Tim Cook is the CEO of the most valuable company in the world. That company--Apple--became so valuable largely because of one thing: the iPhone. On Wednesday, Apple introduced the newest iPhone, and one of the jobs of the CEO of the company that makes the iPhone is that you get on stage and talk about all of the great new features and reasons someone should buy one.
Except, if you're one of the millions of people who watched the iPhone Apple Event on Wednesday, you might have noticed something interesting--it's not Cook doing most of the talking. Of the 93 minute presentation, Cook presented less than 10 minutes. In his place were 13 other people, more than half of them women.
Cook's job is really as a sort of host that ties the entire presentation together. He doesn't actually present much of anything. Instead, he talks broadly about how great everything is, and then hands it off to a product manager or executive to talk about the products.
That's a lot different than his predecessor, Steve Jobs, who was one of the most gifted presenters, ever. It was Jobs who stood on the stage at Macworld and prank called a Starbucks as he introduced the world to what would become the most popular product in history. It was Jobs who, a year later, pulled the "world's thinnest notebook" out of a manila envelope.
While Jobs was CEO of Apple, he was its presenter-in-chief. Cook appears to view his role differently, and that's a very good thing. Here are three reasons why less of Tim Cook is so important for Apple, and why every business should pay attention:
1. Trust your team
Even though he is obviously the public face of Apple, Cook wears that role differently than Jobs. People don't associate Cook with the design and feel of products the way they did with Apple's iconic founder. In fact, the biggest criticism of Cook is that he "isn't a product guy."
In a lot of ways, however, that's a good thing. It certainly hasn't slowed down Apple. Cook has surrounded himself with highly capable people who are able to tell the story of the products Apple makes in a way that he couldn't--at least, not as authentically. The fact that he's willing to turn over so much stage time to his team shows he trusts them to tell that story.
2. Build the bench
Another role of any CEO is to elevate people and give them opportunities to excel. There are few bigger opportunities than presenting during one of Apple's keynotes, which are the biggest tech product events, by far. It's not even close.
Every time you give someone a chance to do something big, you're building into them--which means you're building into the future of your company. Giving people the opportunity to step up and talk about the things they are responsible for making gives them ownership and accountability. It also helps to make Apple about more than just its leader, something that matters when you consider Cook has said recently that he doesn't expect to be the CEO ten years from now.
3. Share the spotlight
Finally, sharing the spotlight--or, in this case, the stage--is one of the most powerful tools you have as a leader. The best part is that while it costs you almost nothing, the return on that investment is incredible. The iPhone event, in particular is the most high-profile product announcement every year. At the time I'm writing this, more than 23 million people have watched Wednesday's keynote on YouTube.
Cook doesn't need the spotlight to have an audience. He's the CEO of the world's largest company--if he gets up on the stage, people will listen. By shining the light on his team, he's extending that spotlight to them, and allowing them to share in the celebration of what the company made.
I watched Cook as he walked through the hands-on area for members of the press after the event. Every time he approached an Apple employee who presented during the keynote, he was sure to congratulate them.
A lot of leaders are afraid to share the spotlight because they're either afraid of losing relevance, or they're afraid of being overshadowed themselves. I can't think of a better example of a fatal leadership flaw than that. On the other hand, Cook seems willing to share it as much as possible, and it's the best presentation rule of all.