Now that the Southern-drawled, silver-haired CEO has shown he can keep the spirit of innovation alive at Apple, Tim Cook is showing us a few unexpected ways that he excels Steve Jobs.
He knows how to make money. In his zeal to build the world’s best manufacturing operation—and grant Steve Jobs the freedom to create his masterpieces without any fiscal concerns—Cook learned how to control costs up and down the pipeline. “He knows how to squeeze every penny out of the business,” says Yukari Iwatani Kane, author of Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs. The result? Apple has gone from a company on the brink of bankruptcy to one with a $150 billion war chest.
He’s more of a people person. “I found at Apple a company that deeply believed in advancing humanity, through its products and through the equality of all of its employees,” Cook told the crowd assembled for the lifetime achievement award he received from Auburn University in 2013. In his time as CEO, he has worked to foster teamwork and collegiality, taking pains to introduce himself to employees he doesn’t know and to support them in their acts of charity. He’s also been vocal in his support for legislation that demands equality and nondiscrimination in the workplace.
He works harder than everyone around him. “Those who try to achieve success without hard work ultimately deceive themselves—or worse—deceive others,” Cook told the students at Auburn’s graduation ceremony in 2010. But few human beings can match his stamina. He routinely works 12- to 14-hour days, forgoing weekends, holidays and vacations to stay abreast of his duties. He used to schedule Sunday night conference calls to prep for Jobs’ Monday morning executive team meetings. And he’s notorious for hitting the ground running after an 18-hour flight to or from Asia. That doesn’t leave much room for a personal life, but Cook doesn’t seem to mind. “He might as well have been married to Apple,” writes Kane.
He’s happy to share the stage. In his three years at the helm, Cook has gone out of his way to spotlight the contributions of his executive team. During his keynote presentations, he often hands the mic off to Craig Federighi, the head of software engineering, now known for dazzling audiences with his humor, too. The CEO has also been interviewed alongside Jony Ive (design), Eddy Cue (iTunes) and Jeff Williams (operations). “Cook seems genuinely humbled by the smarts of his colleagues and the greatness of the products they produce,” wrote Chris Taylor of Mashable in 2012. “He wants them, not him, in the limelight as much as possible.”
He’s more willing to collaborate. In July, Cook announced a sweeping partnership with IBM—a corporation long pilloried by Jobs. Forget for a moment that Cook once worked there. By teaming up with Jobs’ one-time rival, the CEO not only gains access to the lucrative business software market (leveraging IBM’s valuable expertise), but he also lures more software developers to Apple’s iOS operating system. That’s a win-win. “I believe Apple is not simply a company focused on building technology but also a monster retail and marketing force,” writes Michael Yoshikami, CEO of Destination Wealth Management. “Their focus is on selling product and, under Tim Cook, they’re willing to allow partnerships to generate sales.”
Subscribe to read how the most private CEO in history became successor to arguably the most public CEO, how their leadership styles differ and how they don’t in the November 2014 issue of SUCCESS, on newsstands today.