterbacks even after Smith recovered from the concussion that knocked him out midway through this season. Or his decision to stick with Akers.

"Leaders recognize that it's all sitting on their shoulders, and they're willing to stand up and say, 'I'm going to make a judgment,' " Reckmeyer said. "He's working as a leader and not as a manager and certainly not as an administrator."

That kind of confidence will help the leaders of any volunteer group, company or organization.

"In a situation where teamwork is of the essence — whether it's a community organization like a PTA or an academic setting or a corporate boardroom — Harbaugh's leadership style is transferable to almost every situation," Reckmeyer said.

But how would Harbaugh's fiery outbursts on the sidelines play in the corporate world or at a PTA meeting?

"It's the passion that matters," Reckmeyer said. "Ultimately people are really attracted to people who are really passionate about what they are doing."

Spell agrees.

Harbaugh's angry reaction to referees' calls "shows the people he's leading that he cares. He's showing that he wants this as badly as the players do," Spell said. "But it's not about whether you're fiery or not. What's important is showing the people you lead that you care."

Successful leaders can be quiet or loud, or anything in between.

The key to successful leadership, Reckmeyer said, "is realizing that it's all about people, people, people."

Reckmeyer especially admires the slogan that Harbaugh introduced last season to unite and inspire the 49ers, asking his players, "Who's got it better than us? Nobody."

But Posner is even more impressed by the displays of respect that Harbaugh shows for his players.

"Leadership's a personal relationship," Posner said. "Leaders take us to places we've never been to before. By building up people's confidence, Harbaugh paints a picture of how we get from here to there."

Lessons in leadership

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh displays successful leadership traits that can be emulated across a wide range of organizations, such as:

• Making decisions and taking responsibility for them.

• Giving credit to his players in public while presumably dispensing criticisms in private.

• Inspiring passion among his players with his sideline outbursts.

• Understanding the difference between leading the 49ers and simply managing them.

• Offering his players a unified vision of where he wants to take them.

San Francisco 49ers coach a picture of leadership 02/02/13 [Last modified: Friday, February 1, 2013 11:56am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Study: Florida most friendly state for retired veterans

    Working Life

    Florida is the nation's best state for military retirees looking for somewhere to settle. That's according to a study released Monday by WalletHub which rated Florida the most friendly when it comes to economic factors, quality of life and health care.

    Veterans watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during training camp in 2016. Florida is the most friendly state for retired veterans according to a new WalletHub study. | LOREN ELLIOTT, Times
  2. Department store chain from Puerto Rico coming to University Mall

    Retail

    TAMPA — Grand's, a department store chain from Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in September.

    Grand's, a department store chain from n Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in Tampa in September. Coloring rendering of revamped University Mall.
[CBRE Group]
  3. Bistro 60 offers inviting buffet in surprising location on Adamo Drive

    Business

    While many families scrambled to find a brunch option that didn't have a line out the door and a long wait so mom could enjoy her special day earlier this week, a new posh eatery boldly entered the local market in time for its first Mother's Day buffet.

    The Bistro 60 at the Clarion Hotel on E Adamo Drive features three bars, including a well-lit one inside.
  4. AP Source: Ford replaces CEO in push to transform business

    Autos

    DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. is replacing CEO Mark Fields amid questions about its current performance and future strategy, according to a person familiar with the situation.

    Ford Motor Co. President and CEO Mark Fields speaks during a media preview of the 2018 Lincoln Navigator at the New York International Auto Show in New York in April 2017. Ford is replacing its CEO amid questions about its current performance and future strategy, a person familiar with the situation has said. Fields will be replaced by Jim Hackett, who joined Ford's board in 2013. [Associated Press]
  5. St. Petersburg hopeful Congress will add a NOAA facility, research vessel to downtown waterfront

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city's efforts to energize its downtown port could get a big boost from the federal government.

    There is vacant land next to SRI International, 450 Eighth Ave. SE, that could be the site of a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration center in downtown St. Petersburg.