Amazon has grown from being an online bookstore to one of the largest retailers in the world. In the process Jeff Bezo’s, the Founder of Amazon, has been propelled to the richest person on the planet with a net worth of over $100 million.
Therefore it should come as no surprise that many entrepreneurs, CEO’s and business leaders look to Amazon as a shining light on how to grow a company of massive scope and scale.
The good news on this front is that Amazon is guided by a number of publicly available leadership principles that give us clear insight into how the company thinks and operates.
In this post we are going to share Amazon’s leadership principles and highlight the key lessons we should all take away from them.
1. Customer Obsession
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.
Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job”.
Jeff Bezos always had a plan to make Amazon more than just an online bookstore. For years Amazon continued to lose money and faced calls from shareholders to cut costs and focus on turning a profit.
But Jeff Bezos doesn’t think in quarters or even years. He thinks in terms of decades and the overall arch of his life.
3. Invent and Simply
Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here”. As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.
There are people who solve problems the same way they always have. Then there are those who look for innovative solutions that are simpler to execute and that are far more effective. If you want to be more successful, you ought to belong to the latter category.
Successful leaders are not afraid to try out new ideas as well. They accept that it won’t always work out but the risk of doing nothing is far greater than the risk of getting it wrong initially.
4. Are Right, A Lot
Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.
As a result a leader needs to have good judgment, and they must also have good instincts. Having good judgment is not merely a matter of having an innate gift of always making the right call: it is also about making informed decisions.
5. Learn and Be Curious
Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.
As a leader, you must constantly keep improving yourself. It is only by learning new things that you will conceive new possibilities. You must also have the guts to explore the new possibilities, knowing well that the risk could help your company grow significantly.
6. Hire and Develop the Best
Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.
7. Insist on The Highest Standards
Leaders have relentlessly high standards – 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 ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.
Insist that your employees offer customers the very best services, or that they produce superior quality goods. Also, ensure that defects are fixed as soon as they are noted rather than being swept under the mat. Be ready to meet with resistance, but it will certainly pay off in the long run.
8. Think Big
Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.
9. Bias for Action
Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.
If these actions or decisions can be easily reversed, don’t think twice about making them. Sometimes, you just won’t have that much time. this is especially important if you are running a startup. Your competitors are moving fast and you need to as well. Don’t waste time on making small decisions, focus that energy and time on the big company shifting changes that are more important.
Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size or fixed expense.
Make a habit of spending money only when it is absolutely necessary. People usually become exceptionally resourceful and self- sufficient when there isn’t that much money to spend. You may save plenty of costs and still achieve the very same goals.
It’s interesting that this is a principle for Amazon still to this day. Despite being one of the most valuable companies in the world Amazon still recognizes that money can’t be spent recklessly.
11. Earn Trust
Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.
12. Dive Deep
Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.
13. Have Backbone: Disagree and Commit
Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.
Once you make a decision, follow it through to completion. Your reliability speaks volumes about your leadership skills.
14. Deliver Results
Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.
Also published on Medium.