Tim Cook is the CEO of the most valuable company in the world. This company – Apple – became so valuable mainly because of one thing: the iPhone. On Wednesday, Apple unveiled the newest iPhone, and one of the jobs of the CEO of the company that makes the iPhone is to take the stage and talk about all the great new features and reasons why someone should buy one.
Except, if you’re one of the millions of people who attended Apple’s iPhone Event on Wednesday, you might have noticed something interesting — it’s not Cook who’s doing the most 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 work is really like a kind of host that ties the whole presentation together. It doesn’t really show much. 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.
This is very different from his predecessor, Steve Jobs, who was one of the most talented presenters of all time. It was Jobs who stood on the stage at Macworld and joked about being called 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 Apple’s CEO, he was its chief presenter. Cook seems to see his role differently, and that’s a very good thing. Here are three reasons why Tim Cook’s downsizing is so important to Apple and why every business should be paying attention:
1. Trust your team
Although he is obviously Apple’s public face, Cook wears that role differently than Jobs. People don’t associate Cook with the design and feel of products like they did with Apple’s iconic founder. In fact, the biggest criticism of Cook is that he’s “not a product guy.”
In many ways, however, this is a good thing. It certainly hasn’t slowed Apple down. Cook is surrounded by very capable people who are able to tell the story of the products Apple makes in a way he couldn’t — at least, not as authentically. The fact that he’s willing to hand over so much stage time to his team shows that he trusts them to tell this story.
2. Build the bench
Another role of every CEO is to elevate people and give them opportunities to excel. There are few greater opportunities than being presented during one of Apple’s keynotes, which are by far the biggest tech product events. It’s not even close.
Every time you give someone a chance to do something great, you’re empowering them — which means you’re building the future of your company. Giving people a chance to step up and talk about the things they are responsible for doing gives them ownership and accountability. It also helps make Apple more than just its leader, which is important considering Cook recently said he doesn’t expect to be 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 next to nothing, the return on this investment is incredible. The iPhone event, in particular, is the most popular product announcement every year. As of this writing, more than 23 million people have watched Wednesday’s keynote on YouTube.
Cook doesn’t need the limelight to have an audience. He’s the CEO of the biggest company in the world — if he gets up on stage, people will listen. By shining a light on his team, he extends the spotlight to them and allows them to share in the celebration of what the company has built.
I watched Cook as he walked through the press area after the event. Whenever he approached an Apple employee presenting during the keynote, he was sure to congratulate them.
Many leaders are afraid to share the spotlight because they are either afraid of losing relevance or being overshadowed themselves. I can think of no better example of a fatal leadership flaw than this. On the other hand, Cook seems willing to share it as much as possible and is the best presentation rule of all.