I had this idea of doing a series of blogs on the philosophies of some very successful individuals – CEOs, coaches, military generals, entrepreneurs, etc – when it comes to Leadership Principles.
Thought that we might start this series with Jeff Bezos, founder and executive chairman of Amazon, who has just stepped down as CEO.
Amazon has grown to become essential to everyday living for millions of people around the globe, especially since the Covid pandemic began.
In 2019, Amazon became the most valuable company in terms of B2B marketing and reached over US$1 trillion.
These leadership principles have been the basis for Amazon’s extraordinary success. They address everything from interview questions to team dynamics and the culture of the business.
Amazon’s 16 Leadership Principles
We all have heard a quote that says “customers are always right.” Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work tirelessly to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.
The people who say “that’s not my job” are never the owners. Leaders are owners. They think long-term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They not only act on behalf of their own team, but for the entire company.
Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams. They are also always finding ways to simplify. Leaders are externally aware and look for new ideas from everywhere. They are not limited by anything. As they do novel things, they accept that they may be misunderstood.
Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They have the curiosity to learn more at every stage of the business. Leaders seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.
This is perhaps the most important Amazon leadership principle. Leaders are never satisfied with their product – the word ‘perfect’ is not in their dictionary. Leaders are never done learning. They always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.
Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognise and reward exceptional talent. Leaders develop leaders. They take their role in coaching others seriously.
Leaders have relentlessly high standards in every aspect of the business. Many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services, and processes.
Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and consistently look for new ways to serve customers.
Speed and timing matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. Leaders value calculated risk- taking.
Accomplish more with less. Constraints encourage resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and innovation. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size or fixed expense.
Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They listen to the advice of their subordinates and are frank with their employees. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.
Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are sceptical when metrics and anecdotes differ. No task is beneath them.
Leaders respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree. They also don’t feel their authority is being undermined when team members respectfully disagree with them. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.
Leaders focus on the critical contributions and efforts for their business and deliver them with the right quality promptly. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.
In Bezos’s final days as Amazon’s CEO, he added 2 new leadership principles …
Though the principles aren’t signed or associated with a specific executive, they were almost certainly written by Bezos. They’re a distillation of themes he discussed in his final shareholder’s letter.
Leaders work every day to create a safer, more productive, higher performing, more diverse and equitable work environment. They lead with empathy, but also have fun at work. Leaders have a vision for and commitment to their employees’ success, whether that be at Amazon or elsewhere.
Leaders recognise that although a company may have started in a garage, it’s not there anymore. An organisation can have a big impact on the world, so it’s important to be humble and conscientious about the effects of its actions. Leaders create more than they consume and always leave things better than how they found them.
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I hope you have enjoyed these insights. Have a great week and stay growth-focused!
Best Wishes, Jonathan