Tim Cook Is the Grown-Up Boss Apple Never Had

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Unlike Steve Jobs who operated like a non-boss boss, running the company as the creative, yet kind of horrible figurehead, Tim Cook is more staid, responsible and reasonable. You know, like a normal boss.

We knew Cook would be a different kind of leader than Jobs. For one thing, he's known to be nice. But this lengthy profile by Fortune Adam Lashinksy shows just how adult Cook is compared to Jobs and just how much that grownup behavior has helped Apple's bottom line -- for now.

Cook's maturity goes beyond his public rapport, which is a departure from Steve Jobs' in that he has one. Jobs stayed away from investors, photo-ops and interviews. Cook, as we already knew, likes to put on a good face. He talks to press and investors. When Apple looked like a slave labor enabler, Cook went to China and took smiley photos. As Lashinky explains, all of this has only furthered Apple's economic success. 

The profile opens with an anecdote that humanizes Cook, reminding us how he differs from Jobs. Cook goes to a meeting, explains Lashinsky, acting like a leader should:

What shocked the Apple investors that day was that CEO Tim Cook popped into the room about 20 minutes into Oppenheimer's talk, quietly sat down in the back of the room, and did something unusual for a CEO of Apple: He listened. He didn't check his e-mail once. He didn't interrupt. 

Steve Jobs wouldn't have bothered 

We get moments like this sprinkled throughout Lashinsky's story, as when Cook cracks jokes with employees. Lashinsky describes him as jovial, compared to Jobs who did things in a much more Machiavellian way. 

But, small morale and investor relations improvements aren't what's pumping Apple's stock. Rather, it's that Cook runs the business like a chief executive officer, rather than an out-there visionary. For example, Cook is the one changing the way Apple manufactures in China. "The Apple supply chain is doing things no one else can,' given its abundance of cash and manufacturing know-how," David Eiswert, a portfolio manager at T told Lashinksy. "The moves, he and other observers say, have Cook's fingerprints all over them."
Overall, Cook is as an efficiency man. He know what to do to boost the bottom line. "Such operational efficiencies have been an underappreciated factor in Apple's success for the past decade; all the attention has been on its beautiful designs and snazzy marketing overseen by Jobs," writes Lashinsky, predicting Cook will keep moving in that direction. "If anything, Apple under Tim Cook will embrace efficiency to an even greater degree, especially as the company grows bigger and more complex -- to the dismay of those who think techies should rule the roost," he continues.
But, that techie fanboyism is kind of important for Apple's future. Cook can be as efficient and nice as he wants, but if people stop liking the products—loving them, even—he wont have any money with which to be sensible. For now, that doesn't seem to matter: The iPhone 4S and new iPad won over the fans. And Cook can probably ride on that for awhile, as Lashinsky describes it, writing about an event Apple holds called the Top 100, where it describes its roadmap to the company's top execs:
Participants left the Top 100 energized about Apple's near-term outlook, presumably having seen Apple's next iPhone and perhaps its long-awaited television product too. One veteran executive was "blown away" by what he had seen, says someone this executive spoke to afterward. Reports another person with access to top-level Apple executives: "People came away totally comfortable with where the company is headed."
For now, Cook can afford to be the boring adult in the room. But, people say Jobs left the company with years' worth of products. What will Cook do after that? 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.