Fortune Magazine named Tim Cook as the “World’s Greatest Leader,” catapulting the Apple chief executive to the top over heads of states and religious leaders like Pope Francis and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Cook was recognized for his work as the successor to Steve Jobs. In an in-depth profile, Cook spoke about the difficulties of replacing a legendary figure.
“I have thick skin,” Cook said, “but it got thicker. What I learned after Steve passed away, what I had known only at a theoretical level, an academic level maybe, was that he was an incredible heat shield for us, his executive team. None of us probably appreciated that enough because it’s not something we were fixated on. We were fixated on our products and running the business. But he really took any kind of spears that were thrown. He took the praise as well. But to be honest, the intensity was more than I would ever have expected.”
He also spoke about his decision to publicly announce that he is gay. In an essay published in Bloomberg Businessweek last October, Cook said that he has been open about his sexual orientation and that his colleagues in Apple know that he is gay.
“While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me,” he wrote.
The announcement made him the first openly gay CEO in the Fortune 500. The new profile marked the first time that Apple or Cook has commented further on the revelation. Cook said that he divulged his sexual orientation out of concern for kids that are being bullied at school, and as a protest against states that still allow employers to discriminate against workers due to their sexual orientation. He also revealed that he had decided on making an announcement “quite some time ago,” and that his colleagues considered such a move to be a “yawner.”
The full-length profile will run in the April 1 issue of Fortune. Other prominent figures in the “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” list include Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Indian Prime Minister Nerendra Modi, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.