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11 Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From Tim Cook

11 Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From Tim Cook

All eyes were on Apple CEO Tim Cook after he took over from the iconic and masterful Steve Jobs. People did not believe he possessed the necessary leadership qualities required to help Apple continue as a tech powerhouse. We have quickly realized that this is not the case and Tim Cook is more than capable of taking Apple to the next level.

Leadership requires skills that you must continue to refine as you progress through your career. To help you do that, here are 11 leadership lessons we can learn from Tim Cook.

1. Take risks.

The life of a leader is not an easy one. At times leaders must make extremely difficult decisions that can affect the lives of those around them. Although it’s difficult, you must be able to trust in your ability to take risks.

Tim Cook understands he must take risks in order to succeed. He believes that “[w]e take risks knowing that risks will sometimes result in failure, but without the possibility of failure there is no possibility of success.”

Without the confidence to take calculated risks, it will be almost impossible to have the full support of those around you.

2. Focus and listen attentively to those you speak to.

Steve Jobs was always a boisterous and unique individual, while Tim Cook is far quieter and reserved. This may be because he is focused and listening attentively to what those around him are saying. Saeed Magahsooloo, a professor from Auburn University said, “I hardly ever saw him asking questions. He sat quietly and studied.” The moment you notice your mind starting to drift away from the conversation, you should focus and take down the key points.

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The old adage goes, you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. This is a lesson from Tim Cook that should be implemented by anyone with the goal of becoming a great leader.

3. Trust others around you.

Tim Cook is known as a leader who will trust the opinions and voices of the team he surrounds himself with.

He is fortunate to have many top executives that can help share the workload of the business. He understands these individuals are successful people with innovative and brilliant ideas, and will often allow these executives to take the lead. Philip W. Schiller, the senior vice president of marketing at Apple, has turned the image and sales around during his 14 year tenure with Apple. Mr Schiller made an impact on the company because Mr. Cook allowed him to do so.

Part of being a leader is understanding that you don’t know everything, and handing some of the workload to others on your team will go a long way in helping you become a successful leader.

4. Diversity is important.

Apple is a company at the forefront of innovation, and that requires different minded and unique individuals to help create the future.

Tim Cook, as a leader of a company that is founded on innovation, understands he needs thinkers who can offer a different insight. “We want diversity of thought,” he said in a recent interview with Businessweek. “We want diversity of style. We want people to be themselves.”

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Bringing the best out of people is not a quality many leaders possess and working on refining this skill will give people the confidence to follow your lead.

5. Be humble.

Never forget where you came from. Tim Cook manages to find the time to visit his Apple stores and engage with his customers, either face-to-face or by reading their emails.

It’s easy to get swept away when you are CEO of the biggest company in the world and it’s important to keep yourself grounded. During the interview Tim Cook did with Businessweek, he said, “Not allowing yourself to become insular is very important–maybe the most important thing, I think, as a CEO.” Staying humble will give you the respect of your employees and is a quality that is necessary to becoming a great leader.

6. Admit when you’re wrong.

Strong leaders need to understand when they are wrong and admit it so that they can move forward.

Tim Cook strongly believes in admitting when you are wrong. Mr. Cook spoke about Steve Jobs and his ability to admit wrongs to Businessweek. He said, “Maybe the most under-appreciated thing about Steve was that he had the courage to change his mind. And you know–it’s a talent. It’s a talent.”

This is a strong lesson in leadership, having the courage to admit when you are wrong and avoiding the mistakes of the past.

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7. Do what you do and do it well.

Apple is a company that is built around doing what they do and doing it well. It may be shocking to believe, but Apple really only creates a few products.

Tim Cook stresses that this focus is a key to Apple’s continued success. “I mean, if you really look at it, we have four iPods. We have two main iPhones. We have two iPads, and we have a few Macs. That’s it.” Mr. Cook is patient and understands that new and unique ideas will come. In the meantime, Apple focuses on improving its foundation and the products people love.

8. Believe in what you’re doing and take actions that reflect that.

To truly be a great leader you must believe in yourself and trust that you are making the right decisions. Your actions also must reflect the belief you have in yourself and this is a key attribute of Tim Cook.

Many people are unaware just how much Tim Cook believes in himself to make the right decision. According to Fox Business, when Apple’s stock was tanking, Mr. Cook chose to forfeit up to one third of his stock-based compensation (nearly $130 million over 8 years) if the stock under-performed the S&P 500. There was no fine print; he chose to lead by example and put his money where his mouth is.

9. Be you and don’t pretend to be anyone else.

Succeeding as a leader does not mean you have to give up being who you are in the process. Staying true to yourself and being the same person will help you become a strong leader. After all, that’s what got you there.

Many believed Tim Cook didn’t have the right personality to complete the role as Apple CEO successfully, because of his calm and passive demeanor. But he has more than proved he is the right man for the job. While Steve Jobs was a far more aggressive individual, Tim Cook has not changed to fit the mold of CEO before him; he has stayed true to himself and is completing the job with his own strengths.

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10. Write your own rules.

If you truly want to excel as a leader you must write your own rules. You will struggle to find continued success if you lead based on the confines of a textbook. You will rarely find real life scenarios and problems following those in textbooks.

During a Q & A at Duke University, Tim Cook mentioned you must “write your own rules”. If you do everything in a formulated manner, then the best you can do is reach the same position as everybody else. It is a strong lesson in leadership, knowing when to follow the rules and when to throw them away.

11. Be transparent.

Tim Cook knows that transparency is crucial to sustained success. Upon receiving harsh criticism about the standards of Apple’s global employees, he decided to open up the doors to the public and allow them to see how Apple’s operation really works. By doing this he instilled confidence for those in the company and set new industry standards for manufacturers everywhere.

“We want to be as innovative with supply responsibility as we are with our products. That’s a high bar. The more transparent we are, the more it’s in the public space,” Mr. Cook said to Businessweek. Being transparent is a solid foundation for leadership.

Tim Cook has been an inspiration to many people since taking the role as Apple CEO. His approach to leadership is admirable and his lessons can teach us all how to build a solid foundation as a leader.

Featured photo credit: Apple CEO Tim Cook/Mike Deerkoski via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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