Communicating a Leader’s Departure

Linda Dulye's picture
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When Apple last week announced that Steve Jobs was stepping down as CEO, the company’s transition plan took effect and COO Tim Cook took the reins of perhaps the world’s most innovative enterprise.

The following morning Cook sent an email to Apple employees with his view of the organization, his new role leading it, and what the future looks like. In our view, Cook’s message was pitch perfect in strategy and tone, and it’s a model that any new leader – whether CEO or manager – could use.

Specifically, he touched on five key points:

  1. Optimism. The first sentence sets the tone for employees that as a new leader, Cook is energized and eager to lead the company, writing: “I am looking forward to the amazing opportunity of serving as C.E.O. of the most innovative company in the world.”
  2. Humility. Next, he expressed enthusiasm for the company and degree of humility when he wrote: “Joining Apple was the best decision I’ve ever made and it’s been the privilege of a lifetime to work for Apple and Steve for over 13 years.”
  3. Stability. At a company like Apple, which is firing on all cylinders, employees probably would expect a change of course by their new CEO. Cook clarifies it: “I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change. I cherish and celebrate Apple’s unique principles and values.”
  4. A Nod to the Past. Succeeding an iconic leader like Jobs could be daunting. Cook takes special care to acknowledge the extraordinary success Apple experience with Jobs at the helm: “Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that — it is in our DNA.”
  5. A Look Ahead. “I am confident our best years lie ahead of us and that together we will continue to make Apple the magical place that it is,” Cook wrote at the end of his message. In other words, full steam ahead and I look forward to working with you.

In about 200 words, Cook spoke volumes about his vision for Apple and enabled employees to concentrate on their work, not uncertainty.

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