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Jim Harbaugh's Super Bowl Histrionics Hurt All Leaders - Forbes

Jim Harbaugh s Super Bowl Histrionics Hurt All Leaders Forbes


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Forbes writes:

When an analyst wrote a memo critical of your company’s financials did you tear off an item of clothing and throw it to the ground in frustration? After a stalled roll out of a new initiative forced you to recast your annual targets did you raise a PowerPoint deck above your head and slam it to the ground in front of your entire team? When you simply don’t get what you want at work do you make exaggerated faces of disbelief to express your feeling that you are being treated unfairly?

Probably not.

But if you were one of the more than 100 million Americans who watched the Baltimore Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII, you may have noticed San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh display behaviors similar to those. Perhaps you noticed his passion and emotion and didn’t think much of it; the prototypical football coach is, after all, a fiery guy who fears no one and takes on all comers. Indeed, Harbaugh’s competitive nature has swiftly lifted him to the pinnacle of his profession. Less than a decade after beginning his head-coaching career at the University of San Diego, and in his second year leading the 49ers, Harbaugh had his team competing for the sport’s ultimate prize. Perhaps, however, you thought to yourself, I don’t know many 49-year-old men who behave like that. If you were in this latter group of observers, a social psychologist might say you hadn’t had an example of such behavior available to you.

That is, not until Jim Harbaugh provided it.

Thanks to Harbaugh’s tremendous exposure as one of the central figures in one of the most watched television program of all time, you, I, and the countless leaders among us now have available to us a mental picture of how one very successful leader behaves at times of intense stress. Certainly most leaders (we hope) will not react with the same apoplectic intensity as Harbaugh when things don’t go their way, but that doesn’t mean they are free from the influence of having seen him act as he did. Now business leaders who may be inclined to lose it during challenging moments could be able to justify their behavior in a couple of different, conscious and unconscious, ways. First, very emotional leaders might simply draw on Harbaugh’s example, however extreme, of what successful leaders of high-profile organizations can and will do when they feel the circumstances dictate. That is, they have a behavioral model to they can refer to and use for guidance. They will feel their behavior is warranted and logical. Second, while most leaders shouldn’t have the same outsized reactions to events in the workplace as Harbaugh did in the Super Bowl, it is certain that his behavior serves as a standard by which they can measure their own behavior in pressure-packed circumstances. The reasoning,  again both conscious and unconscious, goes, I might have lost my temper a little , but it’s nothing compared to what some people do.Therefore, they conclude, it’s not that bad.

Actually, it IS bad to lose your cool in times of stress. Especially for leaders.

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