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Tim Cook is giving us a history-in-the-making look at leadership today (the value of ALAKA‘I). A few quotes:
What shocked the Apple investors that day, was that CEO Tim Cook popped into the room about 20 minutes into Oppenheimer’s talk, quietly sat down in the back of the room, and did something unusual for a CEO of Apple: He listened. He didn’t check his e-mail once. He didn’t interrupt. After the CFO finished, Cook, at that point chief executive of Apple for all of five months, stood to offer his remarks. He strode confidently to the front of the room and held court in the no-nonsense style that has become his trademark. “He was in complete control and knew exactly who he was and where he wanted to go,” says one of the investors. “He answered every question head-on and didn’t skirt any issue.” … Steve Jobs wouldn’t have bothered.
A 14-year veteran of the company, Cook is maintaining, by words and actions, most of Apple’s unique corporate culture. But shifts of behavior and tone are absolutely apparent; some of them affect the core of Apple’s critical product-development process. In general, Apple has become slightly more open and considerably more corporate. In some cases Cook is taking action that Apple sorely needed and employees badly wanted. It’s almost as if he is working his way through a to-do list of long-overdue repairs the previous occupant (Jobs) refused to address for no reason other than obstinacy.
Cook consistently pays homage to the legacy of Jobs, but he doesn’t apologize for charting a new course. He seems, at the end of the day, to be honoring one of Jobs’ dying requests: that Apple’s management not ask “What would Steve do?” and instead do what’s best for Apple.
Tim Cook at a March event introducing the new iPad in San Francisco
Considering the widespread hand wringing over how rudderless Apple would be without Jobs, it is remarkable how steadily the company has sailed along without him.
Even as he tweaks the Apple operating manual, Cook goes to great pains to pledge allegiance to the corporate culture Steve Jobs created. Asked at the Goldman investor forum how his leadership might change Apple and what of its culture he intended to maintain, Cook ignored the first part of the question and focused only on the latter. “Steve grilled in all of us over many years that the company should revolve around great products and that we should stay extremely focused on few things rather than try to do so many that we did nothing well.” He called Apple a “magical place” where employees could do “their life’s best work.”
For their part, most Apple employees seem more than satisfied with Cook. … At Apple, Jobs was simultaneously revered, loved, and feared. Cook clearly is a demanding boss, but he’s not scary. He’s well-respected, but not worshiped. As Apple enters a complex new phase of its corporate history, perhaps it doesn’t need a god as CEO but a mere mortal who understands how to get the job done.