Since revealing his homosexuality eight years ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook has led the company through the most successful period in its history. Cook once said he wanted to prove that you could “be gay and keep doing the big jobs in your life.” He certainly did.
But maybe there is more to this story than overcoming the prejudices. In 2018, Cook said CNN that being gay is “God’s greatest gift to me. Far from being a disadvantage, could being homosexual really be a determining factor in one’s success?
As a gay man myself, Cook has always been an inspiration to me. So, to celebrate Pride Month, here’s why I think being gay made him a better CEO.
Tim Cook and Steve Jobs are more alike than they seem
Many people thought Apple’s glory days were over when Cook took over the helm in 2014. Steve Jobs had just led the company through the biggest turnaround in business history, launching a series of products. to success.
Jobs was passionate, demanding and mercurial while Cook was modest, studious and soft-spoken. They looked like polar opposites. How could Cook replace jobs?
But on one key point, they looked very similar. Jobs rarely worried about public opinion or what the competition was doing. Instead, he focused on making the best products he knew how to make. For example, people told him that the iMac would fail because it didn’t have a floppy drive. Critics have also said that the iPhone needs a small plastic keyboard to be successful.
Both of these characteristics were industry standards at the time. Jobs ignored the criticisms and proved them wrong.
This approach was perfectly summed up by Apple’s legendary slogan: “Think Different”. It’s something every gay man learns to do from an early age.
Gay men learn to ‘think outside the box’ to survive
Being gay means on some level that you will always be a stranger, never fully accepted into society.
The exit process – first for yourself, then for your friends and family, and, in Tim Cook’s case, for the whole world – is not an easy thing to do. It involves accepting the fact that you are different from most people. You don’t fit in and you never will.
As a result, homosexuals go through the kind of soul searching that straight guys rarely have to do. Learning to love and be true to yourself regardless of what other people think takes a lot of emotional work.
But if you find a way to accept it, the results are rewarding. You are finally free from the judgment of others. You can embrace and celebrate your own difference. That’s what “PrideReally means. You can literally Think differently.
Tim Cook may not come across as bold and charismatic as Jobs when he’s on stage giving a speech. But the ability to share his truth with the world in such a public way shows that he has a powerful inner strength. Much like its predecessor, it is not afraid to be different.
Being fabulous takes thick skin
In school, I was bullied for being gay long before I even knew my own sexual orientation. The other children could see that I was not like them. Some chose to punish me for it.
Likewise, being the boss of one of the most valuable companies in the world will get you a lot of unwanted attention. Surviving in a job like this takes a thick skin.
Tim Cook once said that all of the damaging comments he received as a gay man had gave him thick skin and “it is also proving to be very beneficial for this role.”
Tim Cook really gets the diversity
Some companies view diversity as a compliance issue. Just another checkbox to prove they were on the right side of the law. Others recognize that it is a problem of social justice and wish to “make their contribution” within the framework of their corporate social responsibility initiatives.
As a white man from Alabama, Cook is part of a privileged group. He would have grown up never knowing what it was like to be part of a minority, seen as inferior and less worthy. But the fact that he’s gay changes all that.
Cook says he “learned what it was like to be a minority. Feeling in the minority gives you a certain degree of empathy for other people who are not in the majority.”
I believe this empathy is a key aspect of Cook’s success. He really understands that things are very different depending on your perspective. And the more diverse perspectives you bring to an organization, the smarter it becomes. Products made by people with diverse perspectives will appeal to more people.
In other words, Cook realizes that the right thing to do is also the smart thing to do.
No wonder Tim Cook takes privacy seriously
It’s a sobering thought that Apple sells products in countries where Tim Cook would risk imprisonment, public flogging, or even execution just to be gay.
Even after all the advancements in LGBT equality over the past decade, we, as a group, are still far from safe. In America, anti-LGBT hate crimes are on the rise.
Cook sacrificed much of his own privacy when he decided to go out publicly. It must have been a difficult decision. By giving up some of his privacy, he has made other gay people a bit safer, helping to change public perceptions of what and can be a gay man.
All LGBT people will have “incriminating” evidence on their iPhone. In the wrong hands, a “I love you” message from a same-sex partner, or an appointment with a transgender clinic, could be a death sentence.
Even in a supposedly civilized country, the privacy of our electronic devices is a matter of life and death. Especially for LGBT people. No wonder Tim Cook takes him so seriously.
Leadership that breaks down barriers
We don’t know much about Cook’s privacy, because, well, it’s private! But one thing that is common knowledge is his love for football and his team, the Auburn University Tigers.
cook returned to Auburn, his alma mater, in 2017 to deliver an inspiring speech to players. He explained that Apple is like a soccer team.
“We care deeply about people,” he said. “Excellence must be everyone.”
In pursuing his passion for football, Cook is not only true to himself. He also sets an example and shatters stereotypes. Few things in America embody manly heterosexuality more than football. There has never been a gay player in the NFL. Hopefully, with the leadership of people like Cook, that will change.
Despite his calm and unpretentious demeanor, Cook is a natural leader. “It comes down to one thing,” he said. “Treat people with dignity and respect. This type of leadership has certainly played a big part in Apple’s stratospheric success over the past decade.