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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 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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