I once heard someone say that the sign of a great leader isn’t what they accomplish when in charge, but the legacy that they leave when they are not. Given that definition, Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln go down as great leaders–not for how much they were appreciated in office but the positive stamp they left on their country.
Jack Welsh was a leader for the ages while at GE. His website is called the Welsh Way. Was he effective at ensuring GE would be as successful without him as with him? Howard Schultz left Starbucks only to return to save it. Apparently the vision left with him. What will Apple do without Steve Jobs at the helm? Although he appears to be a CEO that has done no wrong, he has had product failures. But he is the face of Apple and unquestionably its driving force during its recent success and it is quite unclear, as the stock market reaction demonstrates, how much faith there is it can sustain that success when he steps down as CEO. Who here was the “successful leader”?
The question for all CEO’s and entrepreneurs is, will your legacy of success be able to live on without you?