Is Tim Cook a better CEO than Steve Jobs?

“Is Tim Cook a better CEO than Steve Jobs?” Kevin O’Marah writes for Forbes. “Yes he is. With all the worship currently surrounding the new Jobs biography it may seem uncharitable to make such a claim. It may even be something Cook himself would disagree with. And yet since 2011 Apple has been nothing less than a smashing success. Far from merely riding Jobs’ residual momentum, Cook is doing what very few ever manage. Keep winning at the top.”

“As anyone who knows consumer electronics can attest, supply chain is often the difference when it comes to who survives the short, sharp battles typical in this vicious sector,” O’Marah writes. “By orchestrating grand marketing campaigns, huge engineering feats and massive, cost saving scale-ups Apple is able to offer consumers ‘simple solutions to complex problems.'”

“Ultra-deep supplier collaboration is one thing Cook brought to the table. Foxconn, Intel, DuPont and plenty of other companies bent over backwards putting their best people on Apple’s business, which starved competitors of talent,” O’Marah writes. “There’s plenty more, but my point is simply that Steve’s genius, while beyond question, may never have been truly appreciated without Tim Cook. And in terms of what a CEO owes the shareholders, it’s about financial performance more than inspiration.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Feel free to apply Betteridge’s law of headlines here. We certainly did.

(No offense, Tim. You’re the best COO ever, at any company in history, and second best CEO that Apple’s ever had! Not too shabby.)


  1. I think it would take another 10 or 20 years to truly know for sure. However Apple would be X without Steve, that’s for sure.

    It’s one thing to bring Apple back from the brink, and it’s another to be handed a well oiled machine.

    You see, Tim just might be the best person to hand over a well oiled machine, to take to heights even Steve could not accomplish. But hand over 1996 Apple to Tim and it might have been game over.

    Each CEO has their own strengths. Tim’s happens to be working with NYSE, China and other partners. He knows how corporations tick.

    Steve on the other hand could reach into your soul and pull out miracles. Steve could make you believe… Okay this is not “reality distortion”, this is “reality believe.” What’s the difference? Steve could help you see what’s truly there, in all it’s glorious potential.

    1. This is exactly true. Better is subjective. Is Tim Cook better for the stock? Of course. He’s far more predictable and Wall Street loves predictability. That’s part of the reason why the stock shot up when he passed. Apple is a more stable mature company under Tim.

      Does he have a better understanding of Apple’s customers’ needs? Probably not. It really depends on who is doing the judging.

    2. Steve Jobs as Apple CEO, with Tim Cook as his top lieutenant, is better than Tim Cook as Apple CEO. There is no way to compare Steve Jobs versus Tim Cook, without Tim Cook being on BOTH sides of that comparison. Therefore, the question “Is Tim Cook a better CEO than Steve Jobs?” is NOT answerable.

  2. MDN’s take implies that nobody can be better than Steve Jobs and is a little idealistic. Since SJ did have a few faults, it is still possible Apple will have a better CEO than even Steve. Has Tim Cook measured up? Maybe.

    1. Outside of a bar room argument, it really doesn’t matter who is the better CEO.

      The important thing is that the two men each brought unique expertise to Apple and Apple would not be anything like it is now without both of them.

      Kevin O’Marah makes a very valid point in that Tim Cook has achieved something that few others have done, which is to take over a company that was a world leading company apparently playing at the top of it’s game and then took it up to an even higher level. When Steve passed away, many people believed that Apple would decline, very few thought it would go on to even greater heights.

    1. I agree, Steve showed Tim the way. No way could Tim could not have invented Apple. Its uniqueness came from Steve.

      But Tim has proved himself capable of learning from a visionary and leading visionaries. And it may be that Tim would have been the right CEO even if Steve were still around to be Chairman.

  3. The old saying about the student becoming the master/teacher applies here I think. Unless I am missing something Cooks was SJ hand picked successor and he groomed him for the position. SJ also hand picked Cooks core team.
    So to say Cook is a ‘better’ CEO is subjective at best but far from an insult to anyone.

    There are certainly things I think Cook is better at and there are things I think SJ was better at, see subjective.

  4. Steve took an Apple about 90 days from bankruptcy and turned it into a monster. I doubt Tim Cook could pull off anything like that- only someone with the red of a company’s founder would ever be given that kind of latitude.

    Cook played a huge part in Apple’s success- he turned Apple from a high overhead operation to the leanest supply chain of any major company in the world. That is an amazing accomplishment worthy of legend status by itself.

    I personally am not a fan of many of his decisions, but he is the CEO and that is how it will be. I think loading up on debt is a mistake, dividends are a mistake, strongly dislike the cheapening of HW and dumbing down of software, think the Watch is a waste of time and money. Obviously, he differs.

    We will not know how these will pan out for some time. One thing is for sure- it is too soon to crown him with a final grade.

  5. “MacDailyNews Take” is on-target. Only Steve could have brought Apple back from the Win-PC cloning era to a focus on innovation. Only Steve could put together the team needed to lead Apple. Tim’s team has become manufacturing/maintenance-support-update and especially security geniuses though. Steve and Woz could not have done that.

  6. I think its a pretty subjective thing.

    Tim seems more willing to pander to wall street and shareholders than Steve and honestly that is the one thing I really miss about Steve, he didn’t play the game, he defined it.

  7. It’s a bogus question. Jobs 2.0 was a great CEO, Cook continues to build his reputation.

    Two better questions come to mind:

    1). Was Jobs correct in anointing Cook as his successor?

    2). What Fortune 500 company would not be thrilled to have Cook as CEO?

    The “Who is better…?” stuff is a typical fallback for a hack reporter/hit whore on a deadline.

    1. Correct. It is a nonsense question.

      Steve and Tim are *different* CEOs. Whether you think one is better than the other is 100% based upon what you believe is important.

      Steve thought making outstanding products that changed and improved people’s lives was the greatest purpose of Apple. To do that he needed to build a great company with great production and great financials (in a non classical sense). The focus was on the products and the company and the rest were secondary. Thus Wall Street tolerated Steve.

      Tim’s focus is on building a great company. He believes that if you build a great company with great production and great financials (in the classical sense) that it will create great products. Thus Wall Street likes Tim a lot more than it ever liked Steve.

      Just to be clear, the difference between non classical financials and classical financials is best pointed out by debt. Steve hated corporate debt and pushed Apple’s CFO to get rid of all debt (except for the really short term stuff than no modern company can live without). Tim believes in debt — if it is used to Apple’s advantage (as Tim defines advantage). The problem with debt is that Wall Street loves it when you take on the debt as big players in Wall Street get a cut. After a company is saddled with that debt, Wall Street uses that debt as a mark against the company.

  8. Ultimately, it’s a meaningless and unanswerable question. The article is speculative space filler.

    The history of Apple is what it is. No one can go back and try a different history to see which path could have lead to the best outcome.

    I’m sure both Steve and Tim were aware of this fact and the question raised in this headline never bothered either of them.

  9. Steve was way better. He focused on the smallest things and made sure things were of sufficient quality before sending them out to stores. Yosemite, Safari 8; Steve wouldn’t have let them out the door before getting their problems solved.

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