Who is Tim Cook? It’s a question many have asked since he took over from Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple. In a new profile, the Wall Street Journal does a good job of trying to unpack details about the man now leading a company valued higher than the GDP of some major economies. The piece reveals how Mr. Cook never tried to mimic his predecessor and that has brought both benefits and issues.
Incremental is Revolutionary
One of the biggest criticisms of Mr. Cook’s leadership is a lack of innovation, of groundbreaking new products. He reportedly rarely visits the company’s design lab, something Mr. Jobs did on a near daily basis. As the article notes:
Where Mr. Jobs orchestrated great leaps of innovation, generally defined by new products capable of upending industries, Mr. Cook has made Apple more reflective of himself. The 59-year-old CEO, like the company he leads, is cautious, collaborative and tactical.
It’s made Apple huge amounts of money, but can lead to accusations incrementalism. Although, as former Apple staffer Chris Deaver commented in the piece, “incremental is revolutionary for Apple.”
Leaving Meetings With Tim Cook in Tears
While stories of Mr. Jobs angry response to staff who failed to meet his expectations are the thing of legend, the seemingly easier going Mr. Cook is no less demanding of his subordinates, leading middle managers to “screen” those in their team before meeting with him to make sure they are fully prepared. “It’s about protecting your team and protecting him. You don’t waste his time,” a staffer explained. ‘“If he senses someone is insufficiently prepared, he loses patience and says, ‘Next,’ as he flips a page of the meeting agenda,” according to the source. “People have left crying.”
Privacy – Not Just For Users
As is regularly noted, Mr. Cook is a deeply private man. During the Thanksgiving period in 2018 “guests saw him dining by himself at the secluded Amangiri Hotel near Zion National Park,” according to the article. “When a guest later bumped into him, he said he came to the hotel to recharge after a hectic fall punctuated by the rollout of Apple’s latest iPhone.” According to a guest, Mr. Cook commented that “they have the best masseuses in the world here.”
One exception to this privacy is Mr. Cook’s decision to publicly come out, having met individually with other top Apple executives. He has since said his reason for doing so was to help inspire others.
Associates say it was vintage Tim Cook, an example of conscience balanced by a methodical awareness of pros and cons. Mr. Cook said he ultimately wanted to be a role model for young people being bullied or worried their families would disapprove of them.
How Tim Cook Plays Politics
The article notes that subtlety with which Mr. Cook has navigated his relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump and advocates on issue such as human rights. For many though, his stance stands at odds with Apple’s extensive business in China. Its factories have recently, been accused of exploiting Uyghur Muslim workers, something Apple strongly rejects.
The truth is, until Mr. Cook decides to reveal part of himself publicly, as happened with his sexuality, the rest of us will largely be left guessing what makes him tick. And he’ll probably just keep making Apple even more money.