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Leander Kahney's Tim Cook biography charts Apple CEO's journey and successes following death of Steve Jobs

Under CEO Tim Cook's leadership, Apple became the world's first trillion dollar company; it's flourishing with new products like the Apple Watch, focusing on recycling and sustainability, and upholding user privacy. Essentially, Apple has, under its CEO Tim Cook, entered a new stage of success.

This, however, wasn't certain. The death of Steve Jobs served as a blow, leaving a gaping void, and many predicted that Apple would become replaceable among consumers and that its stock would fall, given Jobs' irreplaceable nature and the tendency of micromanagement.

Journalist Leander Kahney, in his latest book Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level, follows Cook's journey as he stepped in as CEO following Jobs' death, and through the exercise of being the best version of himself and heeding to his own values, led Apple into a realm of greater successes than ever before. 

The following is an excerpt from Kahney's book, Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level.


Even before Jobs officially stepped down, pundits weren’t afraid to point out that without Steve at the helm, Apple was doomed. It was no exaggeration: “Why Apple Is Doomed” was the title of a May 2011 editorial in the Huffington Post. In it, Ty Fujimura predicted that Apple would never recover from Jobs’s death. His “management, even his vision,” Fujimura wrote, “is replaceable. But that brilliant sense of taste, to which Apple owes their success, will not be matched by the next regime. His death would leave Apple closer to the pack than ever. . . . Without vastly superior products, their arrogant marketing will fall on deaf ears. Consumers will consider alternatives more readily.”

 Leander Kahneys Tim Cook biography charts Apple CEOs journey and successes following death of Steve Jobs

Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level, by Leander Kahney

Many others agreed. Jobs was such a singular leader, and Apple’s products so closely tied to him, that imagining Apple without him was next to impossible. George F. Colony, CEO of research and advisory firm Forrester, predicted the company would fail without him. “When Steve Jobs departed, he took three things with him: 1) singular charismatic leadership that bound the company together and elicited extraordinary performance from its people; 2) the ability to take big risks; and 3) an unparalleled ability to envision and design products.” Apple’s momentum, Colony suggested, would only keep it at the top for two to four more years at the most. “Without the arrival of a new charismatic leader it will move from being a great company to being a good company, with a commensurate step down in revenue growth and product innovation.”

Cook was not the charismatic leader everyone wanted. He was so unlike Steve Jobs that many analysts, including Colony, drew comparisons with Sony after the departure of its legendary cofounder Akio Morita, Polaroid after Edwin Land, Disney in the twenty years after Walt Disney’s death, and even Apple itself after Jobs’s first departure in the mid-1980s. The history books are full of companies that stumbled after the death or departure of a crucial founder or leader. Both Ford and Walmart had taken similar dips. Apple’s great rival, Microsoft, struggled under the leadership of Steve Ballmer, who took over from the legendary Bill Gates.

Even years later, people continued to doubt that Apple would survive under Cook. “The question of whether Cook can sustain Apple’s momentum comes up more often than just about any other question,” Michael Useem, Wharton management professor and director of the school’s Center for Leadership and Change Management, told Fortune magazine in March 2015, three and a half years after Jobs’s death. So widespread was the gloom that one of the most hyped books in 2014, three years after Jobs’s death, was Haunted Empire, by Wall Street Journal reporter Yukari Kane, which described Apple as a company anguished by the absence of its former leader. One passage read, “Even as he took control of Apple’s sprawling empire, Tim Cook could not escape his boss’s shadow. The question was, how would Cook leave that shadow behind? How could anyone compete with a visionary so brilliant and unforgettable that not even death could make him go away?”

Jobs had a vision for Apple that many were afraid would be lost with Cook at the helm. In a 1985 interview with Playboy magazine—ironically the same year he was booted out of Apple for a decade—he bemoaned that “companies, as they grow to become multi-billion-dollar entities, somehow lose their vision.” At the time of his death, Apple had become a multibilliondollar company. It was by just about every conceivable metric more successful than it had ever been in its history. But with Jobs as its leader, the vision was still intact. Did Cook have the right insight into and passion for the products, and did he have a vision for the future of Apple?

Those who worked with Cook knew how great a responsibility the former COO was taking on, and some were nervous at first. It was “a daunting challenge,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of worldwide product marketing, who has worked at Apple for more than thirty years—twenty years as a colleague of Cook’s. “It was like, you’re riding a bike and it’s not just a bike, it’s a motorcycle, it’s a Harley,” he said, in a personal interview at Apple’s new spaceship HQ on March 19, 2018. “The challenge was significant.”

But if Cook was uneasy about taking on this challenge, it wasn’t apparent, even to his closest colleagues like Joswiak. “The world was nervous,” but “if [Cook] was [nervous], he certainly didn’t show it.” If not for his cool demeanor in the face of this significant challenge, Apple would have been a much more difficult place to work after Jobs’s death. But Apple employees understood how Cook operated, even if the rest of the world did not. “He took a lot of unfair criticism early on. . . . The outside world wanted to compare him to Steve.” But Cook “wasn’t going to try to be Steve,” Joswiak said. “And what a smart thing because no one could be Steve. . . . Instead Tim was Tim. Tim brought the things that he could to the business.”

Like most successful leaders, Cook played to his unique strengths to run the company effectively. In a September 2014 interview with Charlie Rose, he explained that Jobs never expected him to lead Apple in the same way that he had. “He knew, when he chose me, that I wasn’t like him, that I’m not a carbon copy of him,” Cook told Rose. “And so he obviously thought through that deeply, about who he wanted to lead Apple. I have always felt the responsibility of that.” Cook says he desperately wanted to continue Jobs’s legacy and “pour every ounce that I had in myself into the company,” but he never had the objective of being the same as Jobs. “I knew, the only person I can be is the person I am,” he continued. “I’ve tried to be the best Tim Cook I can be.”

And that’s exactly what he’s done.

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Updated Date: May 15, 2019 09:57:38 IST