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Ok NFL fans... Leadership fans as well... 

You're a new leader.  You're locked in a battle with another rising star who does something to disrespect you.  Do you take the high road and walk away, or do you get your Irish up a bit and react so your team sees that you're not soft?

Case study in the NFL this past weekend.  Here's the rundown from ESPN:

"You've probably seen the video by now. If not, you'll soon see jubilant 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh bounding to midfield for the traditional coaches' handshake. Harbaugh wound up and gave Schwartz an excited handshake, followed by a hard slap to the back with his left hand. 

Schwartz immediately turned around with a perturbed look on his face, chased Harbaugh down and bumped his right shoulder into Harbaugh's left shoulder. Schwartz then chased Harbaugh about 40 yards downfield to the players' tunnel and made a number of attempts to charge into a quickly growing mass of players, coaches and staffers to get at Harbaugh. Order was eventually restored, but afterward Schwartz neither apologized nor backed off his reaction. 

"I went to congratulate Coach Harbaugh and got shoved out of the way," Schwartz said. "And then I didn't expect an obscenity at that point, so it was a surprise to me at the end of the game." 

Asked for further details, Schwartz said: "I'll just leave it right there. I'm sure it's on video." 

OK - now watch the video and we'll talk afterwards (email subscribers click through for video):

What do you think?  Was Harbaugh out of line?  Was Schwartz out of line?  

Here's my take.  Both Harbaugh and Schwartz are young leaders.  Both are passionate, and both are lifting teams out of the basement of the NFL to lead their respective divisions.

Harbaugh operates on a lot of emotion.  So he runs across the field after the big win on the road, shows his belly to a lineman while doing a dance, then approaches Schwartz and does two things that might warrant a response.

1. He does a pretty demonstrative handshake.  More like a big hand slap.

2. He slaps Schwartz on the back, but at ground level (couldn't find the clip from that angle) it's a push.

Translation.  He punked Schwartz.  Came into his house and took his candy.  Then acted like a fool during the traditional handshake.

Schwartz appears to be content to the do the handshake, then seems to say "Wait a second... Did he just act like a fool towards me on my field?"

It's an interesting leadership question, one that happens between execs at different companies and one that happens internally as well.  Someone has the energy.  They're trying to run over you.  What do you do?

Rule #1 - Always bet on the person who has enough of a spine a) to run over you, whether they know they're doing it or not, and/or b) bet on the person who reacts and challenges being treated that way.

Your team is watching.  Sometimes being passive is the right call.  Being passive all the time is rarely the right call.  If you're going to lead, you're going to need to show passion.  There are a million different ways in an organization to show you're standing up to the challenge.  

The main thing is that you show your team you aren't afraid to rise up if you're being disrespected. They're watching and waiting for someone to rally around.

Believe that.  Detroit believes in Schwartz this morning.  The bay believes in Harbaugh.  They're both winners in this one.


Lance Haun

Niners hater checking in. Harbaugh is cocky (and from a Pac 10/12 fan, I was as glad to see him leave as Carroll in that regard) but Schwartz came off as a real nut in the exchange.

I think there is a line there. I've had bosses that would just lose it and once you see it happen the first time, that's always in the back of your mind. Maybe you love that as a Lions fan but he's getting dangerously close to the Rasheed Wallace zone of being out of control of his emotions to a point of detriment.

Matt Landrum

I don't like the way either of them behaved, but I suspect my reaction is atypical. One can respond forcefully without losing control. Perhaps there is a time and a place for emotion, but you better play that card wisely.

I don't like the forced handshake. I can see the reasoning, but I just don't think it's a good idea overall.

Go Niners.

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