In a meeting convened to tackle a problem in China,
he had said: "This is really bad someone should be in
China driving this." Thirty-minutes in the meeting he
chided Sabih Khan, the then operations executive,
saying "Why are you still here?". Khan responded by
immediately booking a ticket to China, sans a change
That's why this story is as much of a story about Tim Cook as it is about Sabih Khan.
I would guess this incident taught Khan to take more initiative in the future. That's much more valuable than saving half an hour by assigning the task to one person directly.
(a) This a global company, and distance is irrelevant. Whether it's the other side of campus, or the other side of the world, if you need to be there now, you need to be there now. So go.
(b) At this level, budget is not an issue. Nor are aggravating details like travel authorizations, expense accounts, etc. Seriously, just get on with it.
(c) Your staff better be ready to to deal with this, in that they need to be dialed in well enough to cover for anything you need at a moment's notice - including your suddenly being in Beijing. That is to say, you need a deep bench. So spend the money to build a deep bench. And when you have it, use it freely.
(d) This company is the opposite of complacent, and doesn't take its success for granted. Thinking or acting like you can't miss is a sure way to get fired. On the other hand, having the brass to be the right person in the right place at the right time is a great recipe for success. Be that person.
(e) 'Executive' is derived from 'execute', and that's what your boss really values. You've got the power. Now use it.
I can see all of this adding up to an extraordinarily liberating sense. For Khan, it was clearly a word to the wise.