Tim Cook was interviewed about a range of topics at DX, including Steve Jobs.
Here is a summary on the remarks on Steve Jobs leadership style.
6:33 pm: Walt: How is Apple different with you as the CEO?
“I learned a lot from Steve. It was absolutely the saddest day of my life when he passed away.”
“At some point late last year, I sort of — somebody kind of shook me and said, ‘It’s time to get on.’” That sadness was replaced by his intense determination to continue the journey.
6:34 pm: What did I learn from him? Focus.
“You can only do so many things great, and you should cast aside everything else.”
Cook says that not accepting things good or very good, but only the best, “that’s embedded in Apple.”
“I’m not going to witness or permit the change of that.”
“He also taught me the joy is in the journey, and that was a revelation for me.”
Cook also made a reference to the fact that Jobs stressed the importance of owning the key underlying technologies.
As for moving on, Cook says: “I love museums, but I don’t want to live in one.”
6:37 pm: Cook says he is committed to preserving the culture of Apple.
“It is not that easy to duplicate, either,” Cook says.
“If they could, everybody would be like this,” Cook says. “You can’t get a consultant report” and change to be like Apple.
6:38 pm: Cook says that Jobs told him not to ask what Steve would have done.
“He looked at me with those intense eyes that only he had, and said, ‘Just do what’s right.’”
“I’m doing that. Does that mean some things would be different? Of course. But he was the best person at doing that.”
Cook notes that Jobs was well known for doing a 180-degree turn if needed, without ever letting on that he had advocated the opposite.
7:27 pm: Kara: What do you do all day? What do you see your role at Apple as on a daily basis, and are you a visionary?
Cook: “Steve was a genius and a visionary. … He’s an irreplaceable person. Steve was an original, and I don’t think there is another one of those being made. I’ve never felt the weight of trying to be Steve. It’s not who I am, and it’s not my goal in life.”
I spend my day working with teams on various products, including “some things we didn’t talk about, and maybe some things you wanted to talk about.”
“It is my oxygen, that’s how strongly I feel about it.”
7:30 pm: Who’s the curator at Apple these days? Walt asks.
Cook: “We have a privilege, because if I look around the executive team, many of the people are people I have been working with for double-digit years.” We all get along well, Cook says.
No one person can do it all, Cook says.
“You could have an ‘S’ on your chest and a cape on your back, and not be able to do it all.”
Cook says, “I wouldn’t get overly focused on who does what piece.” There’s a lot of key people, and there have always been a lot of key people.
Kara: What’s your goal? Make a trillion dollars, create your version of the CIA?
“I just want to build great products,” Cook says. “I think if we do that, then the other things follow.”
Companies can get lost, he says, focusing on revenue, profit or stock price.
“You have to focus on the things that lead to those,” he says.
7:33 pm: What do you look up to? Is there a person or a company?
Cook: “If you walked in my office, you would see Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. If you are talking about CEOs that are living … I have incredible respect for Bob Iger and what he has done at Disney. (Iger is on Apple’s board.)
7:41 pm: What did Steve say to you to encourage you to join Apple when you did, and did you see Apple becoming what it has become?
“It was a very interesting meeting. Steve had hired an executive search firm to find someone to run operations. I had gotten a call a few times, and said no. They kept calling, and they kept calling.”
He flew out Friday on a red-eye for a Saturday morning meeting. “Five minutes into the conversation, I am wanting to join Apple. I am shocked at this, because it wasn’t what I envisioned at all.”
“He was taking Apple deeply into consumer at a time when others were doing the opposite.”
“I have never thought following the herd is a good strategy. You are destined to be average, at best.”
Also, he says, he was impressed that Jobs wasn’t focused on money.
“I thought, I am going to throw caution to the wind and do this,” Cook says, adding he resigned immediately from his former job.
He can’t say that he saw iPhone and iPad coming, but he saw the passion in Apple customers, as well. They might get mad, but they stayed loyal.
“An Apple customer was a unique breed.”
7:49 pm: What has been the biggest challenge in the post-Steve Jobs era?
Cook: He knew everyone well, and it was a culture that he loved. “All of the things that maybe a CEO coming into a new company would see, I didn’t have any of those challenges.”
Once named CEO, Cook started getting thousands of emails per day. The privilege of it is that most of them are from customers. “They talk to you as if you are sitting in their living room.”
That, he says, was a bit of a surprise. He had been getting hundreds. Today, he says, it is a privilege. Especially since he doubts it is like that somewhere else.
“I can’t say anything (else) has surprised me,” he says.