Apple's Tim Cook: 'Not a natural leader'

Apple's Tim Cook: 'Not a natural leader'

Summary: A former sales executive for Apple dishes about chief executive Tim Cook's management style.


During my time here at ZDNet, I've done quite a bit of onlooker analysis into the course of Apple, the technology company. I've watched how it rolls out products, the statements that it makes about them, and the conventions it upholds and breaks.

This increased considerably once the leader who made a name for the company, founder Steve Jobs, died. Much like a relay race, the most interesting moments are in the baton's hand-off.

It has been about a year that Tim Cook has been chief executive. We've all known that his management style is markedly different from his predecessor; indeed, he wouldn't have been chosen as Jobs' right-hand man if he was a mirror image of him. But how that will manifest into steering Apple as a whole, well, that has been the subject of great speculation.

Those of us in the press know only what we can see from our point of view. We don't work for Apple, despite the accusations some of you leave in the comments sections of our websites. And Apple is famously tight-lipped -- few with the company listed in their work history are willing to talk about it on the record.

But it does happen on occasion. ReadWrite's Dan Lyons managed to get a former sales executive to spill the beans on Tim Cook's tendencies. As with any individual, it's only a single person's point of view (and one attached to a book deal, I should note). But it's a different perspective from what you've been reading all year, which makes it worth at least a casual look.

Seven things he said about Cook and how he runs his kitchen:

  1. "I sense no personal loyalty in him." He's guided by numbers and a fear of being wrong.
  2. "The people I saw him hire were not good ones." It's a habit.
  3. "A lightweight" on technology, in the sense that there's no passion for it.
  4. "He is not a natural leader. He is a manager." Of numbers, not personalities.
  5. There "is not a sustainable business culture" at Apple, because of indecision and conflicting opinion that don't get edited at the top.
  6. "Strong leaders end up butting their heads against the wall" because the company's management structure clips their wings. So they leave, with their ideas in tow.
  7. "Apple has lost or is in the process of losing" its core prosumer group by embracing the mass market. It's one strategy, but it comes at a price.

Interesting stuff.

What's your take: words by an employee with an axe to grind, or legitimate complaints about the company?

Topic: Apple

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • You quoted Dan Lyon's view? Seriously?

    That is like asking Steve Balmer what he thinks of Google.

    Dan Lyon's will happily make up anything or dig deep enough to find something against Apple. Its like starting off with "According to Florian Müller..."
    • Please read more carefully.

      I didn't quote Dan Lyons at all. I quoted the answers given to him during an interview he conducted with the former Apple sales exec. Lyons' thoughts are not a part of this in the least.
      • Great

        Dan Lyons interviews an unnamed disgruntled former sales exec. Let's take that to the bank--not!
  • I love what Tim Cook is doing to AAPL

    Down 20% in less than 2 months. Keep up the great work Tim. Don't stop until it is down to $20.
    • What is it you keep saying about trolls again?

      Difficult to always conceal your true self, isn't it?
      • I'm not quite up to your trolling standards

        Maybe you could write a manual on how to be a better troll? You clearly have a lot of practice.
        • Pathetic, truly pathetic, utterly pathetic

          Especially in light of my post below.

          Words of wisdom: When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
          • they see me trollin'

            (they hatin')
      • And a PS just for you

        I used my Surface while lying in bed today.

        Worked perfectly.

        Of course, you wouldn't know because you don't own one.

        What was it you were saying about trolls? Exactly.
        • I could use my desktop in bed too

          But I choose not to, because there are better solutions.

          Your point proves what?

          I will not respond further to your pathetic posts to this blog. I have better things to do.
          • You are right, there are better solutions

            "But I choose not to, because there are better solutions."

            Like the Surface.

            "I will not respond further to your pathetic posts to this blog."

        • Welcome to 2010!

          I have been using a tablet in bed since the 1990s
          • That was in reference to something DT Long stated

            He stated that only a laptop can be used in bed.

            Odd fellow.
          • So have a lot of people...

            its called Viagra
            Simon Woolcott
    • And here I thought

      You wanted Apple to stick around. Or is this some sort of moment of pettiness?
      • When did I suggest I wanted to see Apple disappear?

        Can you point it out for us?
      • You flagged me Toddy?

        Wow, truth hurt? Ah well, there's one in every crowd I guess.

        "Down 20% in less than 2 months. Keep up the great work Tim. Don't stop until it is down to $20."

        Your words form the post above. Not exactly stating you want Apple gone but definitely inferring it.
        • I did not flag you

          Flagging people is a waste of time. ZDNet will never do anything about the trolls that are here so I don't bother.

          As for inferring that I want Apple gone, you could only possibly believe that if you believe that a company with a stock price of $20 is out of business. While I do not believe Apple is a company that deserves its current marketcap, thus my glee in seeing it come down closer to what I believe it is worth ($20) I absolutely do not want Apple gone. So if you contorted your thought process into believing that I was inferring something, let me categorically deny (for the millionth time) that I want Apple gone. I want an Apple that does not bully other companies, an Apple that does not have a monopoly, an Apple that does not use the courts to kill the competition.

          I do not want Apple gone. Is that clear?
        • Flagging

          I wish ZDNET had Vote UP and Vote DOWN buttons. From the beginning I was pretty sure that Flag was used to vote down. And I still use it to vote down once in a while when strongly disagreeing with someone.
          No, I'm not the one who flagged you in this tread, but I'm pretty sure someone just meant to vote it down.
          • agreed and we need flag down option and edit option for the posts also

            right now we could only do * a post. But we need a flag-down. Probably Larry and his team just omitted because the likes of SJVN would get more flag-downs for their nonsensical posts than *.
            Ram U