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What Leaders Can Learn from Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles

What Leaders Can Learn from Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles
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If you’re a leader, you’ve likely heard of Amazon’s 14 leadership principles. If you haven’t, now’s the time to the look into it. What exactly can you learn from those leadership principles? A lot. 

It’s difficult to go wrong with being a leader who is obsessed over customers, thinking long-term, and embracing new challenges even if the task isn’t “their job,” finding ways to simplify, recognizing talent and developing them, along with thinking big.

What if I told you these qualities are only a handful of principles implemented by Amazon. Clearly, Amazon isn’t your average organization, especially in what they do best: lead. No wonder the Wall Street Journal has labeled Amazon America’s CEO factory[1]

Forbes contributor Peter Cohan believes that Amazon is the world’s best business[2]. He goes further and states that “Amazon has a sustainable competitive advantage.” Amazon has an efficient supply chain able to handle and fulfill orders with ease yet maintains a stellar level of customer support, he adds.

Remarkable, isn’t it?

Associate Editor for the Leader To Leader magazine, Peter Economy, goes further to say that Amazon’s 14 leadership principles can help a business to achieve remarkable success[3] because Amazon’s DNA has a desire to innovate and deliver results and earn customer trust in the process.

In this article, you will learn how leaders can leverage Amazon’s 14 leadership principles[4] to become better leaders themselves and act as a catalyst in their organization.

What Are Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles?

According to Amazon’s website, they are:

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1. Customer Obsession

Amazon pays attention to other retailers, but they obsess over their customers. Customer trust is important to Amazon’s leadership.

2. Ownership

Amazon encourages its employees to act like leaders. The team needs come second to the needs of the organization at large.

3. Invent and Simplify

It’s an expectation for Amazon employees to invent and simplify. Being misunderstood is part of the process of greatness for them.

4. Are Right a Lot

Amazon looks to hire leaders with diverse perspectives, with good judgement and instincts.

5. Learn and Be Curious

Improvement and exploration is encouraged.

6. Hire and Develop the Best

In short, Amazon recognizes exceptional talent and creates mechanisms to discover the very best.

7. Insist on the Highest Standards

Amazon insists on continuously raising the bar in order to achieve a sustainable degree of excellence. Problems are solved ahead of time and are rarely repeated.

8. Think Big

Leaders are encouraged to create and think outside the box.

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9. Bias for Action

Risk-taking and speed is encouraged by leaders at Amazon.

10. Frugality

Accomplishing more with less is Amazon’s way of constantly reinventing their operation and increasing their rates of self-sufficiency.

11. Earn Trust

Treating others with respect, speaking their minds, and listening are three ways in which Amazon builds trust in their organization.

12. Dive Deep

Amazon’s leaders are detail oriented and pay close attention to the reaction between the actual numbers and anecdotal data.

13. Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit

Disagreement is welcomed. Social cohesion isn’t a practice that Amazon leaders adopt.

14. Deliver Results

Amazon leaders are expected to always rise to the occasion.

How to Put the Leadership Principles into Practice

In order to develop your leadership skills, experiment with the following combination of Amazon principles and pay attention to which one works best for you in your organization.

1. Think Big, Create, and Simplify

Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is more important than knowledge.”

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When I served as an Interim Department Chair at Jackson State University, we were able to create a document arguing for why the department needed to be a school of journalism and media studies in the state through a “think big” mentality and simplification of delivery. We made it simple for the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) of Mississippi, which is the governing body that approves and rejects proposals for turning departments into schools and more, to understand our petition by taking out language complexity yet showing a bold proposal for the creation of the third school of journalism.

Six months after our petition was submitted to IHL, the department was approved to start operations as a “school” by the organization. By thinking big and creating a simple yet persuasive document with hard data proved to be effective in the creation of a new school of journalism in the south.

By applying the same tactics in your organization, you can leverage these principles to achieve your own success and create something new.

2. Invent, Earn Trust, Deliver Results

Great leaders invent, earn trust, and deliver results. Ford invented the assembly line in 1913 and changed the way we produce cars today. Percy Spencer revolutionized our society by introducing the microwave oven in 1946. Jonas Salk invented a vaccine that reduced the number of polio cases in the world from a bit over 28 thousand a year in 1955 to 22 in 2017. More recently, Apple invented a tech gadget that can make phone calls, surf the internet, take photos… they called this device ”the iPhone” in 2007. We can now print in three dimensions with 3D printing, thanks to invention!

It’s no accident that many of us drive Ford cars, have a microwave in our homes, don’t have polio, have an iPhone, and perhaps own a 3D printer. Leaders who invent eventually earn trust if they deliver the results promised. As a leader, you must do the former religiously.

In 2010, my wife and I decided to invent a company called “I Do Therapy.” It is still a company that offers massage therapy services in a post industrial northern town in Pennsylvania. Our actual invention wasn’t the techniques that my wife used to treat clients with head and body aches but a completely new system of customer service that allowed everyone to get a massage for a reasonable price in a luxury spa environment — “I Do Therapy: For EVERYbody.”

Our innovation was our strategy. We invented our way of doing business that was foreign in that town. We ended up earning the trust of a large number of townspeople because we delivered what we promised. Three years after I Do Therapy’s inception and almost 300 clients in our books, we sold the business for a profit in 2015.

The business lives by its name and is still operational to this day.

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3. Frugality, Ownership, and Curiosity

Jeff Bezos once said, “Frugality drives innovation just like other constraints do.” I want to start this section with this quote because I’ve seen the former working wonders in a recent organization that I lead here in Tennessee.

Although my presidency at the Cleveland Media Association (CMA) has been cut short due to a recent job offer, CMA is now in much better shape financially because of my insistency on frugality. At the beginning of this year, I inherited an organization with a very low cash position. Under my leadership, the board immediately took a look at our fixed expenses, membership, and resources, and in a semi-crisis mode, we decided to reinvent our operation and cut non-essential expenses in order to bring the organization to a better monetary position.

In a period of a few months, new members joined our organization and old members renewed their yearly memberships. The organization now has a healthy cash position and is growing again. The thought process I used to bring back organizational stability was literally based on Amazon’s 14 leadership principles.

By encouraging an enthusiastic VP and other members of the executive leadership team to be curious about operating to capacity and by looking at CMA as something bigger than ourselves, we found a solution to our financial challenges and helped the organization to get on its feet gain. Through an exploration of possible ideas and curiosity, CMA is a better organization now than yesterday.

We were able to accomplish more with less with our diversity of perspectives.

Final Thoughts

Amazon didn’t become a Fortune 5 company by accident. The leadership principles introduced by Jeff Bezos has made amazon.com what it is[5].

“You can’t solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions,” said Einstein[6].

Leaders have much to learn from Amazon. Focusing on the customers’ needs, encouraging invention, creativity and simplification, along with the need to be frugal and develop trust are a must in the current landscape of our modern economy. Thinking big, developing curiosity, and allowing a team member to disagree freely are principles that should be incorporated into every organization.

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Higher standards emerge from such principles, and success follows the results. Amazon’s 14 leadership principles will make you into a stronger leader if you take the time to implement them.

More Leadership Tips

Featured photo credit: Perry Grone via unsplash.com

Reference

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Dr. Luis C. Almeida

Dr. Almeida is a college professor and department chair who has taught over a thousand students with questions relating to technology and leadership.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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