Like most people who achieve incredible things, Steve Jobs embraced a few core beliefs. He believed in expecting a lot from himself--and from others. He believed in the power of asking. He believed the future was something we can all make our mark upon.
In fact, Jobs believed in the fundamental power of belief itself, and in using that belief to motivate and inspire.
And even though he could sometimes apparently be impatient, difficult, and even unkind, Steve Jobs also believed in people--and in their potential to do more than they ever imagined possible.
Here's a story I heard Walter Isaacson, the author of the biography Jobs, tell some years ago.
Six months before the release of the first iPhone, Jobs created massive buzz when he revealed a working prototype.
Problem was, the prototype's hard-coated plastic screen wasn't nearly hard enough: After a day of carrying it around in his pocket, the screen was scratched and chipped.
Told sufficiently durable glass was years away, Jobs said, "I don't know how we're going to do it, but when we ship in June, it's going to be glass."
So Jobs called Wendell Weeks, the CEO of Corning Glass, and outlined the type of glass needed. Weeks told him about an extremely durable product the company had developed in the 1960s (so durable they called it "gorilla glass") but had never sold, much less put into production.
To Jobs, gorilla glass sounded perfect; he wanted enough, in less than six months, to produce millions of iPhones.
Weeks laughed. "That was a process we developed," he told Jobs, "but we've never actually produced it in quantity. None of our factories even have production lines to make it."
"Don't be afraid," Jobs said. "You can do it."
Fear wasn't the issue, Weeks replied, describing the technical challenges involved.
"Don't be afraid, " Jobs repeated. "You can do it."
Weeks described the production challenges. The logistical challenges. The supply challenges.
How did Jobs respond? "Don't be afraid," he said. "You can do it."
But that's not the best part of the story.
When Weeks called the Corning plant in Kentucky to tell them to start producing gorilla glass, they pushed back. They described the technical challenges. The production challenges. The logistical challenges.
Weeks, who hours earlier had grown frustrated by Jobs's repeated responses to his push-back, found himself repeating, again and again, "Don't be afraid. You can do it."
And they did.
Six months later Corning had produced, at quantity, a glass that had never been made.
When Isaacsonvisited Weeks's office years later, only one memento was on display: A letter from Jobs that said, "We couldn't have done it without you."
Believing in the people around you, before they even believe in themselves?
That might be the greatest gift any leader can give.