In a 1994 interview with Rolling Stone magazine during a low point in the career of Steve Jobs (three years before returning to Apple to launch the iPhone/iPad revolution), Jobs dropped one of the best leadership tips of his life. He said:
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.
The answer was in response to the 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?"
By flipping the technology question around and placing the focus on the humans that make the technology--Jobs understood his place as a leader.
Because when you put "faith in people," this becomes the building block of trust that fosters great teamwork, collaboration, and innovation. And Jobs knew that.
The results of putting "faith in people."
What happens when you choose to believe in people and trust in their abilities? 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.
Here's what happens when you do:
1. People feel safe.
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 at a high level.
2. People take ownership of their work.
Jobs' faith and trust in the ability of his engineers 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. He once said, "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."
3. People feel respected.
When leaders are true to themselves and others, they not only trust the judgments and decisions that they make, they also trust the judgments and decisions of valued workers. This kind of trust begets respect and creates more value and loyalty across the organization.
4. People understand why they do what they do.
One of the worst things that cause disengaged and dispirited employees is a leader's inability to attach meaning and purpose to their peoples' work. Jobs thought differently. He said, "Once they know what to do, they'll go figure out how to do it. What they need is a common vision. And that's what leadership is: [h]aving a vision; being able to articulate that so the people around you can understand it; and getting a consensus on a common vision."
5. People will do the right thing, and do things right.
When leaders have "faith in employees" to do great work, they're also operating from a position of honesty and integrity, they don't hesitate to do the right thing and rarely second-guess themselves. This leadership philosophy aligns perfectly as employees go about their day doing the right thing and doing things right.
6. People will manage their problems seamlessly.
When leaders give away trust and autonomy to their employees early on, it has a major impact on them. You'll notice that they are more open to safely deal with customer-facing problems quickly and head-on, instead of procrastinating or waiting for the boss to give direction. This raises both the employee and customer experience to new levels.