BOSTON ( MainStreet) -- When Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple ( AAPL) in August, his decision to remain as chairman of the company's board cushioned the blow for investors and consumers.
Though he was in failing health, the idea that Jobs would still be active in the company's affairs pushed aside the larger question of what would happen when he was no longer the heart, brains and soul of the company. Tim Cook may have been named as his replacement, a succession long since planned, but what would become of Apple if its true leader, spiritually and practically, was no longer in the house? With his death Wednesday, that question is no longer avoidable. Jobs, as many an obituary has made clear, was an iconic business leader and a true visionary. Even a harsh critic of Apple and its products would be hard pressed not to acknowledge the masterful way Jobs tapped into the zeitgeist to revolutionize consumer electronics. Apple's phenomenal growth -- surviving near bankruptcy to run neck-and-neck with ExxonMobil ( XOM) in competition for the biggest market cap in the world -- can be traced, in a way rare for any company, directly to one man. Steve Jobs was Apple. The road map ahead for Apple without its human embodiment is a challenge other companies have faced over the years -- a handful, anyway, where leaders whose vision transcended day-to-day operations have become synonymous with their companies. How have businesses fared when losing their legends? The following are five iconic leaders and how their companies evolved once they left.