So much has been written about Steve Jobs’ passing, it almost seems futile to try. But the outpouring of respect and grief from “the rest of us” that consumed the social networks says something important about what we need from our leaders, and what we want from our technologies.
Jobs had an amazing belief that, given excellent tools, ordinary people would do wonderful things. He was famously tough on his staff – unwilling to compromise his standards, but willing to encourage new ideas and listen to critiques. He challenged people to make their very best efforts, and we loved him for it.
To engage employees, as we work so hard to do, one must first believe that they want to be engaged. Leaders do that by listening, by encouraging people to express themselves. They don’t tolerate apathy, but point the way towards action, and cheer those who head in the right direction.
Business leaders who listen in to social media today can gain tremendous insights. Given great communication tools, people will become engaged. Given recognition and challenged to apply their talents, they will make great things.
Anyone who used an Apple product felt empowered. We’ll miss Steve, but he left a little bit of his spirit in our hands.