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11 Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From Tim Cook

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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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