Dr. Joe Siegler's Peak Leadership Blog

Most Recent       Leadership    Performance      Heroes    Equity   Career   Articles    Past Blogs


Values-based Leader: Timothy D. Cook, CEO of Apple

(Tags:  Leadership, Heroes)

I have been collecting articles over the past weeks about the federal government’s demands for Apple to develop a back-end entry software program for them to break into the iPhone of the now deceased terrorist in the San Bernardino attack.

The one thing I have observed in the past years, and especially in the past weeks, is that Mr. Cook is a very thoughtful man who cares deeply about his customers and mission of Apple.  He deeply believes that Apple is primarily a hardware company and wants to honor the confidentiality of the data of their customers. He was the right arm of Steve Jobs and was grossly underestimated as the next CEO of this dynamic company.  But, he has proven the pessimists wrong and has instead demonstrated strong, innovative, and effective leadership. He is the humble, competent, and inclusive leader of the future.

The Federal Government has been making accusations that the CEO’s refusal to provide the feds with a back door to release phone data is simply a marketing strategy.  For years, I have heard Mr. Cook speak proudly about honoring their customer’s data. This is unlike many of the other Silicon companies that freely use customer data and share it with others.

Yes, Mr. Cook could probably go to jail for his refusal to develop and hand over the key, especially now that the President has sided with the FBI’s request. I do not agree with the President’s decision. For Edward Snowden demonstrated the immense magnitude of surveillance of the American people as well as those from other countries. Why would Mr. Cook give the feds open access to the data of the majority of his customers? The point here is that since past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, the claim of the feds to use the key this one time is preposterous.  Here are some numbers to demonstrate what would happen if Mr. Cook gave them a key: Apple Still Holds the Keys to Its Cloud Service, but Reluctantly, Mike Isaac, New York Times, February 22, 2016.

  • During the first half of 2015, Apple received nearly 11,000 requests from government agencies around the world regarding information on roughly 60,000
  • Apple provided some data in roughly 7,100 of those requests.
  • So these numbers clearly expose the myth of the “oh, it’s just this once, so be cooperative” approach.

The big opportunity for Mr. Cook came in 2014 when an update to Apple’s iOS software made data retrieval from a locked device impossible to achieve. Mr. Cook claims Apple is a hardware company that will not use the data of customers. This reflects the values of Apple’s leader. The feds cannot simply say his beliefs are a marketing ploy because the decision embodies integrity, customer loyalty, and strong leadership.

There is an opportunity, at this moment, for the feds if the San Bernardino terrorist backed up his data on the iCloud.  When a device owner backs up a device on the Apple iCloud, that data is still retrievable at the present time. However, many believe it is only a matter of time until Apple is able to make iCloud data irretrievable.

Timothy D. Cook is clearly taking a pure position of privacy for customers because of the surveillance exposed by Snowden and then because the magnitude of requests would require a company division of enormous size and expense to respond effectively. Or for the federal government possessing a key would just apply it on any number of devices desired as the past numbers reveal.

Now the Feds are asking Apple to give them the back door key to obtain data on devices and probably any future data locked in iCloud.  Mr. Cook is the guardian of Apple. If the feds controlled the key, surely it could get grossly over-used.  So what can Timothy Cook do?

I do agree with President Obama that there should be access to iPhone data for terrorist threats and actual plots carried out like occurred at San Bernardino. So here are the ideas I came up with while thinking about potential compromises:

  1. Assume that iCloud will eventually be locked like devices.
  2. So how can the Federal government get access to data on emergent cases? There has to be specific criteria for such a case with parameters. For example, annualize the data above for 2014 and we are talking about 120,000 devices just for that year and 22,000 requests. Wow, I would be locking my systems and protecting my clients confidentiality in that case. So develop criteria for unlocking to be something like: a clear and documented threat to American lives. If the event has already occurred like San Bernardino, a single unlocking can occur.
  3. Only Apple can unlock a device in the emergent case. There are coders who talk about state of the art methods of unlocking where the capability could disappear after seconds or minutes that would keep hackers or insiders from releasing the key to anyone (Times Readers Have Their Say on the Debate Over Apple, Marie Tae McDermott, New York Times, February 19, 2016). Matthew Schenker, a coder, suggests there is always a way to code something with ethical limitations. For example, Apple could create a temporary, self-destructing device ID that must be issued from Apple and is only accessible within a certain time frame and with a certain algorithm.  Apple could hold that temporary ID and grant access on a case by case basis, rendering the ‘back door’ useless without it. Maybe only Mr. Cook has the trigger for the unlock that can only be used if all agreed upon criteria are met.  However, in no way can the unlocking capability ever be in the control of anyone besides Mr. Cook or future Apple CEOs.
  4. Right now the feds are asking for Apple to give them the capability. Really? I am not sure how the President can support that position. But I do believe that if there are clear criteria established by both Apple and the Feds, then this is possible. Possibly an upper limit of a low number of devices and requests per year (i.e. say 20 devices and 10 requests as an example for only absolutely urgent reasons).
  5. So I say with the history of overreaching from the feds, there has to be tight criteria for unlocking. Control of the key has to be in Mr. Cook’s hands. His fears may come true if an aggressive federal leader wants the unlock turned over in the future. If that happens, the CEO must be allowed to destroy the unlock capability.

What do you think? We are having very important ethical discussions about the future of the country. The history of totalitarian governments includes their use of citizen’s data against their people.  Let’s follow the lead of Timothy D. Cook, who I consider a hero for this blog. Let the feds ask him to unlock only if agreed upon criteria are met that protect the confidentiality of his customers. Let’s learn from him as a teacher and as a CEO. But for now the only way to assure confidentiality of your Apple device data is to forgo using iCloud as long as the solution to this disagreement is not in place.  Let’s hope that Mr. Cook does not go to prison over his vital opinions and practices.  This would be denigrating to us all and completely unacceptable. But, one could think that he would go to jail with honor as the guardian of his valued customers’ data.



Class Act

(Tags: Leadership, Heroes)

This is not a partisan column, but there was a year, almost a decade past, when I spoke to the future president, Barack Obama, regularly.

Sometime before he received secret service protection, we belonged to the same gym in Chicago.  He and I both tended to work out late.  There were usually only a few people in the gym.  Mr. Obama was friendly, always said hello, and frequently asked about my executive coaching practice as I inquired about the events of his day. Even though he was already a senator, he was polite and engaged in our conversations.  One time I even got the nerve to tell him he was too easy on Condoleezza Rice while the two were on C-Span earlier that day.  He listened.

The last time I saw Barack Obama in real life was outside of the gym, near the entrance. I was sitting on a bench, talking on my cell to my now late father. The senator was walking toward me and greeted me.  I pointed to my phone and let him know I was speaking to my Dad. I quieted a voice inside that said, “Get off the phone and talk to the senator!” However, I thought it was important not to interrupt the call with my father.  Little did I know that I would not see the future president again in person. For soon after his greeting outside the gym, he virtually disappeared due to the secret service starting to manage his safety. It was rumored he still showed up at unexpected times to play basketball.

I now occasionally joke about how not exchanging contact information with then Senator Obama was my biggest mistake so far in business. What might have happened if we stayed in touch?  It’s an unknown scenario.  In the span of a single year, Barack Obama went on to be the most famous man on the planet.

I teach clients who are leading or growing businesses to “own” their accomplishments as well as their failures.  Failures are the scars and learning points of great leadership.  I worry more about a leader who says they have not made any mistakes or had any failures.

Humility is clearly my favorite quality a person can possess.  It is also a proven key ingredient of great leadership, along with competence. It relates to seeing oneself as equal to others—not better or worse.  Being humble steers one to naturally respect and value others.

David Brooks declares that he misses the president already [“I Miss Barack Obama” New York Times, Op-Ed, February 9, 2016].  He points out that unlike many of the president’s predecessors, Obama and his administration have been relatively free of scandal.  The president strongly demonstrates the qualities and performance of superior leadership. Mr. Brooks lists the president’s qualities as:  integrity, rectitude, humanity, the ability to attract like-minded team members, respect for others, sound decision-making, optimism, good manners, and elegance.

I say Mr. Obama deserves an amazing library.

He is truly a class act.



Amplify Individual, Team, and Organizational Performance by Transforming Thoughts into Words and Actions

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher recently died in 2013, but her legacy will live on forever. The following quote comes from the movie Iron Lady, which was titled for her frequently uncompromising politics and leadership style.

“Watch your thoughts for they become words
Watch your words for they become actions
Watch your actions for they become habits
Watch your habits for they become your character
And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
What we think we become.”

This quote depicts how our thoughts effectively can mobilize our subsequent actions and work performance.

In our professional lives, we can become more effective individuals, teammates, and leaders by:
1. Harnessing our conscious thoughts — rather than acting upon fleeting emotions.
2. Actively using words that reflect our thoughts and can then generate goals and actions.

Once these actions are repeated over and over again, we create momentum that results in new habits and rituals, serving as the cornerstone of successful behavioral change.  By connecting our thoughts, words, and actions, we can impact our futures and achieve our true professional and personal goals we each desire.



Hero: Jerry Ragovoy

Songwriter Jerry Ragovoy passed away on Wednesday, July 13 at age 80. Ragovoy leaves behind the legacy of hit songs performed by the Rolling Stones (“Time Is On My Side”), Janis Joplin (“Piece of My Heart”), Jimi Hendrix (“Stop”) and numerous others. A memorial piece in The New York Times shows Ragovoy’s career as a songwriter was just as intriguing as the hit songs he’s written.

Ragovoy began his career as a music buyer for a department store in Philadelphia. Though he started his own record company, Ragovoy had is sights set on being a songwriter for Broadway.

In New York, in 1962, he found his career taking a different turn. He started writing a number of songs for groups like The Majors and Garnet Mimmis and the Enchanters. His song “Time On My Side” was adapted and made into a hit by the Rolling Stones. By 1966, Ragovoy was the head of artists and repertory at Warner Bros Records and in 1969 he founded a new record company, The Hit Factory.

Jerry Ragovoy sought to work on Broadway, but ended up getting famous for writing hit songs for classic artists, earning praise from his contemporaries for his mastery of the R&B idiom. Because he was willing to put his theatrical plans on hold, he ended up taking his life in directions few get to tread.

What executive coaching lessons can we glean from this man and his remarkable career trajectory?

  • Your career path may allow you to expand, shift your focus, and even change your direction entirely. Opportunities in slightly different fields may be offered to you. If you’re interested, you may find yourself excelling in something new and unexpected.
  • Ragovoy “shelved” his plans for Broadway to write for musicians. You may have a specific dream or goal in mind – don’t let it close you off to new experiences that may become new realities. Be prepared to adapt.


The Approach To Greatness

Today’s post is an excerpt from my book Fire Your Therapist: The Coaching Formula For Success, available now.

If you’re like most people, you aspire to greatness. You don’t just want a good career, you want one that provides tremendous satisfaction and financial rewards. You don’t want to settle for an okay relationship, you want one that is enormously fulfilling. It may be that greatness, like perfection, is impossible to achieve. Approaching greatness, however, is a fair goal and one that coaching facilitates.

Approaching greatness means being the best you can be. It is hard work. There are obstacles. There must be accountability and humility. It is usually impossible to achieve it without assistance from others, including a coach. It’s much easier to settle for being pretty good or average. Yet an astonishing number of people seek greatness in various areas of their lives.

I suspect that you have these aspirations or you wouldn’t be reading this now. Perhaps your motivation involves the challenging times in which we live. As the economy toughens, violent conflicts between countries continue, and global warming accelerates, you become aware of the precariousness of existence and become focused on doing the best you can in the time you have. You may become fed up with the materialistic tendencies and trends out there and seek to simplify your life. Or you may seek a spiritual connection as the world seems to be going to hell in a hand basket. Whatever the motivation, you are driven to excel in one or many spheres to counteract the problems and challenges that arise.

Seeking greatness comes in many forms. You have to define what exactly it is for yourself, and your definition will probably be quite different from that of anyone else. As discussed, you need to examine your life in all eleven spheres and see what strengths and weaknesses you wish to optimize. This examination starts you on the road to greatness.


Hero: Elena Bonner

On June 19 2011, Russian Human Rights activist Elena Bonner passed away at age 88. Her legacy includes a long marriage to the famous Soviet physicist and dissident humanitarian Andrei Sakharov. But she was a force all her own as an activist, fighting for human rights during and after the Soviet Union’s brutal Stalin regime.

Bonner grew up when dissidence and criticism of government was discouraged, to put it mildly. She and her husband’s abandonment of their Soviet government positions turned the KGB against them and led to their banishment from the country. Even in exile, they continued to push for human rights even after the USSR’s collapse.

Bonner stood up for those who couldn’t stand for themselves, even when it lead to scorn, hostility and exile. Her heroic example reinforces a few key executive coaching lessons:

  • Elena Bonner had great respect for people of all religions and faiths. Learning how to practice tolerance and acceptance, and to foster cooperation despite different points of view, is important for those who want to grow as leaders and people.
  • Bonner and her husband took a lot of flack when they fought for human rights. Do what you know is necessary, even if it doesn’t make you popular.
  • No one sphere of life exists independently of the others. Thus, it is important for business leaders to support, and sometimes join, global and local activists who are fighting for positive change.
  • According to Bonner, “The most deplorable teaching is the superiority of any nation over another.” To put it another way, arrogance is a dangerous enemy. If you consider yourself entitled or superior, you lose your true power in negotiations and your actions may make things worse for everyone involved.

We can’t all fundamentally change the course of a nation’s history, but those who fight for humanity and responsible freedom over tyranny are powerful examples for all occasions.


Hero: Masao Yoshida

On March 12, as the world watched the unfolding disaster in Japan, a monumental decision was made at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The plant manager, Masao Yoshida, ignored a direct order from his company superiors to stop pumping the sea water that was cooling the reactor. In one act of defiance, Yoshida prevented another plant meltdown, saved thousands of lives, and exposed the troubled relationship between his company Tepco and Japan’s ruling government.

Yoshida’s actions and their aftermath are chronicled in a June 12 article from the New York Times. The piece suggests that the complacency of Tepco and the numerous bureaucrats surrounding the Japanese Prime Minster created a situation that left plant workers to fend for themselves. The move to stop the cooling of the Fukushima plant was not based on reason – it simply had to be done.

Thankfully, Yoshida received only a light verbal reprimand from his superiors. Though they may not admit it, his actions prevented a terrible situation from becoming worse. Masao Yoshida joins the leagues of those who’ve had to disobey in order to do the right thing.

We can learn a lot of useful coaching approaches from Yoshida and from those who came before him. “Deep Throat,” a/k/a W. Mark Felt, helped expose the Watergate scandal by divulging information to the Washington Post. During the reign of the Nazi Party in Germany, many Germans put their lives at risk to help Jews and other minority citizens hide or escape the country. Frederic Whitehurst exposed the inefficiency and lack of investigative rigor in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Today, he oversees the Forensic Justice Project for the National Whistleblower Center.

What can we learn from these defiant heroes? Here are a few takeaway coaching tips:

  • Always do the right thing. Never rationalize destructive or ineffective behavior by claiming, “I did what was asked of me” – that will never be a suitable excuse.
  • If you fear that following your conscience will draw the wrath of your colleagues, consider the consequences of not doing the right thing. Think of how you will feel if you don’t take the risk and stand up for what you believe.
  • Remember that people doing the wrong thing often think they are right. When you follow your conscience, be prepared to face strong opposition with few allies.
  • Doing what you know is right is always, ultimately, its own reward.

When you take responsibility for following your own sense of what’s right, you may save lives or you may simply make things brighter in your own corner of the world. Whomever you are, this challenge is yours to accept.

Hero: Elizabeth Taylor

The most recent celebrity death had the silver lining of reminding us of their numerous social and community-oriented accomplishments. The star from the Golden Age of Hollywood Elizabeth Taylor died on March 23 at 79 years old from heart disease. A woman of supreme beauty and grace, Taylor also exhibited enormous philanthropic generosity throughout her life, and is commended as a Full Life Hero for her contributions to both film and society.

Elizabeth Taylor is especially notable for her contributions to AIDS charities, including co-founding the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and for raising more than $270 million for the cause. She was one of the first public figures to speak out against AIDS at a time when many people denied the existence of the disease, and hosting the first AIDS fundraiser in 1984. Taylor also devoted time and money to other philanthropic causes.

What can readers of the Full Life Amplifier Blog learn from Elizabeth Taylor’s life of philanthropy and selflessness?

  • Devote yourself to the causes that have not only personal meaning for you, but also a major impact on others. Taylor first became involved in the fight against AIDS after her friend and frequent costar Rock Hudson announced that he suffered from the disease, but her contributions from this relationship helped more people than she ever knew.
  • All causes deserve attention and effort. Elizabeth Taylor made substantial donations in 2009 to charities for religions other than her own in order to facilitate the education of less-fortunate children. She did not allow differences in religious beliefs to limit her contributions to great causes.
  • Investments and planning can continue your legacy even after your death. Some of Taylor’s jewelry—valued at approximately $150 million—is going to be auctioned off for AIDS charities, continuing her philanthropic streak even after she’s gone.
  • Pay no mind to what the critics may say. Taylor was no stranger to controversy, especially regarding her numerous marriages and extravagant lifestyle. Nevertheless, by all accounts Taylor was happy with her station in life even in her twilight years.

Elizabeth Taylor’s consistent concern with philanthropic endeavors demonstrates her selflessness. She made huge contributions to charities and nonprofits that undoubtedly raised the quality of countless lives. It is a pleasure to honor one of our greatest stars for both her acting and altruistic achievements.

What are your thoughts?


Hero: Bob Herbert

The already-reeling newspaper medium is suffering another loss: Bob Herbert is leaving the New York Times. In his final column for the paper, Herbert has published a useful summary of our country’s worrisome strategic mistakes. In “Losing Our Way,” Herbert finishes an inspiring career at NYT of publishing the hard truths when other journalists are afraid to report.

The America in “Losing Our Way” reveals how greed rules as the most wealthy keep all the profits to themselves, leaving the bottom 95% to compete in a ever-more bleaker job market. Even bright young graduates are forced into careers that limit their ability to accomplish goals. Wages are too low to think about starting a family, and the future seems more uninviting every day. In times like this, peak performance in career planning is more important than ever.

How can you, or someone you know, hope to rise above these challenges and conquer the competitive job market?

  • Solidify your vision of your ideal job. Excelling is far easier when you have the passion for your work.
  • Launch an entrepreneurial endeavor. The Amplifier Blog has previously posted tips for doing this such as a guide to planning, a list of excellent resources, and some advice on keeping your plans flexible.
  • Always keep an eye on your personal brand and how potential employers might see you.
  • Be flexible with your business/career plan. Be willing to change directions when you know that is what is needed.

Bob Herbert’s final column at the New York Times is an accurate portrait of a country in crisis, but Full Life’s coaching services can inspire you to meet the heightened challenges and and compete for diminished resources.

What are your thoughts?


Hero: Gene Sharp

With the recent uprisings in Libya and Egypt, much of the world’s attention is focused on the ongoing struggle for universal democracy. One understated influence on these movements is the scholar Gene Sharp, an unbelievably humble political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth whose numerous tracts on nonviolent change have greatly inspired freedom seekers around the globe. Sharp’s revolutionary ideas are all the more impressive when one considers his incredible humility and old age. He refrains from taking credit for his influence, giving the Egyptians credit for their actions. The man is a true hero for peacefully advancing the cause of democracy and doing it based entirely on the strength of his ideas.

Sharp’s ideas expand upon those espoused by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In essence, Sharp’s philosophy emphasizes people’s strength in numbers and resilience to oppression. Despite the professor’s lack of experience with the internet, he also touts the use of new media both for organization and informing the world about the joys of freedom and news updates regarding potential oppression and hidden abuses. Though Sharp has his fair share of detractors that criticize his “passivity”, the wide spread reach of his work and the actions they have inspired speak for themselves.

Gene Sharp’s democratic teachings are incredibly admirable, and what’s even more impressive is that they come from such a self-effacing man. This professor is a true hero for his amazing contribution to the evolution of democracy.

What do you think about Sharp’s approach to change?


© 2016 Full Life LLC All Rights Reserved