When Tim Cook talks about Apple, he becomes rhapsodic. When asked by Bloomberg/Businessweek's Josh Tyrangiel in an interview this week whether he thought of himself as an "enormously responsible" person, Cook responded:
I love the company. A significant part of my life is Apple. Maybe some people would say it's all of my life. I would say it's a significant part. And you know, I feel both a love for it [and] I feel a responsibility. I think this company is a jewel. I think it's the most incredible company in the world, and so I want to throw all of myself into doing everything I can do to make sure that it achieves its highest, highest potential.
His self-professed love for and dedication to the company, where he has spent the last 14 years, mirrors how millions of customers relate to Apple. There's a cult of Apple, and Cook is now the high priest, though he humbly states that he's merely privileged to serve the faithful. He told Tyrangiel:
I've talked to many other CEOs who look at me like I have three heads when I talk about getting hundreds or thousands of customer e-mails in a day. It's a privilege. It's like you're sitting at the kitchen table. You're a part of the family. And we have to continue to honor that.
Cooks treats Apple like a sacred trust handed down from its co-founder, and he's on a media campaign to share his updated version of the Apple gospel. "In creating these great products, we focus on enriching people's lives -- a higher cause for the product. These are the macro things that drive the company," Cook said in the interview. He references "we" rather than "I" in his remarks, a reflection of his sense of himself as a reluctant public figure who values collaboration over confrontation.
And he wants to surround himself with those who share his deeply emotional attachment -- drink the Kool-Aid -- to the Apple brand. In describing his relationship to Apple design chief and Steve Jobs favorite Jony Ive, Cook said:
I love Jony. He's an incredible guy, and I have a massive amount of respect for him. What bonds us? We both love Apple. We both want Apple to do great things. We both subscribe to the same principles. We believe in the simple, not the complex. We believe in collaboration. We both view Apple as here to make the best products in the world. So our values are the same.
As part of simplifying and aligning values, software chief Scott Forstall was forced out because of his tendency to create turf battles. Ive took on software design in addition to his hardware duties.
These management changes demonstrate Cook's determination to remove as much friction as possible from Apple's creative supply chain, not just from its materials and manufacturing operations.
"...there can't be politics. I despise politics," he told Tyrangiel. "There is no room for it in a company. My life is going to be way too short to deal with that. No bureaucracy. We want this fast-moving, agile company where there are no politics, no agendas."
Politics, he concluded, "sucks the life out of you.... There is nothing I won't do to guard that."
During 16 months as CEO, Cook has steered Apple prosperously, though some question whether the company can innovate more rapidly amid increased competition or as dramatically as it did with the iPhone and iPad. Cook believes he can keep divisiveness and politics from impeding Apple's mission, as he explained to Tyrangiel:
All of the people around the table have been there for a while, and they've lived through different cycles. So they have a maturity, but they still have their boldness. They're still ready to burn the bridge. And this is great. Because there is no other company like that anymore. I mean, no company would have done what we did this year. Think about it. We changed the vast majority of our iPhone in a day. We didn't kind of -- you know, change a little bit here or there. iPad, we changed the entire lineup in a day. The most successful product in consumer-electronics history, and we change it all in a day and go with an iPad Mini and a fourth-generation iPad. Who else is doing this? Eighty percent of our revenues are from products that didn't exist 60 days ago. Is there any other company that would do that?
Cook's allegiance to the "higher cause" of making the best products in the world to enrich peoples' lives, while at the same time maximizing profits, is not radically different from the goals that other companies and their CEOs set. But over the last several years, Apple has proved that it does it better than any other company. And Cook has been well paid for his efforts. His average annual compensation during his last five years at Apple has been pegged at $95 million.
Apple employees used to say Jobs could be unbearable at times but that he inspired them to do their best work. Cook hopes that a work environment encouraging more harmony and collaboration will yield the same results over time.
Read Bloomberg/Businessweek's full story: "Tim Cook's Freshman Year: The Apple CEO Speaks"