Apple CEO Tim Cook: Steve Jobs is 'not replaceable — by anyone'

Tim Cook
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

It's been nearly five years since late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO and handed the reins to Tim Cook.

Today, Cook still calls Jobs irreplaceable.

"To me, Steve's not replaceable — by anyone," Cook told Jena McGregor of The Washington Post in a recent interview. "He was an original of a species."

Jobs, who was obsessed with product details and marketing, has been credited with transforming Apple and changing several industries, including technology, retail and entertainment. He was also a driven and sometimes ruthless manager.

Ousted from his own company in 1985, Jobs maintained an aggressive management style when he returned to Apple a decade later to help turn things around. He arguably had to be an aggressive leader — after all, Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy and a major underdog at the time.

As one former Apple employee put it: "Steve was a wartime CEO."

His style, while controversial, worked. Apple went from underdog status to the most valuable company in the world.

Jobs may be one of a kind, but Cook — who was named CEO in August 2011, six weeks before Jobs died — is the one taking up the mantle. He also takes a less conventional approach to the role.

Cook doesn't want to be a "traditional CEO," he told McGregor: "I think of a traditional CEO as being divorced from customers. … I also think that the traditional CEO believes his or her job is the profit and loss, is the revenue statement, the income and expense, the balance sheet."

While the numbers are important, they're not all that is important, he explained.

"There's an incredible responsibility to the employees of the company, to the communities and the countries that the company operates in, to people who assemble its products, to developers, to the whole ecosystem of the company," Cook said. "And so I have a maybe nontraditional view there. I get criticized for it some, I recognize. If you care about long-term shareholder return, all of these other things are really critical."