Leadership

What Tim Cook says coming out cost him—and why he still has 'no regrets'

Apple CEO Tim Cook.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook firmly believes business leaders should do their part to help improve the world. In the years since he took the reins from the late Steve Jobs in 2011, he has donated millions of dollars in support of various human rights issues. While Cook is a notably private person, he became the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company to come out as gay in 2014.

Exposing his personal life may have cost him his privacy, but Cook has no regrets, he told Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein on the June 13 episode of "The David Rubenstein Show. " Ultimately, he says he "did it for a greater purpose."

"As I look at the world, many of the problems of the world come down to the lack of equality," Cook said.

"It's the fact that the kid that's born in one zip code who doesn't have a good education because they happen to be born in that zip code. It's someone that is maybe an LGBT community that is fired because of that. It's someone that has a different religion than the majority and therefore they're ostracized in some way."

For Cook, surrendering his privacy was worth it, since it meant giving lots of people a role model to look up to.

"It became clear to me that there were lots of kids out there that were not being treated well, including in their own families, and that kids need someone to say, 'Oh, they did okay in life, and they're gay so it must not be a life sentence in some kind of way,'" Cook said.

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Before breaking his silence on the topic, Cook said he would get notes that tugged on his heart. It got to the point where he thought, "I'm making the wrong call by trying to do something that is comfortable to me, which is to stay private."

Finally he felt the responsibility "to do something for the greater good."

Cook came out as gay in an essay published by Bloomberg in 2014. He wrote: "If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it's worth the trade-off with my own privacy."

"As one of the out leaders of one of the major companies not just in the country, but in the world, Cook set an example for other people to help LGBTQ people, and especially LGBTQ youth, to thrive in our society," says Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal, a national LGBT civil rights advocacy organization

"He's sending a communication of hope, belief and optimism that we can strive for a society where we can all become CEOs and become great professionals and contributors to society no matter who we are," Gonzalez-Pagan says. "That's a value he has set as a leader."

When Rubenstein asked Cook if he had any regrets about revealing this part of his life, Cook simply affirmed: "No regrets."

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Apple CEO Tim Cook.
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