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When an apple falls from the tree

When Apple’s long-serving CEO Steve Jobs finally said iQuit (sorry, no more puns), Apple’s stock shed billions.

News of his departure resulted in some $17.7 billion being wiped from its stock value and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index taking an even heavier hit, losing more than $52 billion.

An extraordinary amount for just one company CEO. But why did this happen and are there lessons we can learn?

In recent years, investors have heavily tied the success of Apple to Jobs’ medical condition, often more than its product innovation.

This is probably because Jobs held that rarest of traits – a CEO who actually had a major impact on the company.

The traits and behaviour of company leaders are today, for better or worse, closely linked to a company’s brand and, in return, its success.

Think Virgin’s CEO Richard Branson, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer and even Alibaba founder and CEO Jack Ma. But the truth is most companies today could replace their CEO without skipping a beat.

CEOs might be ambassadors, ideologists and even visionaries, but they do not control or define their brand.

Jobs, in this particular instance, may have been an enigma. He’s obviously not your average CEO and his vision transformed Apple into one of the most innovative and valuable technology companies on the globe.

While Jobs had a clear vision for Apple, he is not the company’s only leader. A whole new generation of consumers will continue to buy Apple products, particularly China where it has ambitious expansion plans.

A good CEO is a highly prized asset, but ultimately consumers hold the balance of power.

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