Showing posts from 2023

Trust, but verify

I’ve always disliked this phrase, and it felt like a pure contradiction - you wouldn’t need to verify if you truly trust. It has come up recently in my life and work, so I decided to dig in and crystallize my thoughts. The phrase originated as a Russian proverb (doveryai, no proveryai) and is attributed to Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin . Inauspicious beginnings, to say the least. Ronald Reagan then co-opted it in 1986 to refer to nuclear disarmament, and from there, it entered the American lexicon. People often consider it a leadership principle or some fundamental truth, which needs more nuance.  As a leader, one must decide how to operate in different contexts. A good initial posture is to distrust and verify often until you have built up the appropriate level of trust over a long enough period. I’ve had so many occasions in my career when I heard some variant of: The code is terrible The code we’re writing is excellent! That’s impossible That will take months We’re in a good stat