Is Tim Cook Apple’s Best Leader Ever?

Steve Jobs was the glue that held Apple together. Right? Based on what went down at WWDC, maybe not.

Is Tim Cook Apple’s Best Leader Ever?

“The job of Apple’s CEO is, first and foremost, to understand what makes Apple, Apple,” writes Ben Thompson, an historically aware tech blogger who once upon a time interned at the Cupertino company.


During his tenure he got to spend an hour with everyone on the leadership team–Steve Jobs and Jony Ive included–and he says that Cook was the most impressive of all. Thompson admits that he can’t quite place why he was so impressive–from what he reports, there’s something ineffable about Cook’s presence:

“Tim Cook, at least to my young, rather unjaded eyes, was Apple. He spoke to me–and to every person in the room–as if I were the only person in the world, and that he truly wanted me to understand what made Apple unique. Oh sure, the words were there–he spoke about Apple’s focus, and willingness to say ‘no,’ and about design–but it was the way in which he said it that made you believe. For me anyway, his reality distortion field was far more powerful than Jobs’s.”

This distortion field, love of company, and subsequent sense of alignment was very much present during Cook’s WWDC address.

Thompson compares the succession that’s happened at Apple to a revolution: After the revolutionary leader (or founding executive) departs, a new direction will need to be taken–otherwise the state or the organization will flounder. Like everybody else, Thompson worried that Steve Jobs was the glue that held the company together, and without the uniting force of his stubbornness the company would fall apart.

“Tim Cook has answered that question,” Thompson continues, “the glue is Apple, and the ideology is design.” The key, then, is that Cook knows what Apple is, that he has the organizational awareness that vision comes from. That he, like Jobs, can bring Apple into its next incarnation.

Bottom Line: “On this criteria, it’s clear that Cook is the right man for the job,” Thompson concludes. “I would contend that anyone that says otherwise doesn’t understand revolutions, doesn’t understand culture, and doesn’t understand Apple.”

[Image: Flickr user Mike Lau]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.