Apple CEO Tim Cook leadership style: Better, worse, or just different than Steve Jobs?


On Sept. 9, Apple CEO Tim Cook took to the stage to introduce the new line of iPhones and what could be the next big thing in tech -- the Apple Watch.

The keynote presentation was done in classic Apple fashion with a number of videos inspiring the public to buy each and every one of Apple's products. Five years ago, however, the late Steve Jobs taking to the stage would have followed those videos. But what is it, exactly, that makes Tim Cook a completely different CEO than Jobs?

It's easy to criticize Cook for what has gone wrong since he took the role. For example, the launch of Apple Maps was clearly a blunder, and Cook even had the guts to admit it. However, when criticizing someone for his or her failures, we must also give credit when credit is due.

"He's no Steve Jobs" are words that are often spoken in comparing Cook to the legendary founder of Apple, and while that certainly may be true, Cook has strengths of his own. Under his leadership Apple has become a much more socially aware company, working to improve conditions in overseas factories and aiming to reduce pollution caused by data centers and the devices themselves.

Many have noted Cook is much less "vigorous" when it comes to leading the company. Jobs was known to ensure that things were done right, and the feelings of others played no part in that. There are many classic examples of Jobs even going as far as firing people simply to get his point across. And while that may seem harsh, one would be hard-pressed to find an example in which Jobs did not do what was best for the company as a whole.

"When he's very frustrated ... his way to achieve catharsis is to hurt somebody. And I think he feels he has a liberty and license to do that," said Apple's head of design, the legendary Jony Ive talking about Jobs. "The normal rules of social engagement, he feels, don't apply to him."

Cook knows he is no Jobs, and so rather than act like his predecessor, he has chosen to forge partnerships with the talent Apple has to offer. Cook aims to build relationships, and while that may lead to slower decision-making, it also has reduced a certain disorder that came from managing Apple like Jobs did.

It's important to note that Jobs had a lot of faith in Cook. Jobs apparently told Cook  he should never ask himself "what would Steve Jobs do?" Instead, he should make Apple his own. It may be true that Apple is certainly different under the direction of  Cook, but it would be a big leap to say whether his leadership is better or worse.

When Cook took to the stage on Sept. 9, his beaming smile showed he had a few tricks up his sleeve. From the Apple Watch to the stunt that the company pulled with U2, Apple is showing it has remained at the helm of tech innovation since Cook took over. A different company, no doubt, but maybe that's a good thing.

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