Exploring Amazon’s Leadership Principles

Turning Good Intentions Into Process

If you’re interested in a fascinating and successful culture, click the link below to The Wall Street Journal article in regards to Amazon’s leadership principles. After reading it, c’mon back now, ya hear?!

Amazon Has Become America’s CEO Factory

Cool — you made it back! Let’s explore a few things…

Amazon’s Leadership Principles

Amazon has 14 leadership principles, which is perhaps too many. However, they have leadership principles! Do you? They’ve taken the time to memorialize them. Have you? They use them in their daily activities. Do you? Don’t copy theirs; write down your own. As you become a more effective leader — I don’t care how old you are or how long you’ve been a leader, you should strive for better — change them.

A quote from the article about the leaders who’ve left Amazon to run other companies: “There’s one element some ex-Amazonians are leaving behind: the harsher parts of Amazon’s culture, such as hiring practices that favor skills over collegiality.” If collegiality means kind but assertive behavior, respectively speaking the truth to everyone, meritocracy and having fun, then good on them. If it means they avoid the tough issues and are nice versus kind, they’ve made a mistake.

Another: “Many meetings start with 30 minutes of silence as everyone reads the same six-page document.” I love this! Sometimes people prepare for meetings, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they think about the topic to discuss, and sometimes they don’t. This is a great practice to facilitate real conversations and ensure that the topic is thought through before debates and decision-making begin. Inquiry before advocacy. Knowledge before discussion. Good stuff!

Yet another: “Amazon’s management culture is especially well-defined and hammered endlessly into its executives, say those who have worked there.” Defining culture rather than letting it happen is the work of a very effective CEO, as is message repetition. One of my favorite clients has a great line, something like, “I’ll tire of delivering the message long before my people have absorbed it.” He’s spot on. Say it until you can’t stand it anymore and then a few hundred times more!

Those three struck me. I’m very impressed at the intentionality with which they manage their business, the processes they use to institutionalize what would in many companies only be good intentions, and how they defined what success looks like. Lots to learn here!

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