Management, n. The art of getting each person to capitalize on his/her enduring uniqueness.
Leadership, n. The art of getting people to forget their instinctive fear of the future.
In all the articles I’ve seen and read about Apple’s education event yesterday, I have seen no mention of Tim Cook, Apple’s new CEO. I thought it was interesting that he wasn’t there (on stage at least - he may have been in the audience). Why? Because you can be sure that Steve Jobs would have fronted the presentation (rather than Phil Schiller) if he was still CEO.
So what can we learn from this about how Tim Cook intends to lead Apple as CEO?
Let’s start by saying what now appears to be clear: Phil Schiller will be Apple’s frontman for public events. Whilst Tim Cook opened up the iPhone 4S event in October, it was Schiller or actually introduced the new iPhone. And with him fully carrying yesterday’s event it seems pretty apparent that he rather than Cook will be Apple’s new public-facing frontman.
Some people will argue that the CEO should always be the main guy on stage at public events. Steve Jobs was. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, is. But I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule.
As I always say, people should play to their strengths. If carrying a public event isn’t Tim Cook’s strongest area, why not let someone else carry that role? In a great football (soccer) team, being the captain doesn’t automatically mean you’re the one who takes the penalty kicks. No, the player on the team who takes the best penalty kicks takes them.
And that’s why Apple are doing what they’re doing. It would have been very tempting for Tim Cook to feel that he had to carry on Steve Jobs’ mantle and be the event-fronting showman. But that’s not who Cook is. He brings different strengths to the mix. And Schiller is clearly a much stronger presenter than Cook.
I think this confirms the fact that Tim Cook is secure in who he is, secure in what he brings to Apple, and doesn’t feel that he has to be someone he’s not. And that is a very positive sign. Apple would seem to have chosen a very strong new CEO who is very comfortable in their own skin and who isn’t trying to be somebody else.
We can all learn from that.