Congrats to Tim Cook who is over one year into his tenure as CEO of Apple. Big shoes to be filled and now Apple is moving into a new competitive arena because it is now the industry leader (defender) - the primary target for attackers. Tim has two jobs: 1/develop a competitive business strategy to defend its market share from the low end and block entrants 2/an innovation strategy to find an industry/category to disrupt leveraging Apple’s core capabilities. There were a few bumps like the Siri or Googlemap etc., but those were unavoidable.
Sabotta, a former director of Apple's federal sales group, criticitzes Apple’s CEO Tim Cook in his Kindle book that he is afraid of being wrong, lacks leadership skills, and is a "lightweight" when it comes to understanding technology. According to Sobotta, “Tim will react to the numbers or his fear of being wrong quickly. Fear of being wrong is a managerial trait that runs strong and deep in Apple because of the way Steve ran the company. Even the appearance of being wrong when in the end you might be right is dreaded at Apple. Technology-wise, I think Tim Cook is a lightweight. I never felt passion for technology from Tim like I did from Steve and some of the great engineers.”
I must say I won’t judge Cook’s performance or management style based on these criticisms (Sobotta acknowledges early in his Kindle book about his experience at Apple and that he was asked to leave Apple in 2004.) Being a CEO or Apple’s CEO is not exactly an easy job.
The way I take his comment is actually positive. A technology “lightweight” is more effective and desirable in the case of Apple to avoid the most common mistake in this industry when the technology voice overpowers business and customers. Technology heavyweight is actually less desirable for the CEO job, it is not Apple business strategy for technology big bet.
In his blog, Sobotta is critical of Apple and its Jobs' style of management in many ways. Some titles of his posts include"Do Apple Employees Need A Witness Protection Program?" "Has Apple lost its soul?" He is basically saying Apple used some of the worst management practices to build the world’s most valuable company.
Apple is what Apple is today because of Steve Jobs’ strategic and aesthetic arrogance, charisma and capacity for work. If there’s one thing worse than a leader who micromanages to the point of stunting the creativity of his team, it’s a leader who knows and feels that there is a better way to work but fails to act on his gut. That wasn’t Jobs. As the master of anti-subopimization, understanding how he and Apple achieved such greatness isn’t about compartmentalizing each facet of Steve Jobs – it’s about recognizing how his various CEO personas were symbiotically entwined so that, when they intersected at crucial points, magic happened.
Maybe Steve Jobs was a perfectionist, not a control freak. Being in control is different from being a control freak. Those accused of being the former are often the victims of those who just don’t have the skin to stay in – and change – the game. Either way, new and extreme times call for new and extreme measures. Sometimes control is exactly what an organization needs. We see grand strategies that look good on paper and in the boardroom, but without an emotionally committed leader with vision, belief and conviction, the successful execution of idea into results won’t happen.
Armchair management critics will continuous to critique Jobs’ management style as ‘control’, even while every CEO from luxury goods to fast-fashion retail seeks to replicate his success. Ultimately, his example begs one simple question: Why aren’t more of us control freaks? Rather than decrying control, maybe it’s time to take the reins of our own ideas, innovations and organizations by studying the attitude, approach and micro-details that were responsible for transforming what those same critics once called a niche computer company into the $700 a share behemoth that everyone – including all those former PC fans – loves today.
As for Cooke, he has a far more difficult job that Jobs, Apple was an attacker and have nothing to lose to change the game. Now Apple is the defender and Cooke has to play both attacker and defender. It is a high risk game and he has every reason to react to the numbers or have ear of being wrong. That’s his job.