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Taking a more hands-on approach to interactions with staff was different from Jobs's style. Cook's first email sparked a trend within the company that helped a new culture to develop under his leadership. His emails and other internal communications, such as town hall meetings, helped the new CEO spread his values throughout the company. He also made a conscious effort to adopt some of the things that Jobs had done to establish a sense of continuity between the two leaders. One neat touch Jobs had employed to make himself more approachable was to have a publicly available email address: or Cook continued this tradition, responding personally to some of the hundreds of emails that flocked in following his CEO appointment.

One correspondent, a man named Justin R, wrote to Cook, "Tim, just wanted to wish you the best of luck, and to let you know that there are a lot of us that are excited to see where Apple is going. Oh, one more thing—WAR DAMN EAGLE!" (a reference to the "War Eagle" battle cry of Cook's alma mater, Auburn University). And of course, Cook responded: "Thanks Justin. War Eagle forever!" He wasn't just a boring operations guy—these emails gave the public a taste of his personality and showed them that he was a leader dedicated not only to his company but to his customers as well.

Cook was beginning this smooth transition to permanent CEO as the visionary leader who had come to define Apple moved into his new position as chairman. But unfortunately, Jobs would not remain Apple's chairman for long.


Steve Jobs's death on October 5, 2011, shook the world. Just over a month after Cook took over as CEO, Jobs passed away at the age of fifty-six, eight years after his initial diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. He had defied all odds and lived for almost a decade with a disease that has a one-year survival rate of 20 percent and a five-year survival rate of just 7 percent. For so long, people had believed that Jobs and Apple were indestructible. Apple was the company that always performed the impossible, whether that was a dramatic turnaround from near bankruptcy to astonishing corporate success in the late 1990s, unparalleled engineering feats with the iPod and iPhone, or the reinvention of the music industry with iTunes. This was all due to Jobs's influence. Apple was considered untouchable and its leader had become a mythological figure. Few people, it seemed, had entertained the thought that he would actually die.

Jobs passed away the day after Apple unveiled the iPhone 4S at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. The 4S's big new feature was the AI voice assistant Siri, one of the final projects Jobs had been actively involved with at Apple. In the crowd at the conference was an empty seat marked "Reserved" for Jobs. He may have been missing in body, but his presence was felt, and the fact that there was a seat set aside for him was even more poignant, foreshadowing his passing away the very next day.

The news of Jobs's death sent ripples of shock and mourning around the world. Never before had the death of a chief executive affected people so intensely. The reaction to his death was unprecedented—despite his often tyrannical leadership of one of the world's most valuable companies, he had maintained a positive public image. He was beloved. He died a few weeks after the start of the Occupy Wall Street movement—a strike back against wealth inequality and "the 1 percent"—and yet he wasn't considered part of that group.

People associated him with the beloved iPhones and iPods they carried with them daily, with the MacBooks and iMacs that gave them access to new, potentially world-changing tools. When he died, even Apple's longtime competitor Microsoft flew its flag at half-mast. President Barack Obama hailed Jobs as "among the greatest of American innovators—brave enough to think different, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it." And the world agreed.

Apple Stores around the world became shrines to Jobs, plastering their windows with fan-made signs and cards commemorating the CEO who, they felt, was one of them. Flowers and candles littered sidewalks outside. Windows were covered in Post-it notes with heartfelt tributes. At the Apple Store in Palo Alto—Steve's hometown—the Post-it tributes completely covered both windows. This type of public mourning was unheard of for a corporate leader.

The months following Jobs's death might have been a tragic time for Cook and those who knew and loved Jobs, but Apple's products were as popular as ever. The iPhone 4S exceeded the preorder and launch numbers of any previous iPhone, with more than four million selling in its first weekend alone. Preorders of Walter Isaacson's authorized biography of Jobs, a book that would have sold well at any time, also increased by an enormous 42,000 percent on Amazon following Jobs's death.


As Steve Jobs was being immortalized in every newspaper, magazine, and blog, and on every TV channel and radio station across the globe, the gaze of the world quickly turned to Tim Cook. Doubts about the new CEO persisted while glowing obituaries for Jobs continued to flow. Pundits were skeptical about the sort of company Apple would become without its visionary leader, and fans of Apple were fearful for its future. It was clear from the beginning that Cook's anointment as CEO would be both a blessing and a curse. The role of Apple CEO was a once-in-a-lifetime position that most people wouldn't dare dream of attaining, but it was also one of the riskiest jobs in the world. Jobs's choosing Cook to lead the company was a ringing endorsement of his competence and ability, but to follow in Jobs's footsteps under the pressure and scrutiny of the world was a daunting prospect. Running Apple, Cook would be the most visible CEO in the world: a high-wire act.

This excerpt ends on page 11 of the hardcover edition.

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