Leadership Styles


Leadership is a broad, multifaceted concept that presumes effective distribution of power between leaders and followers. The concept of leadership is dynamic and evolves over time. It is also a relational concept, because it involves a great deal of influence and persuasion by one individual over others to attain a set of common goals. Although leadership is closely related to management, one needs to draw a distinguishing line between the two concepts. A good leader is often, albeit not always, a good manager. A good manager is almost certainly a good leader. Basically, whereas a manager plans and coordinates, a leader motivates and inspires. A manager is appointed to the position officially, while a leader is not necessarily appointed to the position officially. Hence, the two concepts are akin, but not synonymous or interchangeable.

This paper is divided into two parts. Part 1 evaluates leadership and, to a lesser degree, management styles of a well-known business leader, Tim Cook, applying a theoretical paradigm from class. It provides detail of Tim Cook’s behavior and discusses strengths and weaknesses of his leadership style. Part 2 is subdivided into two smaller parts, one exploring the links between managerial and leadership skills and the other elaborating on the expression, “Managers have subordinates, leaders have followers”.

Part I: Analysis of Tim Cook’s Leadership Style

There is a variety of decent business leaders to choose from: Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Larry Page of Google, Richard Branson of Virgin Group, Anne Mulcahy of Xerox, and so the list goes. They all have their own formulae for success. Each is distinctive and each is interesting to analyze. However, of all possible business leaders, Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive officer, has been chosen for the purposes of this paper. The choice is justified by the circumstances surrounding Cook’s ascendancy to this position. He rose to Apple’s highest position in 2011 following Steve Job’s sick leave and eventually, death. Steve Jobs, Apple’s legendary leader, is a tough act to follow, but Cook has made remarkable strides in leading the company as well.

Before proceeding with the analysis of Tim Cook’s leadership still, it would make sense to briefly recapitulate the theory that will be applied in the process. As a matter of fact, several different theories can be seamlessly applied to Tim Cook’s case. The trait leadership theory could, for example, explain which physical, mental and social qualities help him excel in leadership roles. The behavioral leadership theory, for its part, would stress Cook’s behaviors as the main driver of his leadership style, which is also true in Cook’s case. The transformational leadership theory would focus on the role of Cook’s charisma and inspirational capacities in transforming his followers. Although Cook’s charisma pales into background relative to Jobs’s charisma, it is strong enough to make him a good leader.

While all these theories are sufficiently rigorous and may provide part of the answer why Tim Cook is an outstanding leader, it is the contingency leadership theory that does this job best. One of the central tenets of this theory is that no single best way of leadership exists and every leadership style should be premised on specific situations. The theory also posits that successful leaders must be able to build close rapport with and show concern for their followers (Nohria & Khurana, 2013). As an extension of the trait leadership theory, the contingency theory assumes that individuals excel in their element but fare worse when dislodged from this element (Nohria & Khurana, 2013).

In case of Tim Cook, there are reasonable grounds to assert that he is operating in his element. As dynamic as the technology business environment is, Tim Cook knows its whys and wherefores well. Born in 1960 into a family of a pharmacist and a shipyard worker, Tim earned a degree in industrial engineering from Auburn University and thereupon matriculated at Duke University to study business administration. In the interim, he began working for IBM, another behemoth in the personal computer business. During his 12-year-long employment for IBM, Tim gleaned invaluable experience and propelled his way to the top by sheer ability. His meeting with Steve Jobs in 1998 changed Cook’s career before recognition. Leaving IBM was a tough decision, but Tim recalls that he was ready to throw caution to the wind:

Any purely rational consideration of cost and benefits lined up in Compaq’s favor, and the people who knew me best advised me to stay at Compaq… On that day, in early 1998 I listened to my intuition, not the left side of my brain or, for that matter, even the people who knew me best (cited in Mick, 2015, p. 1).

Cook started out as a vice-president for worldwide operations and grew to develop fruitful business relations with Jobs. The late 1990s were a horrid time for Apple, but the duumvirate of Jobs and Cook hauled the company forward, extricating it of the difficulties. Under their stewardship, Apple went from its nadir of $6 billion in 1998 to an astonishing $100 billion in 2010 (Ferracone, 2011). The company had a dazzling start to the 21st century. Given Apple’s current success, it is unlikely that Cook ever rued the day he joined Apple. Also, Cook’s resistance to risks and uncertainty, demonstrated in 1998, would become the leitmotif of his leadership career in Apple.

From the very beginning of his career at Apple, Cook exhibited great leadership skills, taking care of the company’s worldwide operations. In line with the contingency theory of leadership, Cook was in his element from the outset. Over the years, he in fact helped Steve Jobs to lead the company. When Jobs took his first medical leave of absence in 2009, it was Cook who temporarily filled the position of the company’s CEO. Two years later, after Steve took another sick leave, Cook again assumed the mantle of leadership. This time, however, it was not temporary. Although groomed for the position by the debilitating Apple’s founder, Cook certainly found it difficult – from the emotional point of view, at least – to manage Apple. He encountered a solid wall of criticism from the faithful fan base of the much admired Steve Jobs. Similarly, Cook compared the job of Apple’s CEO to a “heat shield for the executive shield”, having to deal with the pressure from the company’s critics (Lashinsky, 2015).

Eventually, however, Cook not only managed the company; he has come to steer it. He has led it. Adopting some of Jobs’s leadership practices, Cook laced his leadership style with his own ways and practices. In contrast to Jobs’s overbearing, if not autocratic, charisma, Cook’s is also flamboyant but not overpowering, which helps the new CEO to establish meaningful relationships with his employees and followers. In fact, the central idea of Cook’s leadership style is to foster cooperation among the company’s greatest minds, including such business luminaries and technology gurus as Craig Federighi and Joni Ive. In other words, it appears that Tim cook endeavors to achieve consensus among the company’s top-ranking employees before they would meet for the decision making process.      This mechanism lubricates the path for unhindered and mutually-consented decision-making.

Another peculiar trait of Cook’s leadership style that distinguishes the CEO from his legendary predecessor is that Cook is less ebullient about his own participating in the design and development process of Apple’s new products. He has delegated the responsibility for product engineering to his cabinet members. Whether this is a good or bad thing is difficult to tell. On the positive side, this shows that Cook has trust in his employees, which only reinforces mutual understanding in the company.

On the downside, Cook’s mellow style of leadership, while enhancing employee goodwill, has led to slower adoption of decisions and has somewhat eroded the innovative potential of the company. Jobs’s leadership style was perceptible more vigorous and this enabled him to produce better results in terms of innovation and decision-making.

But even despite these drawbacks, Cook has a stern character and can wrestle with tough decisions, if necessary. His handling of the row surrounding the Apple Maps service as well as his dismissal of the company’s leading software developer Scott Forstall have showed that he can be assertive when necessary.

By and large, judging by the recent financial indicators of Apple, Cook’s leadership style seems to be in complete alignment with the business environment in which he operates. Apple’s profits and popularity are growing by day. Whether this success is Cook’s own to claim is a separate question. But with the caveat that Steven Jobs propelled the company to the top, it can be said at least that Cook did not let it molder away and sustained the company’s performance at previous levels. His leadership style is more democratic in comparison to Job’s. The contingency theory posits that a leader will more readily express his or her leadership in situations of certainty that the followers will be responsive (Beerel, 2009). That is exactly what Cook is aspiring to achieve. Leading democratically, he builds relationships with his followers and then uses these relationships as a bridgehead for the company’s progress.

Part II

A: “Managers have Subordinates – Leaders have Followers”

It is necessary to state at the outset that most managers have subordinates, but not all leaders have followers. Some leaders also have subordinates. These are leaders in name only. True to their name, veritable leaders lead people from their team to the achievement of a particular goal. Interestingly, veritable leaders do not always aspire to gather a herd of followers. Instead, they prefer to serve the common cause and cultivate the capacities of others. Self-anointed and/or self-serving leaders, on the other hand, act like callous managers. To better explain this point, it is necessary to dwell on the concept of moral leadership – that is, true leadership.

According to Roger Hill (2011), laypersons commonly misconceive the nature of leadership, believing that leaders are those who wield some authority over others and/or those who have somehow forged ahead of the pack. Yet, this self-serving style of leadership is disempowering and has repeatedly led to fiascos both at individual and organizational levels. Moral leadership stands at the dimensionally opposite pole of the spectrum. Instead of striving to be followed, moral leaders seek to serve the common cause. Instead of flaunting their virtues like elks flaunt their antlers during the fall rut, moral leaders seek to cultivate positive virtues and work-related capacities in their followers. Carl Townsend (2009) argues that the best leaders and, for that matter, managers are “constantly training others, the next generation, to pick up the torch to continue the race” (p. 179).

Managers, by contrast, usually pursue different goals and employ different strategies. According to Abraham Zaleznik (2014), a managerial culture focuses on rationality and control. He elaborates:

Whether his or her [manager’s] energies are directed toward goals, resources, organization structures, or people, a manager is a problem solver… From this perspective, leadership is simply a practical effort to direct affairs; and to fulfill his or her task, a manager requires that many people operate efficiently at divergent levels of status and responsibility.

Interpreted freely, this means that managers administer and maintain, whereas leaders develop and innovate. However, all this does not vitiate the virtues of good managers, who, in fact, may be consummate leaders.

Whereas managers are appointed to their positions, “the status of leadership is conveyed to individuals by others” (Tucker, 2013, p, 10). A moral leader can hold any position within the company. What really matters is that this individual should possess malleable personality with a deep sense of ethics and respect of core ideals. Tucker (2013) elaborates on his point: “the respect one gains as a leader comes from those who would be identified as followers who confer the status of leadership upon an individual that has earned their respect” (p. 10). In other words, followers rather than leaders define leadership. Thus, one may be born with innate leadership skills, but he/she will not be a true leader unless a group of followers unite behind him/her and accord him/her their recognition. If a person with a high office holds awesome power but does not command respect of the public, this person may be only a self-anointed leader. Managers, by contrast, are usually about rank and, hence, self-interest. As a result, the employees under their command are subordinates rather than followers.

Another important thing that can indicate a difference between a true leader and a callous manager is their set of personal qualities and convictions. Moral leaders are visionaries capable of stimulating personal change. They are intelligent, gregarious and, true to their name, possess moral rectitude. They are impervious to resistance but not to criticism. They manage diversity, foster unity and facilitate consensus. Moral leaders are the glue that holds organizations together. Good managers, too, can possess these qualities and convictions. If their set of convictions resonates with people under their command (either subordinates or followers), they are leaders, whatever their rank is. If it does not, they are not. Regardless of how an authoritative person refers to themselves, they may be both a manager and a leader. The public will tell the difference.

Despite their differences and similarities, one thing is true of leaders and managers: not all leaders are managers, not all managers are leaders. In business settings, leadership and management exist in tandem, as company leaders are usually a good manager. In other environments, however, this is not always the case. For example, Rebecca Ratcliffe (2013) argues, reasonably enough, that Winston Churchill, while being a seminal leader, was not a good manager. Certainly, there are bad managers among company leaders, but they hardly have a chance to make it to the top of business leadership ratings. At the same time, myriad managers within companies do not have the makings of a good leader. Donald Trump is one example of a scintillating manager, but a poor leader.

B: Links Between Managerial and Leadership Skills

There is an opinion that managers cannot expect certain qualities and levels of performance out of the staff entrusted to them if these managers themselves are not demonstrating similar qualities and levels of performance. Likewise, it is argued that managers should be invariably on time for work and should not slack off during the shift so as not to lose respect of those under their supervision. This all is almost invariably true. What is more, a good manager should not be slacking off not only during the shift, but also for most of the time. Having rest from the work is important, but a good manager will think about his managerial or leadership style during off hours as well.

As stated earlier in the text, a good leader is not necessarily a good manager, and vice versa. Yet, there is no gainsaying the fact that strong managerial prowess and expertise, if applied properly, can make a good leader or, at least, can contribute to the professional molding of that leader. Successful leadership requires power. According to Annabel Beerel (2009), a recognized leadership theorist, people are environmentally predisposed to yield to those with greater influence:

Our early experiences of authority shape our understanding and responses to people in authority in a variety of ways. Two important responses include our fear of authority and our tendency to cede our own moral authority to those who have authority over us (p. 18).

Therefore, true leaders or people aspiring to achieve this status need to understand the powerful influence of the authority they sway and use it prudently. This does not mean that they should browbeat their staff into submission. On the contrary, they should use moral leadership in the form of soft power to turn their staff into their followers. In this regard, it can be surmised that strong and responsible managers with the aforementioned set of qualities have an advantage over other persons seeking leadership status.

Of all the skills that leaders need to possess, honesty, creativity, willingness to delegate, ability to inspire, confidence and commitment seem to be the most requisite. However, if I were to hire a leader, I would pay closest attention to the presence of creativity and commitment in the candidates. In the age of rapidly changing business circumstances, creativity is vital for the adoption of apt decisions in critical situations. The importance of commitment is explained by the necessity to show the staff that their leader is also dedicated to the cause. Likewise, if a leader is assiduous and committed, his or her overall performance will be better. A carefully designed interview can reveal the presence or absence of these skills in the candidates.


This paper has pursued two goals: to scrutinize Tim Cook’s leadership style and to explore the links between management and leadership.

Apropos Tim Cook, this leadership style has been analysed with the application of the contingency leadership theory, which posits that no single best way of leadership exists and every leadership style should be premised on specific situations. A close scrutiny has shown that Cook is a decent successor to his legendary forerunner, Steve Jobs. The word “successor” is not accidental in this context. Apple is a business empire, a colossus of its kind. Hence, Cook is Job’s successor, not a replacement. In accordance with the contingency theory, Tim Cook has sought to build meaningful relationships with his followers, particularly those occupying executive positions, and bring about general accord in the company. Unlike Jobs, Cook is less involved in the engineering processes. But, just as Jobs, he can be decisive and assertive when necessary. Despite his differing leadership style, Cook has acquitted himself well thus far. His nimble mind, backed by a degree in business administration and extensive experience in the technology business, has made him a decent successor to Steve Jobs. The company, too, has fared well under his stewardship.

As to the links between leadership and management, this paper has shown that the two concepts are in fact different. Whereas a manager plans and coordinates, a leader motivates and inspires. They commonly possess different qualities and pursue different goals. However, the overlap between a professional manager and a seminal leader is substantial. A good leader is often a good manager. A good manager is often a good leader. In business settings, the two concepts often exist in tandem.

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