Leadership and Tim Cook

Dave Kinnear 1-On Leadership, 3-LI



As I write this post, Tim Cook is in the middle of a firestorm. Well, at least, many of the folks I hang around think it’s a firestorm. Of course, I’m speaking about the issue of pushing back on the US Government over breaking into an iPhone. Based on my recent reading (Data and Goliath), I am quite skeptical about all of this. My intention is not to argue one way or the other in this post. Instead, it is to focus on how Mr. Cook is being as a leader.

Eloquent Arguments

It seems evident that Mr. Cook sees a very slippery slope when it comes to privacy and breaking into an iPhone. He has made very eloquent arguments supporting his position of not wanting to do so. The rub is, of course, is that this is the iPhone owned by the San Bernardino terrorist, Syed Farook. The FBI wants to get into it but can’t get by the “ten tries and erase” security built into the iPhone. They want Apple to re-write an operating system to eliminate that security feature.

For his part, Mr. Cook has made clear that while he is sympathetic with the desire to turn over every possible stone in this investigation, that by providing the technical solution to the government, Apple would be exposing all smartphones, especially iPhones, to being hacked. Customers around the world would be less secure, not only in their communications but also in their purchasing, banking, and personal data stored on the phone.

Deep Thinking

The point of sharing this is not to convince you that Mr. Cook is correct but rather to point out that he has thought deeply about the implications. His stand is a principled stand, not a casual one designed to generate news. He is willing not only to continue to take the heat for his decision, but he is ready to continue to try to convince people that this is a more complex issue than simple sound bytes will explain. He is forcing difficult conversations into the public domain. That’s a good thing in my book.

Leaders are persistent even when things are difficult beyond belief. Leaders continue to live the vision, walk the talk, stand on the principle, teach the values—and they keep them all in front of the team. Leaders are consistent and dependable. Mr. Cook is demonstrating all of those traits.

Not an Apple Fanboy At All

I am not a fan of Apple products. Frankly, I have none—with the possible exception of being forced to use QuickTime software on occasion. I am, however, now a fan of Mr. Cook. He has taken responsibility. He is willing to be held accountable. Regardless of how this situation plays out, he has shown authentic leadership and is worthy of being at the helm of one of the largest companies on earth. I wish him well in his future leadership roles — whatever and wherever they may be.

[Reformatted 9/2020 for our new website.]