Learning from Tim Cook, Person of the Year

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Tim Smith, CEO of Apple Inc, has been named as the Financial Times’s “person of the year, 2014.”

Why has he been picked out for this honour?

And is there anything you might want to learn from him?

The FT puts it this way: “Financial success and dazzling new technology alone might have been enough to earn Apple’s steely chief executive the FT’s vote as the 2014 Person of the Year, but Mr Cook’s brave exposition of his values also sets him apart.”

Values. What do they mean by Mr Cook’s “brave exposition of his values”?

First, he talked publicly about his sexuality. “A move that could have put Apple’s brand at risk in less tolerant parts of the world.” And he did so selflessly: “If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”

Second, Mr Cook has also championed diversity, sustainability, and supply-chain transparency. None of these is an easy win for financial returns (see below). But they all fit with his values, so he does them anyway.

His focus is on people, strategy, and execution. The chief executive of IBM praises his style as “Very authentic: informal, candid and approachable.”

As an example of all of this, the FT quotes one exchange from the shareholder meeting in February. “One audience member tried to push Apple’s chief executive on the profitability of Apple’s various environmental initiatives, such as its solar-powered data centre. Mr Cook snapped.

“We do things for other reasons than a profit motive, we do things because they are right and just,” Mr Cook growled… “I don’t think about the bloody ROI. Just to be very straightforward with you, if that’s a hard line for you . . . then you should get out of the stock.”

It’s an unusual line to take with investors, but many are siding with Mr Cook. After a tumultuous 2013, the share price has increased by around 50 per cent. This year Apple’s valuation has grown by almost as much as Google’s entire market capitalisation.

Now, whether you want to learn anything from Mr Cook is up to you.

But if you would like to know your three core values then Chapter 5 of inner leadership will enable you to do so. Chapters 3, 4, and 6 will help you apply those values to whatever challenges you face in your current situation, and convert them into an inspiring vision of what you want instead. And Chapters 1 and 2 will provide tools that help you deliver a more authentic style of leadership.

It’s up to you.

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