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Business Briefing

Apple CEO Tim Cook Bests Steve Jobs in CEO Ratings

Apple CEO Tim Cook Bests Steve Jobs in CEO Ratings
March 30, 2012 12:45PM

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"Apple employees love Tim Cook," said analyst Rob Enderle. "When you've had a CEO that likes to use the whip a lot and then you suddenly get a CEO who doesn't, that difference is going to be rather pronounced. I think Cook is benefiting from the fact, and significantly so, that [Steve] Jobs was a very, very difficult guy to work for."

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Tim Cook is getting the nod from Apple employees. A new survey of the Top 25 Highest Rated CEOs puts Apple's CEO at the top of the list, with a 97 percent approval rating.

The anonymous Glassdoor survey shows that Cook has been well received by employees -- even slightly better than the late former CEO Steve Jobs. Jobs' rating from March 2010 to March 2011 was slightly lower than Cook's, at 95 percent.

Ernst & Young CEO Jim Turley comes in second to Cook with a 95 percent approval rate. He is followed by Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs (95 percent) and American Express CEO Ken Chenault (94 percent). Google CEO Larry Page made it into the top five with a 94 percent approval rate.

Will Cook's Empathy Backfire?

We caught up today with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, who has watched the internal dynamics at Apple for years, to get his perspective on the news.

"Apple employees love Tim Cook. When you've had a CEO that likes to use the whip a lot and then you suddenly get a CEO who doesn't, that difference is going to be rather pronounced," Enderle said.

"I think Cook is benefiting from the fact, and significantly so, that Jobs was a very, very difficult guy to work for. A hostile environment at Apple under Jobs would be an understatement. Cook is much more empathetic."

But will the change in leadership style ultimately prove beneficial to Apple? As Enderle describes it, Jobs' Apple was a company that ran largely on fear -- but it was trading at the top of its game. If you remove that element of fear as a motivator, will Apple be as successful long term?

"The new Apple is a friendlier Apple, but the new Apple probably won't be as successful," Enderle said. "There is a cost to change, and when you are a company that is trading as high as Apple is, changing anything significantly comes at a risk."

Meg Whitman Wins Favor

Meg Whitman may not have achieved enough popularity among California voters during her run for governor of California, but she seems to be winning support from employees at Hewlett-Packard, according to the Glassdoor survey. Whitman is the only woman to break into the list of top rated CEOs with an 80 percent approval rating, the firm notes.

What's more, Whitman is faring much better than her predecessors. Glassdoor reports Leo Apotheker garnered a 57 percent cumulative approval and Mark Hurd received a 34 percent cumulative approval. One Hewlett-Packard employee wrote that, "Mark Hurd badly impacted HP Values and people morale, but HP has got amazing people who kept on performing through salary cuts and CEO scandals. So my most sincere good luck to Meg and her leadership team to bring back some of the HP way."

Other tech companies on Glassdoor's Top 25 Highest Rated CEOs list include Intel, VMware, EMC, Sprint Nextel and Oracle. Non-tech companies include Accenture, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Goldman Sachs, PricewaterhouseCoopers, U.S. Bank, JPMorgan Chase and GE.

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