Tim Cook assumed leadership of Apple in 2011, and since then his team of direct reports has grown significantly.

At the beginning of his career as CEO, Cook managed nine people. Today, at least 17 people report directly to Cook, according to their bios on Apple’s executive profile page. (Apple declined to confirm the number.)

Managing 17 people seems like a lot. Is Cook overextending himself? And what is the maximum number of people an executive can reasonably supervise?

We reached out to management experts and looked into the research to find out.

Hal Gregersen, Ph.D., the executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, told Business Insider the optimal number of direct reports is somewhere between six and 12, whether you’re the CEO or a lower-level manager.

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