In 1994, well after Steve Jobs got booted by Apple and before returning to launch the iPad and iPhone revolution, he had a prolific interview with Rolling Stone magazine during one of the lowest points of his career. 

What ensued was a conversation that mostly covered topics around software development and the technological landscape of that era. And then this from Jobs:

Technology is nothing. What's important is that you have a faith in people, that they're basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they'll do wonderful things with them.

That answer, if you're wondering, was in response to this question: "You've often talked about how technology can empower people, how it can change their lives. Do you still have as much faith in technology today as you did when you started out 20 years ago?

In leadership, faith means trusting others first.

As Jobs evolved as a leader, he demonstrated faith in people -- specifically, his employees -- in a period of unprecedented growth at Apple after his return.

His faith in his employees is solidly grounded in leadership theory and practice. "Faith" in this sense is the building block of trust that fosters great teamwork, collaboration, and innovation. You can't possibly have one without the other.

It's this building block of trust, in Jobs' case, that crystallized his relationships with his knowledge workers that helped launch the Apple products we can't live without today.

Leaders that adopt a "trust first" mindset before trust is earned have an edge. In trusting people first, they accept and trust in people's ability to use their brains and talents to create and innovate.

The empowerment piece soon follows. Leaders will increase trust tenfold by doing what Jobs suggested: Believing that their employees are good and smart, giving them tools and resources, and removing obstacles in their way so they can succeed and shine. 

The return on trust.

When leaders operate from trust, they get their people from the neck up. People feel psychologically safe in their presence and are able to produce a a high level.

SAS Institute, one of Fortune magazine's Best Companies to Work For for over 20 years, arrived there by developing a culture based on "trust between our employees and the company," said Jim Goodnight, SAS's CEO.

In his phenomenal book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey says that a team with high trust will produce results faster and at lower cost. As I alluded to earlier, conventional thinking says that people have to earn trust first. If they violate that trust, it becomes difficult to earn it back, so the thinking goes.

But in Covey's studies, it has been found that in healthy organizations, leaders are willing to give trust to their followers first, as a gift before it's earned.

In closing, another Steve Jobs quote to remember. 

Jobs' faith and trust in the ability of his engineers and other knowledge workers to produce at their best began before they set foot inside Apple's headquarters. He promoted a trust-culture of autonomy and empowerment upfront in Apple's hiring practice. Case in point, Jobs once famously quipped, "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do." 

Published on: Feb 22, 2018
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