Tim Cook described as a ‘machine’ and ‘riveting’ in new book on post-Jobs Apple

By , Mar 1, 2014

Tim Cook holds iPad (with Katie Cotton, Jacqui Cheng)

When Tim Cook officially took over the CEO position for Steve Jobs in late 2011, he had some major shoes to fill. Jobs wasn’t just chief executive at Apple, he was also its co-founder, savior and visionary. And he was arguably one of the most famous leaders of our generation.

But Cook has done a good job thus far. Apple’s the most profitable company in the world right now, coming off another record-breaking quarter, and it has some big things planned for 2014. So what’s his secret? A new book about Apple post-Jobs attempts to answer just that…

The Wall Street Journal has published an excerpt from former reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane’s new book ‘Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs.’ As the title suggests, the book offers insight into Tim Cook’s management style and how he continues to grow the house that Jobs built.

Here’s one of my favorite parts:

“Cook joined Apple’s executive team in the spring of 1998, while the company was in the throes of restructuring and desperate for a capable executive who could make Apple’s manufacturing process more efficient. Unlike his predecessors, who sat with the operations team, Cook asked for a small office cater-cornered to Jobs’s on the executive floor. It was a shrewd strategy—staying close to the boss to be attuned to his thinking.

From the start of his Apple tenure, Cook set colossally high expectations. He wanted the best price, the best delivery, the best yield, the best everything. “I want you to act like we are a $20 billion company,” he told the procurement team—even though Apple then had only about $6 billion in annual revenues and was barely eking out a profit. They were playing in a new league now.

To some, Cook was a machine; to others, he was riveting. He could strike terror in the hearts of his subordinates, but he could also motivate them to toil from dawn to midnight for just a word of praise.”

Those who didn’t interact with Cook on a daily basis described him as a gentle Southerner with an aura reminiscent of Mister Rogers. But he wasn’t approachable. The executive worked out at a gym off campus, and those who tried to engage him in conversation saw little success.

“Apple under Jobs was a roller coaster, but Cook’s operations fief was orderly and disciplined. Cook knew every detail in every step of the operations processes. Weekly operations meetings could last five to six hours as he ground through every single item. His subordinates soon learned to plan for meetings with him as if they were cramming for an exam. Even a small miss of a couple of hundred units was examined closely. “Your numbers,” one planner recalled him saying flatly, “make me want to jump out that window over there.”

Meetings with Cook could be terrifying. He exuded a Zenlike calm and didn’t waste words. “Talk about your numbers. Put your spreadsheet up,” he’d say as he nursed a Mountain Dew. (Some staffers wondered why he wasn’t bouncing off the walls from the caffeine.) When Cook turned the spotlight on someone, he hammered them with questions until he was satisfied. “Why is that?” “What do you mean?” “I don’t understand. Why are you not making it clear?” He was known to ask the same exact question 10 times in a row. “

I highly recommend reading the entire piece over at The Wall Street Journal, as it includes many more interesting tidbits. I know from the excerpts it sounds like the book paints Cook in a bad light, but really he’s just cool and calculating, and has opened up a lot since becoming CEO.

For more information on Tim Cook, check out this recent profile of him by AL.com. And if you’re interested, Kane’s book ‘Haunted Empire, Apple After Steve Jobs’ will be published on March 18.

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  • Sokrates

    Apple is in good hands.

  • QuarterSwede

    The best operations boss, no, leader, I ever had was exactly like this.

    Within 6 months he had turned a store that was flat out failing into the star of, not only the district but, the entire region; he was solely in charge of merchandising. All numbers were up beyond anyone’s expectations and by the end of the year a small store in a new area that was depressed because of the recession was in the #2 spot in a district that includes souther. parts of Denver (huge sales). Word spread and the executive office wanted to know what we were doing right so they sent the top HR exec to find out and implemented many of our custom programs.

    He would push us to do our best in every category, especially safety. If it took twice as long to do something the right way and safer that’s what he demanded (people die every year where I work because of slacking off on safety). He would come to me knowing I just got started on something and ask why I didn’t do something insignificant yet. It seemed like micromanagement at first but then I realized that he was far smarter than that and was trying to get me to not forget the small details.

    When we went over numbers, if we weren’t number 1 he wasn’t satisfied. And when we reached number 1 he would push us to do so much better so that no one could catch us. It was an unbelievable experience to be this small poster team for the company.

    I’ve never hated or loved a boss so much and I learned a great deal from him.

    ps. he is a retired Sargent in the Army.

  • Satyam Panchal

    if tim cook was not ceo of apple so apple will fully destroy

    • Framboogle

      Fully destroy what?

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        Android

      • Anmol Malhotra

        The World! :D

      • Satyam Panchal

        sorry bad english it mean if tim was not ceo of apple so apple was get in bad hand

  • Anmol Malhotra

    You said “Here’s one of my favorite parts:”
    How come always yours(iDownloadBlog) and MacRumors articles matches 80-90%..??
    They too wrote the same parts as yours… Cody Lee you working there also???? :D

  • Framboogle

    Tim Cook reminds me of El Chapo.

  • Mohammad Ridwan

    Also a Badass!

    • Framboogle

      You stole that from top comment in the MacRumors article.

      • Mohammad Ridwan

        Was Samsung and Google burning too ?

  • Alberto Espinal

    At the beginning i was like hmmm, i don’t know about this guy but now my respect to Mr. Cook

  • Laszlo Gaspar

    i always find it funny that in that iconic photo at the top, he is holding the ipad upside down.

  • aphunex

    Tim, why you holding the iPad upside down?

    • Chris Longden

      Remember, there is no incorrect way of holding an iPad ;)

  • Kash Gummaraju

    Anyone notice how Tim Cook is holding the iPad upside down?