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16 Amazon Leadership Principles for Success in Business

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Amazon is one of the most successful companies in the world. They had a net income of $33 billion in 2021. This is in part due to the 16 leadership principles of Amazon.

These principles guide how Amazon operates and its employees behave. If you want to be successful in business, it’s important to have a strong set of values that you live by.

In this article, we’ll dive into these Amazon leadership principles so you can take inspiration and apply leadership strategies to your own business.

Amazon leadership principles

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1. Customer Obsession

Amazon is known for its customer-centric approach, and this focus is found in its leadership principles. “Leaders start with the customer and work backward,” Amazon says. “Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”

Customer obsession leaders innovate on behalf of their customers. Whether it’s developing new products or improving the customer experience. Amazon puts the needs of its customers above all else. And this commitment has helped it build a loyal following.

As Amazon grows, it continues to put customer obsession at the forefront. They ensure they always meet (and exceed) customer expectations.

How can you apply this principle?

One way to apply this principle is to consistently gather customer feedback and use it to inform your decision-making. This can be through various methods such as surveys, customer service interactions, or social media monitoring. Seek out and listen to customer needs and preferences, then you can better understand what they value and how to meet (or even exceed) their expectations.

Another way to apply customer obsession is to prioritize the customer experience in all aspects of your business. This can involve streamlining processes to make it easier for customers to do business with you, investing in high-quality products or services, and providing excellent customer service. Put the needs of your customers first, and you can build a loyal customer base to separate yourself from the competition.

2. Ownership

Amazon leaders are all-in when it comes to their teams, and they never say “that’s not my job.” They don’t focus on just their own team. Amazon leaders also think long-term. They don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. These are a few examples of how Amazon leaders exemplify ownership.

Amazon is a company that encourages its employees to think like owners. They are encouraged to think of their impact on the entire company. And this is one of the key reasons why the company has been so successful.

How can you apply this principle?

The principle of ownership suggests that individuals should take responsibility and ownership for their actions, decisions, and the overall success of their team or organization. Here are some ways you can apply this principle to your own life:

  1. Take initiative: Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do or how to do it. If you see a problem or opportunity, take the initiative to address it and find a solution.
  2. Think long-term: Consider the long-term consequences of your actions and decisions, and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term gain.
  3. Be accountable: Take responsibility for your mistakes and learn from them. Don’t blame others or make excuses.
  4. Foster a culture of ownership: Encourage others to take ownership in their work and decisions. This can create a more positive and productive team culture.
  5. Embrace continuous learning: As an owner, you should be continuously learning and growing to better serve your team or organization. Seek out opportunities to learn and improve your skills.

3. Invent and Simplify

Amazon’s leadership principles are designed to encourage inventiveness and simplicity among its employees. One of the key tenets is that Amazon leaders “look for new ideas from everywhere.” This means they are on the lookout for new ways to improve their business, and they are not afraid to embrace change. They are encouraged to be entrepreneurial.

Amazon leaders are not limited by ‘not invented here.’ ” This means they are open to adopting new ideas from outside the company. Even if those ideas are not popular with Amazon employees.

How can you apply this principle?

The principle of invent and simplify encourages individuals to be innovative and open to new ideas, as well as to strive for simplicity and efficiency. To follow this principle:

  1. Keep an open mind: Be open to new ideas and approaches, even if they come from outside your own organization or industry. Don’t be limited by a “not invented here” mentality.
  2. Seek out new ideas: Look for ways to improve and innovate in your work. This can involve seeking out new information, collaborating with others, and trying new approaches.
  3. Embrace change: Don’t be afraid to try new things or make changes. Be willing to adapt and learn from your experiences.
  4. Simplify processes: Strive to find ways to streamline and simplify your work. This can involve identifying and eliminating unnecessary steps or tasks, and finding ways to automate or optimize processes.

4. Are Right, A Lot

Amazon’s leadership principle “Are Right, A Lot” says that leaders should have strong judgment and good instincts. They should seek out diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

This principle ensures that leaders make decisions that are in the best interest of the company and its customers. Amazon believes that leaders who are right a lot are more likely to make forecasts and decisions that create value for the company and customers.

How can you apply this principle?

The principle of being right a lot emphasizes the importance of good judgment and decision-making skills. To put this principle into action:

  1. Seek out diverse perspectives: Don’t rely on your own perspective alone. Seek out diverse opinions and consider multiple viewpoints before making a decision.
  2. Test your assumptions: Don’t take your beliefs for granted. Seek out evidence and actively try to disconfirm your assumptions to ensure that your judgments are well-informed.
  3. Be open to learning: Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong and learn from your mistakes. Use each experience as an opportunity to improve your judgment and decision-making skills.

5. Learn and Be Curious

Amazon’s leadership principle “Learn and Be Curious” is about learning and improving oneself. Leaders at Amazon are never done learning and are always seeking to improve themselves. They seek diverse perspectives

They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them. This principle allows Amazon leaders to stay ahead of the curve and be able to innovate and adapt to change.

How can you apply this principle?

The principle of learning and being curious emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and improvement. To put it into action:

  1. Seek out new learning opportunities: Look for opportunities to learn and grow, whether through formal education, on-the-job training, or self-directed learning.
  2. Be curious: Foster a sense of curiosity and ask questions to better understand the world around you. This can lead to new insights and ideas.
  3. Embrace change: Don’t be afraid to try new things and explore new possibilities. This can help you adapt to change and stay ahead of the curve.
  4. Seek out diverse perspectives: Don’t rely on your own perspective alone. Seek out diverse opinions and viewpoints to broaden your understanding and improve your decision-making skills.

6. Hire and Develop the Best

best hiring practices
Source: Modern Hire

Amazon has always been a company of leaders. From the early days when they were a small group of eCommerce pioneers, to their present-day status. Their success has always been driven by exceptional people. Leaders are encouraged to recognize exceptional talent. That’s why one of their leadership principles is “Hire and Develop the Best.”

How can you apply this principle?

The principle of hiring and developing the best emphasizes the importance of attracting and retaining top talent, as well as investing in their development. Here’s how you can go about it:

  1. Set high standards: Don’t settle for mediocrity. Seek out individuals who are exceptional and have the potential to excel in their roles.
  2. Invest in development: Recognize that talent is not static and that individuals can always improve and grow. Provide opportunities for learning and development to help your team members reach their full potential.
  3. Foster a culture of excellence: Encourage a culture of continuous improvement and excellence. This can help attract top talent and motivate your team to perform at their best.
  4. Look for potential: Don’t just focus on an individual’s current skills and experience. Consider their potential and how they could grow and develop in the future.

7. Insist on the Highest Standards

One of Amazon’s Leadership Principles is “Insist on the highest standards.” This principle is evident in everything from the products Amazon sells to the way it runs its business. Leaders at Amazon are constantly raising the bar. They challenge their teams to deliver high-quality products, services, and processes.

They refuse to accept mediocrity, insisting that every detail be perfect. This commitment to excellence has helped to make Amazon one of the most successful companies in the world.

How can you apply this principle?

The principle of insisting on the highest standards emphasizes the importance of setting high standards and striving for excellence. Here’s how you can put it to work:

  1. Hold yourself accountable: Hold yourself accountable to the high standards you set. Don’t make excuses or lower your standards to meet them.
  2. Be detail-oriented: Pay attention to the details and strive for perfection in everything you do. This can help you deliver high-quality results and make a positive impact.

8. Think Big

This leadership principle symbolizes “Think Big” aspect. Challenging employees to think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers. This principle is based on the idea that thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. By thinking big, leaders can find new and innovative ways to serve customers and achieve results.

How can you apply this principle?

The principle of thinking big emphasizes the importance of being ambitious and looking beyond the status quo to find new and innovative ways to achieve results. Here are some ways you can apply this principle to your own life:

  1. Set ambitious goals: Don’t be afraid to set big goals and aim high. This can help motivate and inspire you to achieve success.
  2. Think creatively: Look for creative and innovative solutions to problems and challenges. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try new approaches.
  3. Communicate a bold vision: Share your vision and goals with others to inspire and motivate them to achieve success.

9. Bias for Action

In business, speed matters. Amazon believes many decisions can be reversed, and don’t need extensive study. Amazon’s leadership principle “Bias for Action” values calculated risk-taking.

When a company can move quickly, it can experiment and iterate on its ideas. This allows them to find the best solutions faster than their competitors.

By being quick to act, Amazon can seize opportunities that other companies miss. This nimbleness is a key driver of amazon’s success.

How can you apply this principle?

The principle of bias for action emphasizes the importance of taking decisive and timely action. To become more action-oriented:

  1. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks: Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Be willing to take calculated risks and try new things, knowing that some decisions can be reversed if needed.
  2. Embrace a culture of experimentation: Encourage a culture of experimentation and iteration. This can help you quickly identify and implement the best solutions.
  3. Don’t get bogged down in analysis: While it’s important to gather information and consider various options, don’t get bogged down in analysis. Be decisive and take action when necessary.
  4. Be responsive and agile: Be quick to respond to opportunities and challenges. This can help you seize opportunities that others miss and adapt to change.

10. Frugality

Amazon has long been known for its thrifty ways. In the early days of the company, employees would reuse packing material from shipments to save on costs. Even now, Amazon is famous for its frugality. This reflects in its leadership principle “accomplish more with less.” This principle encourages employees to be resourceful and self-sufficient and to find ways to do more with less.

How can you apply this principle?

The principle of frugality emphasizes the importance of being resourceful and efficient and finding ways to do more with less. To practice frugality:

  1. Be resourceful: Look for ways to maximize the resources you have available and find creative solutions to problems.
  2. Prioritize efficiency: Strive to find ways to work more efficiently and eliminate unnecessary steps or tasks.
  3. Look for ways to save: Don’t waste resources or money unnecessarily. Look for ways to save and be frugal in your personal and professional life.
  4. Embrace simplicity: Simplify your life and focus on what’s most important. This can help you achieve more with fewer resources

11. Earn Trust

Leaders at Amazon earn trust by listening, speaking candidly, and treating others respectfully. They are also vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing.

They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best. Leaders at Amazon create an environment where people can have difficult conversations candidly. This in turn builds trust and strengthens relationships.

How can you apply this principle?

The principle of earning trust emphasizes the importance of building strong relationships through honest and respectful communication. To start earning trust:

  1. Listen actively: Pay attention to what others are saying and strive to understand their perspective. This can help you build trust and strengthen relationships.
  2. Speak candidly: Be honest and straightforward in your communication, even when it’s difficult or uncomfortable. This can help build trust and foster a sense of transparency.
  3. Treat others with respect: Show respect for others and their opinions, even when you disagree. This can help build trust and strengthen relationships.
  4. Be self-critical: Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes and take ownership of them. This can help build trust and demonstrate your integrity.

12. Dive Deep

Amazon’s leadership principle “Dive Deep” stresses leaders being connected to the details of their work. They should stay informed about what is going on at all levels of the organization, whether it’s people, processes, or technology.

These ‘deep leaders’ are encouraged to be skeptical when metrics and anecdotes differ. They should be willing to investigate discrepancies.

Leaders should also not shy away from doing tasks that are considered “beneath” them.

How can you apply this principle?

The principle of diving deep emphasizes the importance of staying informed and connected to the details of your work. Embrace this principle by:

  1. Staying informed: Stay informed about what is happening at all levels of your organization, including people, processes, and technology. This can help you make more informed decisions.
  2. Investigating discrepancies: If you notice discrepancies between metrics and anecdotes, don’t be afraid to investigate and seek out the truth. This can help you make more accurate assessments.
  3. Not shy away from difficult tasks: Don’t be afraid to tackle tasks that may be considered “beneath” your level or outside your comfort zone. This can help you learn and grow, and demonstrate your commitment to your work.
  4. Fostering a culture of continuous learning: Encourage a culture of continuous learning and improvement. This can help you and your team stay informed and up-to-date on the latest developments in your field.

13. Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit

Leaders need to have conviction and be tenacious, without compromising for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is made, they need to commit wholly. This principle is designed to create a culture of debate where the best ideas can rise to the top. While still maintaining a high level of respect and commitment from everyone involved. It can be difficult to strike this balance, but it is important for strong leadership.

How can you apply this principle?

The principle of having a backbone and disagreeing and committing emphasizes the importance of having conviction, being tenacious, and being willing to disagree while still committing to a decision once it is made. Here are some ways you can apply this principle to your own life:

  1. Have conviction: Believe in your ideas and be willing to stand up for what you believe in, even if it’s not popular or goes against the norm.
  2. Be tenacious: Don’t give up easily. Be persistent and don’t let setbacks or challenges deter you from pursuing your goals.
  3. Create a culture of debate: Encourage open and honest communication and debate, but be respectful of others’ opinions. This can help ensure that the best ideas rise to the top.
  4. Commit to decisions: Once a decision is made, commit to it fully and work to see it through. This can help build trust and demonstrate your integrity.

14. Deliver Results

Amazon leaders are constantly looking for ways to improve their key inputs. They never settle for the status quo and are always looking for ways to improve the quality of their inputs. Despite setbacks, they always find a way to deliver results. This leadership principle is essential for Amazon’s success.

How can you apply this principle?

The principle of delivering results emphasizes the importance of continuously seeking to improve and achieve results, even in the face of setbacks. To deliver results:

  1. Set clear goals: Clearly define what you want to achieve and establish specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. This will help you focus your efforts and track your progress.
  2. Continuously seek to improve: Don’t settle for the status quo. Look for ways to continuously improve and optimize your inputs and processes to achieve better results.
  3. Persevere through setbacks: Don’t let setbacks deter you. Find ways to overcome challenges and continue working towards your goals.
  4. Focus on results: Don’t get bogged down in the details. Stay focused on the results you want to achieve and work towards them consistently.

New Additions to Amazon leadership principles

Since publishing its famous list of 14 leadership principles, Amazon has added two new leadership principles to reflect its evolution as a company. They are:

15. Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer

This principle aims at working to build a workplace that is safe, productive, inclusive, and fair. The goal is to lead with sensitivity and consider whether their coworkers are developing, gaining power, and ready for the next step. Amazon executives are encouraged to have a long-term vision for their employees’ success.

How can you apply this principle?

The principle of striving to be Earth’s best employer emphasizes the importance of creating a safe, productive, inclusive, and fair workplace. To become an attractive employer:

  1. Create a culture of safety: Make safety a top priority in your workplace. This can include physical safety, as well as mental and emotional safety.
  2. Promote productivity: Look for ways to improve productivity and efficiency in your work. This can include streamlining processes, using technology, and finding ways to eliminate waste.
  3. Emphasize inclusivity: Create an inclusive and welcoming environment where all employees feel valued and supported. This can include promoting diversity and equity.
  4. Foster fairness: Treat all employees fairly and with respect. This can include providing equal opportunities and benefits and holding all employees to the same standards.

16. Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility

This principle highlights being reflective and responsible. With success comes more responsibility, and you have to think about how you affect other people outside and inside your company. Amazon is a successful company, and so it has a responsibility to make sure that its business practices are sustainable and that its workers are treated well.

ESG responsibilites
Credit: Anevis

This principle is important because it shows that Amazon is not just focused on making money, but also on being a good corporate citizen.

How can you apply this principle?

This principle emphasizes the importance of being reflective and responsible, and considering the impact of your actions on others, both inside and outside your organization. Here are some ways you can apply this principle to your own life:

  1. Reflect on your actions: Take time to reflect on your actions and consider their impact on others. This can help you make more mindful and responsible decisions.
  2. Embrace sustainability: Consider the long-term sustainability of your actions and look for ways to minimize negative impacts and maximize positive ones.
  3. Be a good corporate citizen: Consider the impact of your actions on your community and strive to be a good corporate citizen. This can include supporting local initiatives and being environmentally responsible.

Why should Amazon’s leadership principles matter to you?

As a leader, it is essential to have a clear set of principles that guide your decisions and actions. Amazon’s leadership principles are a good example of how a set of guiding principles can help to shape the culture and operations of a company.

These principles are important because they provide a framework for thinking about problems and making decisions. They also serve as a reminder that, as a leader, you need to be focused on the long-term health of the organization, not just short-term results.

When you are faced with a difficult decision, you can refer to these principles to help me make the best decision for the company. In addition, These principles can help to inspire and motivate employees.

FAQs

Does Amazon have 14 or 16 leadership principles?

In late 2021, Amazon announced that they’d added two new Leadership Principles, increasing a famous list by of 14 by two. Amazon’s leadership principles are a set of guidelines that Amazon lives by as a company, and they’ve been instrumental in Amazon’s success.

The two new principles are:

  • Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer
  • Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility

What is the leadership style at Amazon?

Amazon’s leadership style is considered pragmatic. Pragmatic leaders set high, yet achievable expectations for themselves and their teams. They focus on tangible results. Amazon’s leadership principles are all about getting results the right way.

Another important leadership quality at Amazon is fearlessness and willingness to take action even when the full picture is not clear. Amazon employees are expected to take risks and experiment and not be afraid of failing.

Do Amazon Leadership Principles Work For Everyone?

Amazon’s Leadership Principles are designed to create a culture of excellence, customer obsession, and ownership. But do they work for everyone? No, not necessarily.

Every organization is different and has different values. What works for Amazon might not work for your company. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study the principles and see what you can learn from them.

See what works best for your company and then change the principles to fit your needs. By doing this, you can create a culture of excellence, customer obsession, and ownership in your organization.

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