Tim Cook — Leadership Style & Principles
How can we define the leadership style and qualities of the famous Tim Cook? How does he lead people toward their highest potential? On which foundation has Tim Cook built his leadership and what are the key principles of it? What does Tim Cook strongly believe that will bring people on the same table in such a way they share the same values and ambition for excellence?
All eyes were on Apple CEO Tim Cook after he took over from the iconic and masterful Steve Jobs.
WarningPeople did not believe he possessed the necessary leadership qualities required to help Apple continue as a tech powerhouse. We have quickly realised that this is not the case and Tim Cook is more than capable of taking Apple to the next level.
Apple fans wondered if they could expect the same astronomical advancements in consumer technology they’d grown to love.
Tim Cook is not the terrifying, volatile firecracker that Steve Jobs was. But the instinctively private Tim Cook has gradually revealed a more personal side as he’s accrued successes.
The way Tim Cook runs Apple offers powerful lessons for every current and aspiring executive and business leader.
Tim Cook has managed to walk that fine line between staying true to what’s unique about the company while adding value in ways that only he could — ways that even Steve Jobs could not have done.
What makes his leadership style unique? His focus on operations, lack of interest in the limelight and humility.
Named on Fortune’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders list, Tim Cook offers a less common but highly effective leadership style in the modern business world.
Tim Cook has changed Apple with his calm and steady influence. He’s showed a human side of the company.
Tim Cook is the kind of leader who cares. Among many of his traits, we have noted seven notable qualities that help him stand out from the crowd and lead successfully.
Leadership requires skills that you must continue to refine as you progress through your career. To help you do that, here are 7 leadership lessons and guiding principles you can learn from Tim Cook.
Risk Takers Win
The life of a leader is not an easy one. At times leaders must make extremely difficult decisions that can affect the lives of those around them. Although it’s difficult, you must be able to trust in your ability to take risks.
Tim Cook understands he must take risks in order to succeed.
He believes that we take risks knowing that risks will sometimes result in failure, but without the possibility of failure there is no possibility of success. Without the confidence to take calculated risks, it will be almost impossible to have the full support of those around you.
Two of the top failure modes for highly successful companies are to either sit back on your laurels and stop taking risks or take enormously stupid strategic risks, such as a megamerger.
WarningTim Cook did neither. But he hired several fashion-industry execs, including Yves St. Laurent CEO Paul Deneve and Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, to infuse their decidedly non-tech expertise into Apple’s upcoming smartwatch and retail operations.
The irony is, a lot of people who work for others are far bigger risk-takers than those who think of themselves as entrepreneurs. And they’re also far more likely to reap the rewards.
Tim Cook does not fear the unknown. He is adamant about knowing it. It’s a naïve conclusion that equates risks to failure.
When you take risks, you let yourself break stereotypes and overcome the fear of failure. The world of business is a world of deep uncertainty and actions. Yet it’s humbling to remember that today’s norms were yesterday’s risks.
The vast majority of people follow the path of least resistance and lowest risk.
WarningThat’s precisely why so few take big chances, accomplish great things and make the big bucks. That’s as true today as it ever was, but you’d never know it from the way we represent ourselves online.
Don't Fix What Isn't Broken
If there was ever an organization that had every arrow pointed in the right direction, it was Apple when Tim Cook took over. Iconic brand, check. Insanely innovative products, check. Think Different culture, check. Unique flat-management structure, check.
Do what you do and do it well. Tim Cook resisted the temptation to get his pawprint all over everything that didn’t need it and made his mark where it counted.
WarningApple is a company that is built around doing what they do and doing it well. It may be shocking to believe, but Apple really only creates a few products.
Tim Cook stresses that this focus is a key to Apple’s continued success.
Tim Cook is patient and understands that new and unique ideas will come. In the meantime, Apple focuses on improving its foundation and the products people love.
If you truly want to excel as a leader you must write your own rules. You will struggle to find continued success if you lead based on the confines of a textbook. You will rarely find real life scenarios and problems following those in textbooks.
Reinventing your products or services is of crucial importance as it keeps you on your toes while engaging the customer as well.
However, a great idea can also take a long time to be put into effect. The time that one is willing to put into giving shape to their idea underlines the key difference between an exciting entrepreneur and a thoroughly mediocre one.
To truly be a great leader you must believe in yourself and trust that you are making the right decisions. Your actions also must reflect the belief you have in yourself and this is a key attribute of Tim Cook.
WarningAccording to Fox Business, when Apple’s stock was tanking, Tim Cook chose to forfeit up to one third of his stock-based compensation if the stock underperformed the S&P 500. There was no fine print, he chose to lead by example and put his money where his mouth is.
The Humble Candle
It’s easy to get swept away when you are CEO of the biggest company in the world and it’s important to keep yourself grounded. Tim Cook manages to find the time to visit his Apple stores and engage with his customers, either face-to-face or by reading their emails.
Never forget where you came from. Tim Cook repeatedly shows his humble nature through both words and actions.
He places value on humility in others. He looks for people that are not bureaucrats. People that can privately celebrate the achievement, but not care if their name that is in the one in the lights.
Some things won’t work out despite your best intentions, plans, and efforts. This is a strong lesson in leadership, having the courage to admit when you are wrong and avoiding the mistakes of the past.
WarningTim Cook overestimated the readiness of the Apple Maps app, but he admitted the problem and apologized. It’s more important to own a problem with humility than to attempt to prove your competence.
Level 5 leadership focuses on the successful synergy between personal humility and professional will. According to Jim Collins, this leadership styles’ main priority is getting the right people onboard and creating a culture of discipline to turn a company from good to truly great.
For most entrepreneurs, success takes a different form — making it to a Top 10 list, outdoing a competitor, making millions, and such.
While these aspirations are great motivators, they are only steps to achieving outlasting success. The genuine euphoria that comes from being regarded as a good and humble being by contemporaries and competitors alike is true success.
When hiring for a leadership role, you may be overlooking one of the most important traits of top performers: humility.
A number of research studies have concluded that humble leaders listen more effectively, inspire great teamwork and focus everyone (including themselves) on organizational goals better than leaders who don’t score high on humility.
Transparency Builds Legacy
Unlike his predecessor, Tim Cook’s managerial style is markedly collaborative. When a group of investors visited Apple’s campus in 2012, Tim Cook did what would have been unlikely for Jobs: he showed up, listened to his CFO’s presentation, and answered questions.
Tim Cook knows that transparency is crucial to sustained success. Apple has had much criticism about the standards of their global employees, particularly through their manufacturing partner Foxconn.
Upon receiving harsh criticism of employees, he decided to open up the doors to the public and allow them to see how Apple’s operation really works. By doing this he instilled confidence for those in the company and set new industry standards for manufacturers everywhere.
He has shown Apple doesn’t hide anything and in turn has set industry standards for other manufacturers.
WarningTim Cook took a firm stance against dishonest data sales. The shadow economy, as he calls it, refers to firms profiting from the sale of vast swaths of personal data. The solution, as Tim Cook sees it, is to create federal data privacy legislation to ensure that companies abide by a set of standards.
One man’s success is the result of teamwork. From people who believed in them to those who bought their ideas, success is never one man’s domain. It’s a collective triumph. Once this simple truth seeps into our psyche, we will begin to appreciate the amount of effort others have put in to help us achieve our dreams. It will make us humble being on top, and less lonely too.
Tim Cook has made an immediate point to stress transparency and teamwork within the Apple organization.
Tim Cook tends to have a very calm demeanor, and he is much more approachable than Jobs was. He inspires his employees through an open-door policy and by encouraging a collaborative environment at Apple.
Leading with transparency requires a willingness to be honest and open with your employees, even if you feel somewhat vulnerable as a result.
When employees can see and evaluate everything you do, it’s essential to lead your organization with integrity, in ways that are true to its values. In return, employees will give you their loyalty and trust.
If Steve Jobs was a gifted orator, Tim Cook seems to be an avid listener. Both are meritorious qualities in a leader that help them make decisions that others might fail to conceive as possible.
Tim Cook’s incredible ability to listen to those he works with and caters to, makes him look more like a Tibetan Monk in a suit, meditating deeply upon the spoken word.
Whether that word is spoken by his colleagues, competitors, or consumers, he appears to be meditating on the intention often found lurking between the lines. This has given him a considerable advantage in inventing solutions and delivering results.
Bringing the best out of people is not a quality many leaders possess and working on refining this skill will give people the confidence to follow your lead.
WarningApple is a company at the forefront of innovation, and that requires different minded and unique individuals to help create the future. Tim Cook, as a leader of a company that is founded on innovation, understands he needs thinkers who can offer a different insight.
Having a diverse team brings different experiences to the table. Companies that can harness the most amount of creative experiences will be more innovative in their approach to business. Tim Cook recognizes this fact and has made diversity a cornerstone of his management philosophy.
Tim Cook is known as a leader who will trust the opinions and voices of the team he surrounds himself with.
He is fortunate to have many top executives that can help share the workload of the business. He understands these individuals are successful people with innovative and brilliant ideas, and will often allow these executives to take the lead.
A simple but highly effective way leaders can help people care more about the business is to show that you care about them.
Show them that you feel as invested in them as you want them to be in the business. After all, how can you expect people to care about the company when they don’t feel that the company or its leaders care about them?
Feel Proud Of Yourself
Many believed Tim Cook didn’t have the right personality to complete the role as Apple CEO successfully, because of his calm and passive demeanour. But he has more than proved he is the right man for the job.
Don’t try to be what you’re not. Be proud to be yourself.
WarningWhile Steve Jobs was a far more aggressive individual, Tim Cook has not changed to fit the mould of CEO before him; he has stayed true to himself and is completing the job with his own strengths.
If there was ever a temptation to emulate a great man, Tim Cook had to feel it. After all, everybody was trying to be like Steve Jobs.
And yet Cook resisted. The truth is people are not chameleons. If you try to change who you are you end up behaving like a psychopath; it doesn’t work.
Authenticity is an important characteristic for leaders to have. In these days of galloping cynicism about leaders of all types in organizations big and small, being seen as someone who actually aligns the values they propound with their actions seems to be highly motivating. And this in turn leads to better staff retention, closer team cohesion and improved performance.
Unlike Jobs, who was the center of the organization, Tim Cook was determined to become Apple’s driving force.
Coming from a background in operations, Tim Cook knew right from the start that he wasn’t an expert on neither product development, design, nor marketing — Apple’s core ingredients for success. Yet, Tim Cook’s commitment and ambition towards his company enabled him to propel Apple into becoming the most valuable company in history.
Modest and unpretentious, Tim Cook radically changed the way Apple was being led.
WarningUnlike charismatic leaders, whose ambition is channeled towards themselves, Tim Cook displays a robust mixture of personal humility and authenticity to direct his ambition towards his organization’s cause, not himself. Consequently, he’s better equipped to lead his organization.
Being Nice And Relatable Is OK
Tim Cook may be friendlier to Wall Street and the media, and he certainly has that southern gentlemen vibe going on, but he’s no pushover. Tim Cook continues to fight tooth and nail with Samsung and Google on both competitive and legal battlefields.
Being relatable as a leader doesn’t mean being everyone’s best friend.
WarningIt doesn’t mean saying or doing things that effectively bribe others into liking you. You can be nice and competitive. When you help others, are kind and encouraging to your colleagues, you show that you can add value to others.
There is little doubt that the best leaders are those with acute EQ and an abundance of soft skills. This can mean constantly evaluating and addressing your own emotional reaction to situations, as well as those you work with.
If you are accessible and relatable as a manager, staff will be far more likely to be honest and upfront about challenges and questions. That sort of real-time, open feedback can avoid your staff from becoming unhinged by the unexpected and insidious problems.
It pays to work out the influencers in your workforce, and pay particular attention to having a strong and open working relationship with them. Networking with the company “movers and shakers” on the shop floor is not about having spies, but investing in allies and people you know have the ears of most colleagues.
Being relatable means being yourself; living an authentic, consistent life with the people you lead.
If you want better relationships, you must be relatable. It all begins with you — but it never ends there. Relating well with others creates a ripple effect that changes lives for the better.
Leaders who discipline themselves to look at the world around them with an open mind stand on a balcony where they are better-positioned to see windows of opportunity.
They have the ability look at the big picture and take in the whole landscape, as well as a talent for drilling down into the details where they may discover hidden opportunities. The open-minded leaders’ unique perspective helps them and their teams adapt to the forces around them rather than being caught off guard by unwelcome surprises.
In his years at the helm of the multi-billion-dollar Apple behemoth, Tim Cook has faced many highs and lows. He has been hailed and derided in fairly equal amounts as an industry leader.
His vision and ideals continue to inspire the company’s employees and fans around the world, as well as the many entrepreneurs who look up to him for inspiration.
WarningWhile Tim Cook has done many things to distinguish himself since joining Apple as head of operations several years ago, his actions as CEO of this fabled company have shown him to be a formidable leader that is equal to the challenge, holds himself accountable and sets a powerful example for others.
When you inherit a leadership position from a visionary such as Steve Jobs isn’t an easy thing to do gracefully.
Tim Cook has risen to the challenge and is forging his own path for Apple. Whether you love the company or hate it, you have to admit Tim Cook has imprinted his own leadership style and we can all learn a thing or two from him.
Tim Cook has been an inspiration to many people since taking the role as Apple CEO. His approach to leadership is admirable and his lessons can teach us all how to build a solid foundation as a leader.
Tim Cook once said “To whom much is given, much is expected. I do believe this. It’s embedded in me”. Leaders who adopt a similar level of humility and responsibility can do great things. We can all learn from his example. What other leadership lessons have you learned from Tim Cook? Let me know in the comments section below!