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

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?


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