In an interview with Fortune, Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts has shared how she met Apple CEO Tim Cook, her thoughts about his leadership skills and and how he lured her to California. She recalls that the first time they both met was not at the Apple office, but somewhere else in Cupertino. She was CEO of Burberry in London at the time, and Cook was looking for a new head of Apple’s retail operation. Both were famous personalities so, “we didn’t want to be spotted together”.
Ahrendts says that the first time she sat down with Cook, “I walked away thinking wow, that’s a man of peace”, adding that she absolutely loved his integrity and his values. “Nothing anybody can write, say, or do is going to take him off of always doing the right thing. Not just for Apple, but for Apple’s people, for communities, for countries. The world needs more leaders like Tim”, she says.
Cook and Ahrendts spent their initial time getting to know one another rather than going deep on strategy or fashion. “We talked about the future of retail, about where is retail going and what is Apple’s role in that, we didn’t talk a lot about fashion”.
Ahrendts had been thriving at Burberry, and was flattered to be called but hardly thought she’d join Apple. “I did not expect to be moved by the man, and I left and I thought, “Ohhhhh! My life was perfect. Aaargh, why, why, why?”
As a newcomer who was a longtime admirer of Apple under Steve Jobs, Ahrendts brings a unique perspective to the Cook era among Apple’s senior management team. “Steve’s whole raison d’être just enriched and changed people’s lives,” she says. “Then Tim’s added a whole other level, which is: Apple has gotten so big that it is our responsibility to leave it better than we found it.”
Ahrendts has been at Apple for almost a year, and as Tim Cook says, “she isn’t having any trouble getting used to Apple, or vice versa”.