What Is Tim Cook's Managerial Style?

Apple CEO Tim Cook has a managerial style could be broadly defined as democratic. Rather than standing in complete contrast to former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Cook appears to have adopted some of the legendary entrepreneur's existing practices and developed a uniquely blended leadership mantra.

Tim Cook's Strengths

Many were concerned that Cook lacked the bold visionary style of Jobs, but he has strengths of his own. He's often described as charismatic and thoughtful by Apple employees. So far, his tenure has been characterized by a greater focus on existing products and fostering of business as well as employee relationships.

Instead of simply continuing the legacy of Jobs' autocratic leadership style, Cook has played to his strengths and placed emphasis on advancing cooperation among Apple's arsenal of talent. This is extremely indicative of the democratic style of management, which encourages consensus building, particularly among high-level employees prior to mutually consented decision making.

Tim Cook encourages consensus building among high-level employees.

The role of hands-on participation of the CEO in developing Apple products has been significantly reduced since Cook took over in 2011. The iWatch is an example of this shift in structure as Cook chose to be less involved in the details of product engineering. Instead, he delegated those duties to members of his executive cabinet. His notably subtle style of leadership has enhanced industry and employee goodwill. When compared to Jobs' brusque and often dictatorial manner, Cook's style has also resulted in slower decision-making and a clear loss of innovative drive.

However, mild-mannered Tim Cook is capable of inspiring the best work in team members. Harvard Business Review has classified Tim Cook as a “multiplier,” a leader who can actually make employees smarter, more innovative, and more competent via his leadership style.

How Employees Describe Tim Cook as a Manager

Employees have described how Cook uses constant questioning to keep employees sharp. Greg Joswiak, vice president of product marketing at Apple, tells Cook biographer Leander Kahney, “He’s just very calm, steady, but will slice you up with questions. You better know your stuff.”

Tim Cook's style motivates employees and inspires innovation.

Kahney writes that this technique is effective at keeping employees motivated and inspiring innovation. This technique helps Cook get the best out of his employees by ensuring that they adequately understand the problems the company is facing and that they’re keeping their knowledge up-to-date. Cook’s gentle interrogations empower other leaders within the organization to find and implement their own solutions because they never know when Cook will drop by with a round of questioning—and they know that if they don’t have an answer to a question, future interrogations will be longer.

Shift From 'Innovation First'

In a blatant shift from Jobs' "innovation first" approach, Cook asserts that one "can only do a few things great." However, Tim Cook can make tough decisions. Ultimately, his focus on existing strengths of the organization, the importance given to accord between senior executives and lack of micromanagement clearly indicates a democratic managerial style.