When a Leader Like Bezos Steps Down, Can Innovation Keep Up?

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When the founder CEO of one of the world’s most valuable — and innovative — companies steps down, it’s bound to raise questions about the future of the business. Jeff Bezos’s decision to step back from day-to-day operations at Amazon provokes particular concern because the company has been an unbelievable innovator under his leadership. Similar worries have persisted about Apple post-Steve Jobs. Will these innovative companies lose their way without the founder’s drive and creativity? The fear is legitimate, because research validates our hunch that founder-led businesses truly are more innovative. One such study, focused on S&P 500 companies, found that those where the founder was still at the helm generated 31% more patents than those led by professional CEOs. But in the post-founder phase, many companies lose their innovation mojo and turn into sclerotic bureaucracies.

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