One day in the summer of 2011, Tim Cook got a call from Steve Jobs.”I’d like to talk to you,” said Jobs.
“Fine, when,” asked Cook.
“Now,” said Jobs.
So, Cook dropped what he was doing and headed over to see Jobs.
When Cook arrived Jobs surprised him by saying he was going to make Cook CEO of Apple.
At the time, Jobs was sick, but Cook tells Bloomberg BusinessWeek, he thought Jobs was getting better.
Jobs explained his decision, saying, “There has never been a professional transition at the CEO level in Apple.”
“Our company has done a lot of great things, but has never done this one.” In the past, CEOs were fired, then a new one came in. “I want there to be a professional CEO transition, and I have decided, and I am recommending to the board that you be the CEO, and I’m going to be the chairman.”
Cook was caught off guard and asked, “Are you sure?”
Jos said, “Yes.”
Cook asked again, “Are you sure?”
Jobs said, “Yes. Don’t ask me anymore.”
At the time, Jobs and Cook expected Jobs would be alive for at least a few more years.
Cook started to think about how it would work. How could be CEO with Jobs still casting a long shadow?
Jobs explained why it was important for Cook to take over the company, and really make it his own: “I want to make this clear. I saw what happened when Walt Disney passed away. People looked around, and they kept asking what Walt would have done. The business was paralysed, and people just sat around in meetings and talked about what Walt would have done. I never want you to ask what I would have done. Just do what’s right.”
Cook was given the authority to do what he thought was right, not what he thought Jobs would think is right. That’s what Cook has done since he took over Apple. He hasn’t been guided by thinking about what would Jobs do. He’s been guided by doing what is right.
Now, to be sure, Jobs influence over Cook and Apple remains strong. Jobs was a friend and a mentor for Cook.
Cook says, “Maybe the most underappreciated thing about Steve was that he had the courage to change his mind. And you know—it’s a talent.”
And so, if Cook ran the company trying to think about what Steve Jobs would have done, it’s impossible. Because what Steve Jobs would do on Tuesday isn’t necessarily what he would have done on Thursday.
This story is based on what Cook told Bloomberg BusinessWeek, read the whole thing here >