In October 2011 Steve Jobs, the glorified CEO and co-founder of Apple, passed away. With his passing, came a new type of leadership to Apple, one that has become something different, and dare we say: better than what existed in the pre-Cook years (we won’t go that far yet)?
Any time someone has to step into fill big shoes, as did Cook, the job as a leader increases in difficulty from the on-set; Not only does the leader need to lead the company/venture to success, but in addition has to calm all the nay-sayers and doubters. To quite an extent, Tim Cook has succeeded on both fronts, and naturally there are some lessons to be learned from that success.
Too often startups are forced to shut down their doors, with the reasons varying from the product, funding, fights between co-founders, and much more. One aspect that over laps a majority of these aspects is leadership, or a lack thereof. Hopefully you can take with you a tip or two from our short list of leadership lessons from Tim Cook that we’ve gathered watching Apple continue its dominance.
Don’t Fear the Shadow
When Cook replaced Jobs, he knew it was no small task and knew what Jobs leadership style was. Tim Cook did not try to replicate the leadership style of Steve Jobs, and we don’t know if trying ever crossed his mind. What we do know, is that Cook, despite the shadow that was cast on him from Jobs’ legacy, decided to be the only leader he knew how to be – himself.
Could Cook have tried to do things a bit more like Jobs? Yes. Would anyone have blamed him? No. Is it good he added to Apple’s culture his own bit of flavor? It sure seems like it, and more than likely, share holders would agree. On the topic of his critics, he pretty much wrote them off (as he should) in an interview with Fortune.
“I’m not running for office…I don’t need your vote”
- Bottom line: Don’t fear the impact of being different from what preceded you as a leader.
Stand for More than the Product
Steve Jobs was not a big fan of philanthropy and by no means was he in for taking a tip or two from Starbucks on social responsibility. Tim cook, on the other hand, has slowly adjusted himself, whether by choice or not, to add to his leadership plate more than just leading the company and managing its many aspects. Since coming out, Cook has been stead fast in making colleagues and others realize that he, and maybe Apple too, want to bring out the best in society.
In the past, we just kept everything secret. But as Apple grew larger, we realized that we can actually change something more in the world, if we are extremely transparent in social issues such as privacy, security, education and environmental protection.
- Bottom Line: Times have changed, and we are currently in an age of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) in which consumers want businesses to do more than just maximize profits – you need to lead the change.
Previously, Cook chose to forfeit up to one third of his stock-based compensation and up to 50% of his annual bonus if Apple’s stock would continue to under perform relative to the S&P 500.
That is a man with either nothing to lose or a whole lot to gain. We believe it is the latter as there were very few rumors, if any, on the chances of Cook being replaced. Tim Cook was confident in his ability to lead Apple back to the top, and that he has done.
- Bottom Line: Stick to your guns, and risk your own benefit before the company’s
As much as confidence is vital to success, it is not going to get you far as a leader without the addition of humbleness. As Cook said in an interview with Businessweek:
Not allowing yourself to become insular is very important–maybe the most important thing, I think, as a CEO.”
- Bottom Line: Don’t try to be superman. You have co-founders, employees, investors, and colleagues for more than one reason – one is for advice.
A lot of times leaders think that they can do everything by themselves and don’t want to delegate. Other times, it’s all about finding people that can be put to work around the clock, without taking a look at who the person is. There are those, like Cook (and a large majority of Apple employees probably agree) that believe that the type of person you hire is crucial to the long-term success of the company.
In an interview he gave to Bill Boulding, Dean of Duke’s Fuqua Business School:
You look for wicked smart people. You look for people who appreciate different points of view. You look for people that care enough that they have an idea at 11 at night and they want to call and talk to you about it. Because they’re so excited about it, they want to push the idea further. And that they believe that somebody can help them push the idea another step instead of them doing everything themselves.
I’ve never met anyone, at least in my life, maybe they exist, that could do something so incredible by themselves in companies with global footprints. In our world, in Apple’s world, the reason Apple is special is that we focus on hardware, software, and services. And the magic happens where those three come together.
And so, it’s unlikely that somebody that’s focused on one of those in and of themselves can come up with magic and so you want people collaborating in such a way so you can produce these things that can’t be produced otherwise. And you want people to believe in that.
- Bottom Line: Surround yourself with extraordinary people – at every level. Just ask yourself if you’d take him/her to a deserted island.
What would you add? Do you see something different or similar between the way Jobs and Cook have led Apple?