Three years before returning to Apple to launch the iPhone/iPad revolution, Steve Jobs said something that downplayed technology and elevated the people that make the technology. It remains one of Jobs' most profound leadership tips, ever. 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.

This was in response to a Rolling Stone magazine reporter's question, who asked Jobs whether he still had as much faith in technology then (1994) as he did when he co-founded Apple nearly two decades prior.

What it means to put "faith in people."

By flipping the technology question around and placing the focus on the humans that make the technology, "faith in people" became the building block of trust that gave Apple's earlier knowledge workers the freedom to create and innovate.

It's a remaining lesson still applicable to organizations everywhere. When leaders consciously choose to believe in people and trust in their abilities to do great work with a level of "faith"--that they're "good and smart"--people are empowered and engaged to high performance. 

When leaders equip their workers with the tools and resources, communicate openly and clearly about goals and direction, and remove obstacles from their path, here's what typically happens to employees on an emotional and psychological level.

1. They feel safe enough to be creative.

When leaders operate from trust and belief in others, something magical happens: discretionary effort is released across the organization as teams feel psychologically safe in the presence of management, which increases productivity output.

2. They 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. They are motivated by a common vision.

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."

4. They make good choices.

When leaders have "faith in people" to create things and perform exceptional work, they trust that their people also operate from a position of honesty and integrity and that their employees will go about their day doing the right thing and doing things right.

5. They manage problems on their own.

When leaders give away trust and autonomy to their employees early on, it has a major impact on them. They're more open to safely deal with customer-facing problems quickly and head-on, instead of procrastinating or waiting for direction that travels one-way--from the top down. In turn, this raises both the employee and customer experience to new levels.

Published on: May 23, 2019
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