Few companies in the world have grown as rapidly as Amazon in the past two decades. What started in founder Jeff Bezos’s garage in Bellevue, Washington, back in 1994 has expanded to cover every corner of the world. Amazon’s net revenue now reaches nearly 400 billion dollars every year, and the company has the most brand value worldwide, even more than Apple, Google, and Microsoft.
Hundreds of millions of customers have come to rely on Amazon’s services, so it’s no wonder many companies want to imitate that success. To do so, many study the 14 Amazon leadership principles touted by the company. In this article, learn about those leadership principles, what they could mean for you, and if they’re a good fit for everyone.
The 14 Amazon Leadership Principles
1. Have a Customer Obsession
Amazon’s 14 principles begin with having a customer obsession. The company pledges to put customers first at all times, earning their trust in the process. Their obsession with generating customer trust represents one of Amazon’s top core values that they try to demonstrate every day.
Customers and work go hand in hand because buyers are the lifeblood of any company. If a business doesn’t focus on them, they’re far more likely to flounder. Always put customers’ needs and expectations front and center, and hold yourself to the high standards that will make customers want to come back over and over. You can see this with Jeff Bezos’s marketing flywheel, dubbed the “virtuous cycle,” which emphasizes that customers need to have a great experience with the entire company. This leads to the company gaining traction, leading to more buyers and more satisfied customers.
2. Take Ownership
Amazon leaders have a bias for action when it comes to taking ownership of what they and their team do. Beyond that, they also feel a broad responsibility for the business, making them consider what’s best for the company at all times. They don’t take shortcuts and instead emphasize the long-term values of their actions.
Leaders need to think of themselves as owners of what they do. Every action they take, both big and small, reflects on the company in some way. Act as a representative and avoid taking the easy road. If you think of yourself as a key part of the company, you’ll always give it your best shot and accept the consequences. Part of being an owner includes serving others. The servant leadership style places others’ needs above your own, bypassing your self-interest for the good of others. By doing so, you help everyone achieve the most they can, which benefits them, you, and the company as a whole.
3. Invent and Simplify
Amazon prides itself on innovation, so the company expects its leaders to get creative when finding solutions. Leaders should think up new ideas and try new methods to see what gets high-quality results. By doing things differently, Amazon leadership tries to forge a new path that flies in the face of conventionality.
It’s easy to get stuck in the same patterns and methods that have proven effective in the past. Leaders should use an innovative approach to find better techniques and strategies. This requires experimentation and an acceptance that sometimes it won’t work out the way you want. Don’t fear going in a bold direction as the new way of thinking could become the new normal.
4. Have Good Judgment
Amazon expects its leaders to have good instincts. The company places significant trust in its leadership, which means they should show good judgment when making decisions. They also want their leaders to come from diverse backgrounds and bring new points of view to the table.
Leaders need to practice effective decision-making for their teams. That takes a complete knowledge of their industry and familiarity with the people on their teams. They should also show confidence in what they do and be welcoming of new ideas from team members.
5. Learn and Be Curious
Amazon wants leaders who show curiosity and a desire for self-improvement. They don’t settle for current strategies and have the urge to learn as much as they can. They love new ideas and get excited at the prospect of exploring new topics.
Leaders must have an inquisitive mind to stay on top of a rapidly changing business world. Their curiosity should drive them to become better and more informed. People who don’t seek to learn will quickly find themselves falling behind. Make time during the day to learn something new by reading news articles or listening to podcasts.
6. Hire and Develop the Best
Amazon also stresses the need to create teams filled with high performers who rise to the occasion. The company believes that leaders should work to develop new leaders at all levels of the organization. Leaders must hire only the most talented people who can help the company reach new heights.
Through interview questions and the entire hiring process, look for individuals who bring significant value to your organization. Once they’re on board, help them develop their talents and leadership qualities. Development should be an ongoing process with the goal of helping people reach their full potential. An organization consisting of leaders and high performers will become highly successful.
7. Insist on the Highest Standards
According to Amazon’s 14 principles, the company expects its leaders to establish a high standard of conduct and performance. They want leaders to be the driving factor in getting the best out of their teams. That means having standards that might even be seen as too high. That high bar is what teams should meet and surpass.
Expectations matter in business. A leader who expects little of their team members will get little in return. Set a high standard that will force people to stretch. Get people out of their comfort zone to develop quality products. It’s just as important to hold yourself to that same standard so you set the example for others. If you only want the best from your team, you’ll need to set a new bar they’ll need to work at to reach.
8. Think Big
Amazon expects leadership to motivate their teams by setting an inspiring vision for them. A leader who only thinks about short-term goals will hold their team back. Instead, Amazon seeks “invent and simplify leaders” who think of the big picture, problem-solve, and go in a bold, new direction.
Along with setting expectations, set goals and objectives that inspire people to work harder. Get creative in showing people the way to go and communicate it clearly. Team members should feel excited when thinking about the future and may even create goals for themselves. If you’re not thinking big, you’re not providing direction to your team.
9. Act Rapidly
Executives and managers at Amazon have a bias for action, meaning they prefer speed and action over deliberation and inaction. That doesn’t only apply to delivering packages. Amazon wants leaders who feel a sense of broad responsibility to make decisions quickly when appropriate. They don’t believe there’s anything wrong with taking a calculated risk. A delay in their line of work may even end up causing more damage in the long run.
Many companies tend to avoid making quick decisions or to act on behalf of senior leaders. Instead, they choose to study the issue extensively first. While that’s a wise approach in some circumstances, leaders should have the confidence to be decisive and take quick action. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake here and there as long as you own up to it.
10. Use Your Resources Wisely
Amazon wants its teams to be self-sufficient. Their leaders should achieve their goals with innovation and resourcefulness and not just ask for more money and personnel. A team that performs well with what they already have will feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction with how they did.
Leaders should figure out how to meet their objectives with what they have on hand. It’s easy to ask management for more time, money, or resources, but sometimes those items aren’t available. Learn how to be resourceful and creative. Stay within the budget set for you. Keep your teams to a manageable size. You’ll grow as a professional as you learn to perform within the constraints and limits set by outside factors.
11. Earn Trust
An important Amazon LP is earning the trust of others. Leaders should make efforts to listen to their coworkers and always show respect for diverse perspectives. They need to admit their mistakes, showing humility in the process. Executives, directors, and managers must also understand that earning trust takes work, but once done, it creates unity among people working toward a common goal.
Leaders should always be transparent with those around them. They don’t talk down to their employees or treat them like children. This honest approach leads to gaining people’s trust. Be direct in your conversations, but do it respectfully. Have an open communication policy that allows people to voice their opinions without fear of recrimination. Through this strategy, you’ll build strong relationships and be able to give and receive honest feedback. As you practice servant leadership in this manner, foster an environment full of support and encouragement so people feel comfortable and safe communicating their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and ideas.
12. Dive Deep
While Amazon expects employees to see the big picture, they also want “dive deep leaders” who pay attention to minor details. To do this, leaders should connect themselves to all the levels of the organization. Additionally, this might look like conducting deeper investigations when things look like they don’t add up.
Don’t stray too far from the details. Having a lofty goal can be helpful, but if you lose track of the little things, those goals become much more difficult to reach. If you notice discrepancies, take the time to figure out where the issues originate. The best leaders don’t ever feel like they’re above everyone or too important to handle smaller tasks.
13. Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
Jeff Bezos expects leaders to challenge decisions as long as they do so respectfully and with cause. Leaders should commit wholly to their convictions when challenges arise. However, once they agree to a decision, they’re supposed to give everything they have to it.
Far too many organizations are filled with people who go along with whatever upper management decides, even if they have doubts. Don’t be a leader who “goes with the flow.” Feel free to challenge the status quo, but do it in a non-confrontational manner. When you show respect, people will be more willing to listen to your concerns.
14. Deliver Results
At Amazon, they expect leaders to show positive results on whatever project they work on. Leaders must look at key inputs and deliver them on time. The Amazon core values make timely delivery a necessity since it’s something management and customers expect.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the results. As always, you’ll encounter numerous challenges and obstacles along the way, but with the right preparation and a good team, you can overcome them. Always meet your deadlines and ensure you deliver a product you can be proud of.
Why Do Amazon’s 14 Principles Matter?
Think of the 14 principles as a framework of sorts for other organizations. They establish the values Amazon uses that have helped them become a dominant global company. Every action and decision Amazon makes is meant to revolve around these principles. They serve as a guide for people new to the company and also established workers who have years of experience. The principles help put people in the right position to succeed within Amazon while also helping them hire great additions.
Do Amazon Leadership Principles Work For Everyone?
While Amazon’s principles established by Jeff Bezos work for his company, it doesn’t make them a perfect fit for every organization. Some companies that want to mimic Amazon’s success may feel like all they need to do is copy those principles. Once you imitate the best, so the thought process goes, you’ll experience the same levels of achievement. But as T.S. Eliot once wrote, “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”
Don’t just copy and paste these principles into your own organization’s values. Study them and see what works the best for your company, then change them to fit what you need. Let your own principles guide you. Create a vision statement that’s unique to you. You can pick and choose what you want to include. Focus on what matters to you and your organization. Again, the leadership principles Amazon supports can act as a template, but you don’t have to imitate it word for word.
Follow Your Leadership Principles
It all comes down to finding your own identity and committing to it. No outside company, no matter how successful, can determine what constitutes success for your organization. Take a moment to identify your values and how they can impact the world around you. As you do so, you can begin to make a difference and start defining your success.
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