5 People Apple CEO Tim Cook Calls For Advice

You’ll guess some. You will surely not guess them all.

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BY Chris Matyszczyk - 15 Aug 2016

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

Headlines say so much.

Apple CEO Tim Cook just gave an interview to the Washington Post, one that must have lasted longer than the first iPod I bought.

The headline read: "Running Apple 'is sort of a lonely job.'"

I bet it sort of is.

So many decisions. So much attention. And when you need someone to talk things over with, whom do you call?

Cook gave a clue to the names of five people whom he trusted for advice at times when he really needed it.

1. Warren Buffett

Well, we'd all call him if we could, wouldn't we? He has that rural Yoda thing going on that makes one hope he's always going to talk sense. "When I was going through [the question of] what should we do on returning cash to shareholders," Cook said, "I thought who could really give us great advice here? Who wouldn't have a bias? So I called up Warren Buffett." He was, Cook says, the "natural person." Indeed, this is his criterion for making calls for advice. Who is the natural choice?

2. Lloyd Blankfein

Now what would the CEO of Goldman Sachs be the natural person to talk to about? How to make yourself internationally popular? But no. Instead, Cook said he had to testify in front of Congress in 2013. Blankfein had already enjoyed this pleasure. "I knew Lloyd and thought he'd be honest with me," said Cook. But was he?

3. Bill Clinton

It seems that Cook asked more than one person about impressing Congress. "I called up President Clinton. He knows a lot about the politics. I'd not met him through a political connection. I'd met him through the foundation," said Cook. You might imagine, therefore, that Cook has a rather rational attitude toward nature. The natural people, to Cook, are those who can offer advice from a very specific aspect -- be it presenting business to politicians or behaving politically toward them. This advice seems strictly business.

4. Laurene Powell Jobs

Cook said he also consulted Steve Jobs's wife about the very same Congressional testimony. In what way might she be able to help him? "Laurene has the lens of knowing me and deeply understanding Apple," Cook said. At some point, therefore, Cook also needs advice from those who might understand his personal strengths and weaknesses, rather than merely offer strategic advice.

5. Anderson Cooper

When Cook decided to announce that he was gay, he turned to the CNN personality. Again, Apple's CEO said he thought strategically about making his announcement. Where should he make it? "I wanted it to be in a business [publication]," he said. "That's what I know, that's who I am." But Cooper, he said, had made his own announcement in a way that Cook found "really classy." So he talked to him at some length.

You might think it's easier for Cook to find "natural" people, because he can call anyone he wants and they're likely to answer.

But if you're one of the most famous businesspeople in the world, every call for advice is a step toward revealing some aspect of yourself.

The examples Cook gave here, other than Powell Jobs, don't sound as if they're close personal friends of his.

Instead, he seems to seek advice from those he respects and those who will give him advice very specific counsel.

Cook did, though, offer an interesting caveat about the advice he received.

He explained that he needed outside eyes because the particular issues at stake were new to him and to his company.

"I think it's important on these things that are also new to the company to solicit some people outside, even if you conclude to not do what they say, " he said.

And that's the ultimate advice about advice.

It's still you who actually decides what to do.