It’s early days, but given the importance of the CEO transition at the top of Apple, I just wanted to say this:From my perspective, Tim Cook is doing a great job.
My impression of this is not just the result of Apple’s extraordinary performance last quarter, though that certainly helped.
(Apple’s products and performance for most of 2012 are pretty much baked-in, I think, and the true test of Tim Cook’s contribution in that arena won’t come until next year.)
The reason I think Tim’s doing a great job has much more to do with the way he is handling external communications.
Apple has faced three potential crises in the past 6 months, and Tim has handled them all superbly.
The first was the loss of the irreplaceable Steve Jobs.
Tim’s leadership and public comments during that period were as strong, respectful, and confidence-inspiring as they could have been.
For example, Tim said right up front that he wasn’t going to try to lead the company the way Steve would have–and he hasn’t. He said he would lead it the way he thought it should be led, building on the amazing DNA that Steve had already built into it. And, so far, that leadership has been steady and confident.
In everything he says as CEO, Tim’s competitiveness, passion, and intensity come through. These are traits he clearly shared with Steve Jobs, and they’re a huge part of what makes Apple great. But Tim does not appear to share Steve’s showmanship, flair, or mercurial personality, and he’s not trying to pretend he does. And, so far, anyway, Apple’s fine without them.
The second crisis Apple faced was a crappy quarter in the wake of the late release of the iPhone 4S. iPhone sales dropped sharply in Q3 last year. This would have been a prime opportunity of a new CEO to panic and blow it, especially given that he had only just taken over. Although other Apple execs did make the mistake of making excuses (one blamed rumour-mongering for freezing the market), Tim didn’t. And then he followed up Q3 with a monster Q4.
The third crisis Apple has faced has been the recent publicity around its manufacturing practices.
Tim has handled this crisis perfectly.
First, instead of just taking the punches or lashing out a critics, Apple responded intelligently and forthrightly. It hired inspectors to look into its manufacturing partner Foxconn, and it presumably leaned on Foxconn to allow ABC News full access to its factories. Tim himself also quickly spoke out, and he spoke very persuasively.
In short, Apple did not hide from this potential scandal. It acknowledged that it was not perfect, and it made a commitment to try even harder. And it allowed sunlight into a process that has heretofore been locked down in controversy and secrecy.
This is exactly the way Apple should have handled this crisis, and Tim was right at the centre of it.
In short, Tim Cook appears to have exactly the right mix of self-confidence, passion, commitment, and competence needed to follow one of the toughest acts in history.
That’s just my perspective, and I’d love to hear thoughts from those who are closer to the company than I am.
But from where I sit, Apple looks to be in excellent hands.