One of the examples Simon Sinek almost overuses in Start with Why is Apple.
The reason why he uses is them is because they are an absolutely brilliant example of the Golden Circle. In various chapters he points to how their WHY has been engrained in their company since the first days Wozniak and Jobs worked in Jobs’ garage. Apple’s WHY was to challenge the status quo and inspire others to think differently. They started by making computers that reflected that, but over the decades their reach has revolutionized many other markets.
One of the keys, Sinek argues, to a successful company is a CEO that embodies the WHY of the company. They have to be the visionary that naturally exudes the qualities your product or service provides. They become the physical manifestation of the WHY. They draw in customers with their passion but they also inspire employees with their vision.
This was Steve Jobs for Apple.
If you have read anything about him from his time at Apple—pre-1985 or post-1997—Jobs was the visionary at the helm that made Apple what it was and is. He was the embodiment of the Apple mentality. Steve Jobs equalled Apple, and visa versa.
Until his death in 2011.
Analysts, shareholders, and Apple fans all wondered who would step into the shoes their mythologized founder left. Who would fill the “One more thing…” hole in presentations.
Enter Tim Cook.
I remember articles and blogs written comparing Cook and Jobs once it was announced he would be taking the reigns permanently as CEO. They could not be more polar opposites. Jobs was erratic, charismatic, and borderline maniacal at times; Cook was collected, genial, and soft-spoken—at least in the public eye. These two stark contrasts did not sit well with me then, and I wasn’t sure why until I read Start with Why and began to understand the principle job of a successful CEO.
Cook doesn’t embody Apple.
Granted, there will never be another Steve Jobs. Period. No one will ever be able to do what he did ever again. But Cook does not embody the rebellious attitude that has become synonymous with Apple’s products. Based on some of Sinek’s arguments and examples, this does not bode well for Apple’s future.
This doesn’t mean everything will be derailed and the company is going down the tubes. Most companies can ride the wave of their founder’s passing for some time after their departure, but having someone at the helm that doesn’t naturally portray the WHY of your company takes a whole lot of extra effort… and it hasn’t worked out well for Apple in the past (see John Sculley).
I’ve been skeptical, like many other Apple analysts and fans recently, of the future as each “new” product has appeared to be an evolutionary design rather than a revolutionary design. Whether the innovation has dissipated slowly or we’re just in the holding pattern for the next market to be overhauled, time will only tell.
But I read an article that gave me a glimpse of hope recently from BusinessWeek.
Amidst the talk of dollar signs and projected earnings, shareholders reaffirmed their faith in CEO Tim Cook and the direction he is taking the company by approving the board of directors once again and other decisions. In a year where Apple is the world’s most valuable company yet also recording a drop in profit last fiscal year, the support didn’t make complete sense to me but it wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary.
That was until I read a quote from Cook when asked about having a vision like Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerburg to connect every human to the internet. He responded with, “Many companies sell futures. I’m not saying companies that do that are right or wrong. It’s just not who we are.”
And that’s when I realized the CEO of Apple gets Apple. He might not be the same kind of rebellious Steve Jobs was, but Tim Cook is rebellious in his own way… all the way to the core.