Former Apple exec slams Tim Cook’s management skills

It’s been just a little over a year since Tim Cook officially took the reigns as Apple’s CEO, and thus far, he has looked like a genius. Apple has set a number of records in the last 12 months, and recently released a slew of new  products.

But “genius” isn’t the word that David Sobotta, a former director of Apple’s federal sales group, would used to describe Mr. Cook. In a recent interview with ReadWriteWeb, Sobotta painted a very grim picture of the chief executive…

Sobotta worked at Apple for 20 years, from 1984-2004 when he was asked to leave the company. He didn’t report directly to Cook, but as director of Apple’s federal sales group he had a lot of contact with Apple’s current CEO.

Shortly after last week’s announcement that Scott Forstall was leaving Apple, Dan Lyons of ReadWriteWeb emailed Sobotta about his thoughts on the management shakeup. Below are some excepts from their conversation.

“Well, for starters, Cook is not a people person,” Sobotta writes. “He certainly will not stand behind someone if the going gets rough. He is not that kind of guy. I sense no personal loyalty in him, and I suspect employees already understand that…

…I would expect that Tim is having a hard time herding the chickens. From what I saw of him, he was something of a loner. He is not a warm guy nor is he the type to go wandering the halls or Caffe Mac to find out what is happening. His preference is to tinker with spreadsheets and numbers. He is not a natural leader. He’s a manager…

…Technology-wise, I think Tim Cook is a lightweight. I never felt passion for technology from Tim like I did from Steve and some of the great engineers.”

Yikes. Those are some strong words for a former employee that hasn’t worked at Apple in more than 8 years. Sobotta says he still talks to people inside the company, but who knows what departments they’re in or where they stand.

It’s hard to imagine that if Tim Cook’s really like this, Steve Jobs would have left him in charge of Apple. Remember, Jobs handpicked Cook to be the company’s CEO after resigning last year. And that’s after several years of working next to him.

I do agree, though, that Tim probably doesn’t have a technological mind. I don’t see him in his office dreaming up Apple’s next big hit. He’s a numbers guy, the former head of operations, and he obviously did that well enough to get noticed.

Besides, Cook has enough talented minds around him — Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue, etc. — that he doesn’t have to dream up new products. He just has to steady the ship and make sure Apple keeps churning out awesome stuff.

So far so good.

What do you think about Sobotta’s comments?