Why Jim 49ers' Harbaugh Would Make a Good CEO

If football doesn't work out, there's always tech.

By Scott Budman
|  Friday, Jan 20, 2012  |  Updated 9:52 AM PDT
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If football doesn't work for Jim Harbaugh there is always Silicon Valley.

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Is a good coach like a good CEO?

We know, thanks to Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers, that a mediocre team, can, without changing much of the personnel, become great with a new leader in charge.  One change at the top, and a sad sack turns into a championship contender. 

But how?

Nancy Ross knows how.  She's an executive coach.  Usually in the employ of Silicon Valley technology companies, Ross says a good leader can alter the landscape of a football team, just like it can alter the landscape of a struggling company.  "He or she has to get what's really going on there," Ross says, "and then, it's all about whether people working for the executive have confidence in that person."

It doesn't always work, of course.  Dynamic, passionate leaders come and go in the sports world, just like they do in executive boardrooms.  But, Ross says, when people really believe in the message and the process, things can change in a hurry.  Ross says when a new leader takes over, you'll know within 30 days if the troops are buying in.

During Harbaugh's press conference after the big win over the Saints, someone asked him how his team got so much better so quickly.  His answer, "how can we get better than yesterday?  If we can get one percent better each day, we're 30 percent better in 30 days" sounds like an executive, hired to get a one proud company back on track.  OK, it didn't work for Yahoo, but Steve Jobs coming back to Apple seemed to do the trick.

Ross says it's the little things that make a great CEO, or coach.  "People skills to convey confidence" are big.  Getting those around you to buy in .. just as important.

So, check the sidelines this weekend.  You'll see a leader with a team behind him.  In another life, it could have been a board meeting.

Scott can be followed on Twitter:  @scottbudman

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