By Alexia Leachman, Personal Branding Coach at Blossoming Brands
One question that we’ve been hearing about Steve Jobs and Apple since he resigned as CEO in August is this: “Will Apple survive without him?” More than almost any other business leader, Mr Jobs was indistinguishable from the company he co-founded in the 1970s and their reputations were interweaved in such a way that investors were fair to ask such a question. In the minds of others, the reputation of a business leader is never going to be very far from the reputation of the business they are leading, especially when the business leader, like Jobs, deliberately reinforces this.
However, this closeness in reputation brings about the potential for good times and for bad times. For as long as the leader is riding the crest of the wave, the business follows suit, and vice versa, but, the real risks arise when either party falls into hot water. It’s at times like this when the actions of the leader will determine the nature of the outcome. If the organisation has suffered a crisis, it’s the job of the leader to lead the business out of the crisis.
This is not as easy as you think and if we just remind ourselves of the BP crisis and its CEO, Tony Hayward. Mr Hayward could have limited the damage of the crisis through some well-planned responses and corrective action. Instead, he took actions that not only allowed the reputational damage to spread, but that ultimately cost him his job. The result? It took a new leader to get BP out of its sticky mess and both BP’s reputation and Mr Hayward’s were in tatters.
But what’s more interesting is when the actions of the business are so very indistinguishable from the actions of its leaders, such as with the hacking scandal that is affecting News of the World. On the face of it, it seems as though the rot that is being openly discussed, went all the way to the top. And, surprisingly, the father and son team at the helm don’t seem to be in a rush to dispel that in any believable or credible way. The result here is trouble in the board room and a negative impact on share price, as well the demise of a well-known media brand, the extent to which has not fully been felt yet.
But let’s go back to Mr Jobs. His leadership benefited from Mr Jobs himself being a man of authenticity and integrity. As he said himself, there is nothing like looking death in the face to make you realise that is nothing else worth doing or being than yourself. His steely focus and the clarity of his vision has been so well articulated that Apple employees the world over are able to continue executing that vision despite his absence. It is said that Mr Jobs has left Apple his notebooks detailing his ideas and visions for the next four years, so for me, the true test will be what happens to Apple beyond that. I have no doubt that Apple will be just fine without him. His legacy is so powerful that it has a life of its own. Surely a true test of a solid reputation: one that continues to inspire and lead even when they’re watching from above.
Alexia Leachman is a Personal Brand Coach and Head Trash Liberator at Blossoming Brands. She helps entrepreneurs find their mojo by helping them to tell their story, raise their profile, build their digital presence and manage their reputation. You can find out more at www.blossomingbrands.com; www.headtrash.co.uk And you can follow her on Twitter at @AlexiaL and @BBrands