Leadership Lessons Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook is proving himself to be a far better leader and business executive than Steve Jobs. Even though Cook is not the visionary that Jobs was, his leadership at Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has been far more impressive than that of his illustrious predecessor.

Cook is one leader that every entrepreneur and executive should pay attention to, because he is setting new standards in bold, ethical and effective leadership. There’s a lot that any administrator or decision maker should learn from Mr. Cook.

Leadership Lessons Tim Cook can teach Every Executive

The most important leadership lessons that entrepreneurs should learn from Tim Cook include:

  1. Be the face and voice of the company. Cook understands that one of a business leader’s most important roles is that of spokesperson. He makes it clear that he speaks for Apple, and creates and represents its brand. One way Cook does is through the launches of new products – he is usually there and serves as the host. Cook also represents the Apple brand in the media, talking to reporters and explaining actions such as the refusal to comply with the FBI’s request to crack an iPhone himself.

  1. Take ownership of issues and processes. By putting himself front and center on the encryption issue, Cook made sure that Apple’s position was the one the media heard. He also took the criticism that the company received for not complying with the order. This leadership kept the controversy from distracting Apple from its core business – designing new products.

  1. Be willing to listen to criticism. Cook claims that he actually takes the time to read customer emails and to talk to customers in Apple stores. He has to listen to a lot of criticism, but the CEO receives a lot of valuable customer feedback this way. Cook understands that putting up barriers to customer communications can quickly destroy a consumer-products company.

  1. Don’t be afraid of controversy. Many executives make the mistake of avoiding all controversy. Cook has taken controversial stands such as the one on encryption. He has also revealed his sexual orientation – he’s gay – to the world. By facing these controversies, Cook overcame them before they could damage Apple’s reputation, or distract the company from its’ core mission.

  1. Be aware of larger issues than just business. By avoiding controversies, many executives ignore political or ethical issues that can come back to damage the business in the future. Cook was able to effectively protect two of Apple’s greatest assets; encryption and its reputation for putting customers’ interests first, by understanding the larger legal, ethical and political issues involved in the iPhone decryption controversy. Had he ignored the issues, Apple’s reputation would have been destroyed, and many customers driven away.

  1. Control the message. Few executives these days are as good as controlling the message their company sends to the world as Tim Cook. By keeping clear channels of communication open to the media, Cook is able to send out the messages he wants. Since he’s become the go to source for information about Apple, Cook sends out the message he wants about the company.

  1. Humility is power. Tim Cook’s greatest strength of character might just be his humility. His willingness to listen to everybody, down to earth style; and reputation for honest no-nonsense communication, enhance and strengthen the Apple brand, without putting people off like Steve Jobs did. Cook has managed to enhance Apple’s reputation without building up a personality cult.

  1. Honesty and transparency make for effective communications. Cook is an effective spokesman because he is both honest and transparent. People listen to him because he tells the truth, and offers the whole story. This has established Cook as one of the most credible and effective CEOs in America today.

  1. Understand that you represent the brand. Many CEOs fail to recognize that they represent both the corporate brand and the products. Cook understands that and he takes the role seriously. By being a credible public figure, he puts himself in a position be able to control and enhance the Apple brand and its public image.

  1. Be yourself. Much of Cook’s success has come from his refusal to become Steve Jobs II. Instead of simply imitating Jobs – something many Apple fans would love – Cook has established his own image and style. This gives him both credibility and respect, and enables the CEO to communicate with the world, the media and the customers on his terms. It also clearly shows the world that Tim Cook is in charge at Apple, and he’s not Steve Jobs.

Those looking to establish themselves as credible leaders and public figures need to take a close look at Tim Cook. He has established new levels of transparency, honesty and credibility in American business and become one of the world’s most effective spokesmen and brand ambassadors in the process.


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