Not many figureheads in the technology world can claim to be as big, influential or larger-than-life than the late Steve Jobs. That is why, when Tim Cook took over from Jobs as the CEO of Apple in 2011, the world remained circumspect about how he would follow in the footsteps of one of history’s greatest business visionaries. Cook defied all expectations, and under his leadership, Apple soared with its stock nearly tripling, making it the world’s first trillion-dollar company.
In the hands of Leander Kahney, the story turns into a delightfully inspiring, and surprisingly straightforward biography, titled Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level. Leander, who lives and works in San Francisco, has already written four books about Apple, including Inside Steve’s Brain and Cult of Mac. A former Wired news editor, and now editor and publisher of CultofMac.com, Kahney took time off to chat with Express Features over an email interview.
Given the access to information that you had, how difficult was it to maintain a sense of objectivity about Tim Cook?
I’ve been a journalist for almost 30 years, and I can maintain professional objectivity. Perhaps, the sense of Cook comes through because Apple helped out with interviews for the book, by providing access to several Cook’s executives. This helped enormously, and shaped the structure and content of the book. It provided a more intimate portrait of the man.
Many new books in recent times focused on debunking myths about the tech world, unraveling secrets of leaders, and breaking down untruths about new-age management. Given all of that, this book stays clear of grey areas, and gossipy fluff.
One of the primary inspirations for the book was Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. While it was a great and monumental work, I felt that it did not adequately explore what Jobs did at work. I know this might sound strange, but it really didn’t explain how Jobs worked. I wanted to write a business biography of Tim Cook, focusing on his work. I stayed away from his personal life, and the gossip surrounding it. I hope readers agree.
If you were asked to compare Cook to other giants of innovation — who would you pitch him against, and why?
I’d compare Tim Cook to Robert Iger, the CEO of Disney. Both men are in charge of huge, iconic companies. Both Cook and Iger have proven capable of running big, complex companies with disparate businesses and in challenging business environments, but not only have they survived, they’ve thrived.
We don’t get to hear much about the initiatives taken by Cook and Apple, being caught up with Apple’s updates and new releases.
Yes, it’s true. The public doesn’t get to hear about Cook’s environmental and workforce initiatives as much as new products, but they are just as important. Cook’s leadership on the environment, for example, has transformed Apple from one of the least green companies in Silicon Valley into one of the greenest. This affects the utility companies. They are also getting greener because companies like Apple are demanding green energy, so it has a knock-on effect.
BOOK REVIEW | Tim Cook proves he's better Apple CEO than Steve Jobs
How closely did you get to Tim Cook?
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to know Cook, but I did get to interview his close colleagues, who provided quite an intimate portrait. And, Cook has given speeches and talks about coming out as gay, joining Apple and other emotional parts of his life. I didn’t leave out anything I discovered.
Do Apple staffers have faith in Cook as a leader?
Employee morale is excellent under Cook. Every one of Apple’s staffers that I talked to had very high confidence in him, and the direction he is leading Apple. Of course, these people work for him, but I got a strong sense they were being truthful. There’s a lot of genuine affection for Cook among Apple’s staff. He’s a good man, a good leader, and they genuinely respect him.
Will Cook, in your eyes, ever be as influential and inspiring as Jobs?
It’s unlikely that Tim Cook will ever become as idolised as Steve Jobs. Jobs had a magnetic charisma, an amazing media profile, and (when younger) rockstar good looks. It all adds up to a persona that’s easy to mythologise. I doubt Cook will ever be venerated in the same way, but it’s early days yet. Perhaps, Cook will have a spectacular run these next few years, and introduce a string of hit products that puts him up there with Jobs. We will see.
Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level
Publisher: Penguin India
Pages: 299 | Price: Rs 699