Time Magazine last week released a special issue listing the “100 most influential people in the world.” Initially, I refused to read it in protest for not having even been considered, but after getting over my prima donna mindset, I leafed through it and found that Apple CEO Tim Cook had made the cut.
And penning Cook’s entry was none other than Apple board member and stalwart enemy of the Chad, former Vice President Al Gore.
It is difficult to imagine a harder challenge than following the legendary Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple. Yet Tim Cook, a soft-spoken, genuinely humble and quietly intense son of an Alabama shipyard worker and a homemaker, hasn’t missed a single beat.
Fiercely protective of Jobs’ legacy and deeply immersed in Apple’s culture, Cook, 51, has already led the world’s most valuable and innovative company to new heights while implementing major policy changes smoothly and brilliantly.
He has indelibly imprinted his leadership on all areas of Apple — from managing its complex inner workings to identifying and shepherding new “insanely great” technology and design breakthroughs into the product pipeline.
Cook’s personal discipline, physical regimen and work hours reflect a philosophy summarized in his 2010 Auburn University commencement speech, in which he quoted President Lincoln: “I will prepare, and someday my chance will come.”
Highly ethical and always thoughtful, he projects calmness but can be tough as nails when necessary. Like the great conductor George Szell, Cook knows that his commitment to excellence is inseparable from the incredible ensemble he leads at Apple. Szell was noted for saying, “We begin where others leave off.”
Cook’s chance has come. What a beginning!