AIB Featured Business Leader Amazon’s Jeff Bezos
Renowned for his innovative leadership styles, this week I take a look at the rise of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Born in New Mexico, Bezos came from very humble beginnings. From a young age he excelled in his studies, leading him to complete a degree in computer science and electrical engineering from Princeton University. After working for some years in finance, Bezos made a discovery that has come to change the way we shop today. He saw the potential for a new way of doing business, that being via the internet. After researching and reviewing the most popular sectors of mail order business, he decided to pursue books, and within a matter of weeks established Amazon.com from his home in Seattle.
The organisation continued to grow at a rapid pace which included the addition of a number of other products to Bezos’ repertoire. These included the expansion of Amazon from the biggest bookstore in the world, to quite simply the biggest store in the world, selling a huge range of products, as well as the introduction of the Amazon Kindle. What is remarkable about this whole journey however, is how Bezos maintained a consistent leadership style throughout.
Amazon is governed by what they call their ‘Leadership Principles’ which is a set of 14 guidelines that each ‘Amazonian’ abides by. These principles, created by Bezos, cover a range of practices throughout the organisation but what stands out most is their firm focus on customers. An article featured in Forbes Magazine discusses Bezos’ obsession with customers, noting that he regularly brings an empty chair into meetings so that workers are forced to consider the crucial person missing in the room – the customer. In the same Forbes article, he was quoted saying ‘Determine what your customers need and work backwards’, an approach which he ensures all of his staff follow, from engineers to customer service operators. That same Forbes Magazine article also explained that Bezos ‘asks thousands of Amazon managers, including himself, to attend two days of call-centre training each year’. This is so they can gain an understanding into the way the customers think and feel, and as a result, make more customer-tailored decisions.
Finally, in an interview conducted by The Aspen Institute, Bezos adds that in his business endeavours he has ‘a long-term willingness to be misunderstood’. Otherwise said, he has put forward ideas which have been questioned by others however is willing to pursue something he genuinely believes in.
Whilst some of these leadership qualities can be questioned, it is clear that the methods have worked remarkably well for Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com. Online platforms such as Amazon.com are continuing to grow, and the same can be said for other sectors going online including education where degrees are available via distance learning.
I think that Bezos’ leadership style is unique and very effective, but I am interested to hear your views. What do you value most in a leader? Also, if you would like to see particular business leader featured then please leave a comment below.
This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: Achievement; Forbes Magazine; YouTube; Amazon and GeekWire.