Apple needs a visionary leader, not a caretaker CEO like Tim Cook

“Tim Cook’s response to Apple’s poor Q2 results has been conventional. Instead of declaring the urgent need to innovate and create new channels of growth, Cook responded by increasing Apple’s share buyback program by $35 billion and upping the quarterly dividend by 10%,” Short/Long Trader writes for Seeking Alpha. “This conventional response to Apple’s lack of growth is a tactic that could have been used by any average manager and demonstrates a lack of visionary leadership.”

“To be fair, supporters of Tim Cook will readily point out numerous redemptive actions he is taking to deal with Apple’s current set of problems. For example, Cook is actively responding to investor criticism and went on Jim Cramer’s Mad Money to defend his actions. He highlighted how Apple had an ‘incredible quarter by absolute standards’ noting sales of $50.6 billion for the quarter and profits of $10.5 billion,” S/LT writes. “On a basic empirical level, all of this sounds good and well. But none of this charts out a fundamentally new path for Apple’s long-term innovation or growth. Instead it charts a path to continue growing iPhone profits and does not seriously or fully address the urgent need for new channels of growth. Although Cook did hint at the possibility of a large acquisition, it is unlikely that any large acquisition will be the fundamental driver for new channels of growth.”

MacDailyNews Take: Uh, Hello? Apple doesn’t “chart out fundamentally new paths” for public consumption.

“Ultimately, these actions fall neatly in line with my argument that Tim Cook is not a visionary leader. He is not offering investors a visionary plan to push Apple out of its current rut. Instead he continues to respond in conventional ways like focusing on increasing iPhone sales in emerging markets,” S/LT writes. “A visionary leader is an individual who thinks outside of the box and constantly utilizes second-level thinking.”

“Howard Marks explains the difference between first- and second-level thinking in his book The Most Important Thing,” S/LT writes. “First-level thinking is superficial and is conducted by your average manager like Tim Cook. Here a manager utilizes typical methods to improve a company’s fate. For example, if a company has lots of cash and wants to increase shareholder value, a first-level thinker would follow the common strategy of instituting a share buyback program and perhaps increase dividends. But this average way of thinking is what any manager could do and will not lead to innovation or outsized returns.”

“In contrast, second-level thinking is deep, difficult, and oftentimes controversial. This is the defining characteristic of visionary leaders because they will do whatever it takes to ensure their vision comes to fruition,” S/LT writes. “For example, in 1997 when Steve Jobs came back to Apple, he didn’t follow any conventional framework to turn the company around. Instead he cut jobs, reduced product lines, and created a partnership with archenemy Microsoft. But these radical steps were taken in order to follow through on his vision to fundamentally turn around Apple. His success came from being unconventional, taking risks, and utilizing complex thinking to follow through on his vision.”

S/LT writes, “What Apple needs right now more than anything else is a visionary leader who utilizes second-level thinking to move things forward.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Unfair, but certainly illustrative of a certain school of thought that tends to arise in times of declining share prices.

Every little bobble brings them out of the woodwork.

We won’t know if Apple can pull off visionary, Jobsian products until they are unveiled. There will be no roadmap published beforehand. There is much going on behind the scenes. In some cases, even Apple employees don’t know what or the full extent of what they’re working on until launch day. Apple Watch is still in “original iPhone” state. The potential is certainly there, as any Apple Watch user can tell you. Therefore, with Apple Watch, Apple has already delivered a “visionary” product under Tim Cook.

Running the world’s most valuable company is tough enough, imagine having to do it while following Steve Jobs.


    1. All you people screaming for Cook’s Head, Who Should Replace Him??

      Steve Jobs was one of a Kind!! There is no one out there even remotely like him today and no guarantee that they would be as successful as Steve was. Remember that it was Steve Jobs and Tim Cook as a Team that took Apple to where the Company is Today!!

      And to Quote Critic2:

      “Innovation does not happen on a set schedule. Apple might be in the same exact place right now even if Steve Jobs was still in charge. Then everyone would be screaming that Steve Jobs lost his touch and should be fired.”

      1. A dying Steve Jobs anointed Tim Cook his successor, and advised him never to ask ‘What would Steve do?’ but rather to be his own man. As a result we live in an alternate reality like The Man in the High Castle, where the Axis won World War II.

        What if Steve had named Scott Forestall his successor instead? Things might have developed differently. Scott was more like Steve than anyone else in the room. They were both intense innovators. Both put function before fashion, notwithstanding Jobs’s insistence on symmetric screw placement and Forestall’s skeuomorphic realism — they weren’t dogmatic idealists or identical twins, just two guys who wanted to blow everyone’s minds.

        Ive was necessary in industrial design; Steve saw that and promoted Ive so Apple wouldn’t lose his gifts. Steve also recognised that Ive wasn’t CEO material, and turned to Cook, also irreplaceable, to succeed him. Unfortunately the balance of personalities decayed after Steve’s death and Scott was banished by Tim in favour of Jony. My lord, it sounds a bit like Game of Thrones, doesn’t it?

        But in the alternate reality I proposed, Tim Cook is heroically managing production schedules, Scott Forestall is giving electrifying keynote speeches and fluttering female hearts, and Jony Ive is quietly playing with his machine tools instead of attending red carpet ceremonies in Brussels and Paris.

        It wouldn’t mean the bitching would stop, only that it would be done by a different set of malcontents.

  1. Guess Apple just goes over to the “Visionary Leader Hiring Hall” and picks one up?

    Best I can tell Apple is doing a great job, but had the “misfortune” to introduce a product with some pent-up demand, which it has now satisfied, after a couple of years record sales. Exponential growth forever is not possible.

        1. Au contraire mon frere! Under Tim Cook Apple has seen an incredible acceleration of growth in revenues, profits, and stock price (despite the drop in the last year). And he has moved in different directions than Jobs might have with Apple Watch among other things. I see no evidence of “coasting.”

        2. For anyone that misses Jobs (yea, I know we all do) and thinks that Tim Cook is a mere caretaker, you might consider that it was almost certainly Jobs who held onto the notion for way too long that the iPhone was perfect size. The size increase only happened AFTER he was gone. And it was Jobs who was dead set against music streaming. Apple Music happened AFTER he was gone.

        3. So your interpretation of being fair is tantamount to “ass-kissing.” Do you see the problem that is YOU yet? My contribution is a more sensible and balanced view. Your’s comes from unreasoning hatred with little attempt at weighing the facts. Not everything is black & white, in fact few things are. People who go all black & white are raving ignoramuses.

          Anyone who disagrees with you you call “ass-kissing”, pretty much the same reasoning level juveniles have. And so your opinions carry very little credibility.

        4. Fanboy #2 speaks.

          Cook hasn’t done a damn thing except watch the autopilot light since Jobs left.

          He has allowed Ive to ruin software and hardware.
          He has allowed Ahrends to put fashion and weak emotional ads ahead of customer service, retail experience, and value.
          He has chased after MS, Amazon, and music streaming services with hard to use me-too offerings.
          He hasn’t updated stale products and ignores user suggestions.
          Oh, and stock price has been flat ever since he put the brakes on regular Apple product updates.

          Caretaker CEO is a kind title for Cook. Its market postion today would have been achieved by any chimpanzee who might have followed Jobs.

        5. It’s obvious your autopilot blew out years ago. Apple usually follows what others have done and improves on it and doesn’t “chase.” Easy for vitriolic ignorant asswipes like you to criticize without having any idea what it takes to execute well. You try and do it if it’s so darn easy.

          You love to criticize without giving any credit, probably because that’s all you get about your own less than sterling qualities hence the over the top bitterness in your posts. Mentioning a primate gives me the perfect mental accurate imagery of you.

      1. Those who demand that Cook’s replacement be named in advance are using juvenile argument.

        Next generation Apple leaders could come from many places.
        But most importantly, he/she needs to have much tighter reins than Cook. And he/she needs to pay more attention to the customer and employee, less on Wall Street:

        1) Apple’s core DNA is supposed to change the world for the better for EVERYONE, not just shareholders (Cook instead created debt to buy back stock and actively supports his personal gay causes rather than working for the justice and rights of those people much more greatly abused, including Apple iPhone assemblers in China). Apple’s greenwashing does not put it out in front of most of its competitors.

        2) The User deserves professional service and support. Not a fashion show and sudden loss of software support (Aperture, etc).

        3) User needs matter. Cook is out of touch with the world if he thinks that thinner is always better, or soldered memory is better for Mac users. Repugnant greed for insane memory pricing has got to stop.

        4) A great leader knows when enough profit is enough profit. At some point you have to start focusing on building a better organization with a flatter, more efficient operating structure. Instead Apple is adding bloat and internal fiefdoms. Key groups are being robbed of resources to support the needs of another — all chasing politics and short-term financial goals instead of the long term benefit to Apple’s health.

        5) If Cook ever was an operations genius, by now he’d have a definitive advantage in component pricing. Instead, Apple’s build costs average to be just as high as any other company’s, even when Apple’s product uses 2-generation old components with lesser capability. No iOS gadget should have less than 16GB memory these days. WTF?

        6) Services is not the future. iCloud, Music, and Siri are OPTIONS, and should not be foisted on users as mandatory bloat included with every Apple product. Apple needs to allow legacy devices to backtrack to old OSes when users prefer it.

        The USER needs to be served. Why is Cook promising great things and delivering tepid incremental late overpriced products with buggy software?

  2. And, of course, there are so many obvious choices. The only reason that the Apple board hasn’t fired Tim and hired one of oh so many choices is that they are lazy and don’t care.

  3. He’s not even caretaker caliber, at least a caretaker knows something about what they’re caring for. Cook’s like a babysitter you hired off Craigslist!


    This guy has the personality of an automaton.

  4. At Apple visionary leadership is at the Senior Executive level. Can you say “Jonathan Ive”? Tim Cook clearly met Job’s writer for leading this team and I believe he is performing like Jobs intended.

  5. If it were that easy to find visionary people every co. would be doing great. We can’t even find people like that to govern. Just look at all those losers wanting to govern -lol .Most of them are losers or pretenders .

    1. There are great people everywhere, what these people do not have is opportunity. Plenty of visionaries exist in low end jobs far below what they are capable of solely because they don’t know anybody on the inside and these big companies refuse to look at someones talent.

      You see this corruption everywhere, NFL teams all hire the same head coach who is fired every couple years rather than looking for someone new.

      Coca-Cola broke this trend and began hiring anyone with talent even if they were a barista at Starbucks and as a result the company prospered and numerous Fortune 500 CEO’s were recruited from the company.

  6. Unlike 1997, Apple today is not a sinking ship that needs to be pointed in a new direction, as Amelio said, brainlessly. Apple is a tank that rolled over a lot of enemies, looking around what else to flatten. And I hope they continue not to tell anybody what’s next before they’re ready. I hope they go from LLVM to LLM, if you get my drift.

  7. One thing that you I put in perspective is the source of this journalist’s information. Howard Stanley Marks is an American investor and writer, not a psychologist or psychiatrist so I take that with a grain of salt. While I haven’t read the book is strikes me as one of those pop psychology works that folks like from time to time like the Blue Ocean strategy of a few years back and while it’s been raved on about “at the present there are few success stories of companies that applied their theories in advance.”

    That being said, there is nothing wrong with a leader of Tim Cooks’ “non-visionary” style as long as he’s aware of the value of a visionary approach to the company and right now one I feel that one such visionary leader within Apple is Jony Ive so the health of the company is fine.

    I always enjoy this Lao Tzu quote on leadership.

    “The best leaders are those the people hardly know exist.
    The next best is a leader who is loved and praised.
    Next comes the one who is feared.
    The worst one is the leader that is despised.

    If you don’t trust the people, they will become untrustworthy.

    The best leaders value their words, and use them sparingly.
    When she has accomplished her task,
    the people say, “Amazing: we did it, all by ourselves!”

  8. I’ve seen so many articles and comments (including my own) lamenting that Cook’s not a visionary like Jobs. While this is most certainly true, what jumps out at me even more is that Apple lacks that someone who pays ridiculously close attention to EVERY detail. Every little thing! There was a story years ago about the designing of the original white Macbook, where Jobs had the designers put a screw (which served no functional purpose) on one side simply because the other side had one and he thought they should be symmetrical. This level of attention to detail is why for so long Apple stuff ‘Just Worked’. With the exception of the MobileME failure, there were no massive flubs like have happened under Cook. The persistent Wi-Fi problem, the Maps debacle, so many OS glitches, releasing the ‘new’ AppleTV with no companion Remote app for iOS, and a few others. ANd after the MobileME debacle, heads rolled.

    This attention to detail also led to Jobs pushing his teams to do the impossible, to go the extra mile (or more) to wring out those small details that made greatness. Can you really see Cook in that role?

    Jobs wasn’t perfect, no one is or ever will be. I believe, though, that this one aspect of Jobs is something Cook (and apparently everyone else at Apple) has sorely overlooked and it’s hurting them. I’m a dyed in the wool Apple fan, but they have problems that, unfixed, will snowball VERY quickly.

    1. The problem is there is not another Steve Jobs waiting in the wings. Not even Elon Musk in the dusky dusk could come up to Jobs level of understanding, style and execution. We had him to ourselves once, and now he’s gone. We can only use his inspiration as a jumping board and chart future paths, accepting as adults it will never be quite the same, best of intentions notwithstanding. To fight that realization is only tilting at windmills.

    2. Apple has Jony to be the guy who is obsessive about design details. I’m sure he drives the engineers nuts sometimes and that’s OK. It’s why Jobs put him in that position.

      As for the electronic and software deficiencies, Jony isn’t the guy to stem the flow of quality escapes. But neither is Tim. If Tim can’t do it he needs to empower someone who can.

      1. Right you are. So what is taking so long?

        A great leader needs to be decisive. Cook is a wait-and-see kind of guy — totally inappropriate for leading a company whose main forte used to be new product development. Now Cook just tells everyone to wait for the pipeline, someday it will be oh so exciting. Oh, and now Apple wants to be part of the Services gang to get subscriptions income.

        Why would we cheer any leader who is actively turning Apple from an exciting products company into a utility with ugly software interfaces?

      2. Over-obsessive to the point of precious.

        Ives has his uses when under strong control (like Jobs exersized). On his own his aesthetic’s gotten out of control.

  9. The relentless pressure to upgrade gadgets has plateaued for now. Devices already do what we expect hem to do. And they do it easily.

    Until there is a sTASK that requires a new approach to computing, this is where we will be for a while.

    Think to yourself: What task do I want to accomplish that would require a significant change to the hardware?

    1. That’s easy: a technology that would allow one to point an iPhone at a tedious person and *click to silence*, something like a TV remote. — I imagine Apple calling it the “real-time stfu attenuator” in their patent application.

    2. I think Tim Crooks should go , we need a leader not a gay we need another Steve Jobs to run this company other wise one day Apple will be gone bye bye with this Tim Crooks .
      Out MacBooks Ori Kate 3016! Has a mayor problem with the battery draining fast 4-5 hours max and he never said anything about it , Apple is just keeps cheating buyers with there up to 29 hours of battery life and I had one replacement of a lemon that ran 4.20 hours where the new one runs 4 hours and a senior advisoevwas working with me trying to resolve this issue where he will never ever be able to and here now for two weeks I haven’t herd from him and wrote him 4 email but he never responds . There should be an end to this crap . If this week I will not hear from him I am driving my car 375Miles to Cakifirnia straight to the office of Tim Crooks maybe he can then open his big mouth say something and along with me I am taking the Midea enough is enough

  10. All you people screaming for Cook’s Head, Who Should Replace Him??
    Steve Jobs was one of a Kind!! There is no one out there even remotely like him today and no guarantee that they would be as successful as Steve was. Remember that it was Steve Jobs and Tim Cook as a Team that took Apple to where the Company is Today!!

    And to Quote Critic 2:

    “Innovation does not happen on a set schedule. Apple might be in the same exact place right now even if Steve Jobs was still in charge. Then everyone would be screaming that Steve Jobs lost his touch and should be fired.”

  11. Please, all you “geniuses” keep putting AAPL down. Sell all your shares now — at the bottom — so AAPL can buy those shares back, cheap. Thank you “geniuses”. Meanwhile AAPL quietly and deliberately creates new, revolutionary products, and releases them when they’re ready. Thank you, AAPL.

    1. Most MDN fanboys can’t even name more than a handful of executives, so it wouldn’t matter if a professional executive recruiter gave you a list of 100+ candidates. You’ve decided that Cook is irreplaceable based solely on short-term monetary results. Problem is, Cook’s pipeline hasn’t produced squat. The core products Apple sells are almost all stale. Especially the Mac.

      1. WTF are you jabbering on about?

        You’ve decided that Cook is irreplaceable based solely on short-term monetary results

        My ass! I’ve actually been thinking through the day, while traveling around, about why Steve Jobs chose him and how much Cook has matured during his tenure at Apple.

        What you’re talking about is NOT Cook’s forté. You’re talking about invention and innovation. How many leaders, how many CEOs actually invent or have invented anything? Apple is a mature company. It’s clearly nowhere near the source entrepreneurial phase, which was when Woz and Jobs started it all and initially grew the business. With Cook running the show, he’s an invention and innovation ENABLER. That’s his role. He’s the mature CEO of a mature company.

        Cook, thank gawd, is NOT a marketing mind executive. If he was, that would spell death. Witness the current state of Sony. Witness what happened to Apple when Sculley-the-marketing-minded-guy took over Apple. Cook has done the opposite.

        As per usual with the vacuous advice giving, armchair CEOs, WHAT exactly should Apple be creating right now, this very minute, that YOU WANT? What have they missed? Get specific. Stay within the current capabilities of our technological progress. Use your thinking brain.

        As for Mac:
        – Intel has, for whatever reason, run into a swamp of muck regarding their CPU upgrades. Intel is now constantly behind schedule and has just recently decided to dump their Atom processor, their attempt to get into the mobile device CPU business. Apple is WAITING for Intel to catch up and offer what Apple wants in terms of Mac CPU upgrades.

        That having been stated, Apple could damned well have upgraded the Mac Pro a few times by now! That Mac Pro is indeed STALE. Meanwhile, go read the rave reviews of the new 12″ MacBook. They’ll shut you up, at least at that level of Macs.

        IOW: Stop being a simpleton. Apple isn’t as simple as you pretend it to be.

  12. Even the lovers makes a mistake sometimes
    Like any other
    Fall out and lose his mind
    And I’m sorry for the things I did
    For your teardrops over words I said
    Can you forgive me
    And open your heart once again?

    It’s true
    I mean it
    From the bottom of my heart
    Yeah, it’s true
    Without you I would fall apart

    Whatever happened
    I know that I was wrong, oh yes
    Can you believe me
    Maybe your faith is gone, but is it?
    But I love you and I always will
    So I wonder if you want me still
    Can you forgive me
    And open your heart once again, oh yeah

    It’s true
    I mean it
    From the bottom of my heart
    Yeah, it’s true
    Without you I would fall apart

    I’d do anything to make it up to you
    So please understand
    And open your heart once again

    It’s true
    I mean it
    From the bottom of my heart
    Yeah it’s true
    Without you I would fall apart

    It’s true
    I mean it
    From the bottom of my heart
    Yeah it’ true
    Without you I would fall apart

    Oh yeah…
    It’s true…….

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