Leadership Lessons: When the CEO is synonymous with the brand

There are different types of CEO’s out there. Some are the operational types who crunch the numbers, those who are sales people at heart, those who are visionaries who guide a company in new directions and many more variations of these major archetypes.

Then there are what I call “luminaries”.

Luminaries are those leaders that are identified with their companies so much that their name is pretty much a synonym for their company. Some examples are:
– Bill Gates – Microsoft
– Richard Branson – Virgin Group
– Jack Welch – GE
– Steve Jobs and Apple

The last one there, Steve Jobs, is of particular focus in light of the emerging stock options scandal. When someone who is so closely identified with the brand and is responsible for its growth and innovation and recent rebirth can there be any type of succession planning.

Analysts from Bloomberg to Piper Jaffray think that the stock would immediately drop 25-33% if Mr. Jobs were to leave. That is about $20 billion in market value as of this writing (yikes!).

So as an entrepreneur, you work hard every day to evangelize your ideas, promote your company, lead your team and make your company a success. What you can learn from this?

1.) Evangelize but don’t act like God – You love your company, your people and your products. We get it. Stay humble because it takes one wrong move to knock you down the ladder. The more you think you are a God the more people will be convinced you are the devil.

2.) Share the spotlight and reward others publicly
– Remember that you are not the center of the universe and many smart people in the company helped you get there. If you reward them publicly people will be more familiar with other people especially if they are in the succession plan. Plus spreading the love makes you appear to be the benevolent leader.

3.) Implement a succession plan – This is not to tell people that you are leaving, but rather that you are mortal and will leave one day so there must be a smooth transition. This makes people confident that the company will not suffer abrupt changes when you exit and will get people in place when the change does come.

So for the entrepreneur’s out there. What are you doing to ensure you don’t run the same risk?

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