According to employee satisfaction tracker Glassdoor, 97% of Apple workers surveyed approve of the job Cook is doing. Jobs managed a 95% rating in the months before stepping down due to the recurring illness that ultimately proved fatal.
Surprised? You should be.
When Jobs resigned in August, many investors and industry watchers believed Apple wouldn't take long to show signs of decay. Yet none of the doomsday scenarios have come to pass. Revenue zoomed 68% last year as profits nearly doubled.
The stock, which closed at $378.25 on the day Jobs died, has rallied more than 60% since then as investors have learned to appreciate Cook's style, which includes paying a handsome dividend that eluded shareholders during the Jobs era.
As one employee put it in a Glassdoor review posted earlier this month: "Tim and the [executive team] are doing a great job. Keep up the good work."
If the shoe fits, fill it
As executives, Jobs and Cook are both exceptional. Glassdoor founder Bob Hohman says the average CEO achieves a 62% approval rating, and that's across more than 280,000 ratings for 150,000 tracked companies. Yet Cook is more exceptional than most because of the leader he replaced.
"Very rarely do you have a founder replaced by a non-founder who's held a rating like this," Hohman said in an interview. "In fact, I've never seen anything like it."
It's easy to forget that Cook subbed for Jobs twice before taking the reins permanently. The first time, in 2004, Cook oversaw massive increases in iPod sales as listeners took to the iTunes store for music downloads. In 2009, he downplayed the impact of netbooks while helping shepherd the first iPad into production. The third generation of the product just sold 3 million units -- in a weekend.
Like Jobs before him, Cook engenders loyalty through focus and clarity. "[Great leaders] have this ability to point to the mountain and say very clearly: There's where we're headed," Hohman said.
How other execs rate with their minions
Interestingly, Cook's ascent wasn't the only eye-opener in Glassdoor's report. Other notable findings:
- Five of the eight chief executives to achieve a 90% or better approval rating lead technology-focused companies: Apple's Cook at 97%, Qualcomm's (QCOM) Paul Jacobs at 95%, Google's (GOOG) Larry Page at 94%, Intel's (INTC) Paul Otellini at 93%, and VMware's (VMW) Paul Maritz at 90%.
- General Electric's (GE) Jeffrey Immelt earns the honor for most improved with a 19-point jump in his approval rating year over year. Hohman attributed the gains to a renewed focus on the sort of training that made GE famous during Jack Welch's reign as chief executive.
- Goldman Sachs (GS) CEO Lloyd Blankfein may be widely disliked by outsiders -- especially in light of accusations that management encourages brokers to rip off clients -- but 89% of insiders still approve of the job he's doing. Will that rating hold? We'll know in six months.
- Most surprising of all, 85% of Sprint Nextel (S) employees approve of CEO Dan Hesse despite massive debts, shrinking cash flow, and a failed attempt to convince the board to make a bid for peer MetroPCS (PCS). Last year at this time, only 77% of Sprint workers approved of Hesse's job performance.
Yet for all the winners in Glassdoor's report, none come off nearly so well as Cook and Apple. The ratings suggest that one of Jobs' deepest desires -- one he expressed to writer Walter Isaacson in the authorized biography, Steve Jobs -- is already being fulfilled.
"My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products," Jobs told Isaacson. Judging by Glassdoor's findings: It is, and they are.
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Motley Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. The Motley Fool owns shares of Qualcomm, Apple, Intel, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Intel, Goldman Sachs, Google, Apple, and VMware, and creating a bull call spread position in Apple.