Amazon’s 14 Principles of Leadership

During the ‘50s and ‘60s, IBM was the place that developed the next generation of business leaders. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, GE was the place that was the training grounds for business leaders. Today, Amazon has assumed that mantle as the “go-to” place for new and emerging leaders. Like IBM and GE before it, Amazon receives a lot of criticism of its culture and demands. Amazon is a major player in the market today. It has changed how America shops, as well as the retail landscape.

Every successful organization or business has key core values or driving principles, and Amazon is no different. Successful businesses make their driving principles real and apply them rigorously to everything they do.  I came across an Inc. article that discussed Amazon’s 14 Principles of Leadership and found them insightful and instructive. Here are Amazon’s 14 Principles of Leadership:

  1. Customer Obsession – Amazon works hard to earn and keep its customers’ trust. Amazon knows what its competitors are doing, but it is obsessive over its customers. 
  2. Ownership – Amazon expects its leaders to own what is happening. It takes the long view and does not allow short-term thinking to impact what is right for the company. An Amazon leader will never say, “not my job.”
  3. Invent and Simplify – Innovation is a key to success, but so is making things simpler and easier. Amazon leadership looks for ideas everywhere and is not limited by “not invented here.”
  4. Are right, A lot – Leaders have strong judgment and good instincts.
  5. Learn and Be Curious – Amazon expects its leaders to learn constantly and to be curious and to take the next step and explore how things get done. 
  6. Hire and Develop the Best – Amazon wants smart people working on its teams. It believes in developing people and giving them opportunities and career choices. Talent will win long-term.
  7. Insist on High Standards – Amazon leaders are constantly raising the bar and are driving their teams to achieve higher and higher results. Problems are fixed and not passed on down the line. 
  8. Think Big – Amazon believes thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders should inspire a bold vision and inspire results.
  9. Bias for Action – Amazon believes speed matters, and many decisions are reversible and do not need extensive study. Amazon believes in taking calculated risks. Make things happen. 
  10. Frugality – Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and innovation. Amazon believes there is no credit and benefit for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expenses. How efficiently can a person lead is what matters.
  11. Earn Trust – Amazon leaders listen, speak candidly, and treat others with respect. They are more self-critical and are willing to act humbly in achieving key objectives. 
  12. Deep Dive – Amazon leaders can operate at all levels. They stay connected to details and analytics and become skeptical when numbers and stories do not match up. There is no task that is beneath them. 
  13. Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit – Amazon expects its leaders to respectfully disagree and challenge decisions when they think there is a better way. Once a decision is made, everyone is all-in. 
  14. Deliver Results – Talk is fine, but in the end, the results are what matter. Amazon leaders never settle for excuses and rise to the challenges.

Amazon has sound leadership principles that would apply to any business or organization.