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Published on June 12, 2020

What Leaders Can Learn from Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles

What Leaders Can Learn from Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles

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.

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

More by this author

Dr. Luis C. Almeida

Department Chair

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Last Updated on September 24, 2020

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

2. Use the Pareto Principle

Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

3. Make Stakes

Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

4. Record Yourself

Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

5. Join a Group

There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

6. Time Travel

Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

7. Be a Chameleon

When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

“Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

8. Focus

Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

9. Visualize

The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

10. Find a Mentor

Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

11. Sleep on It

Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

Check out his video to find out more:

13. Learn by Doing

It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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14. Complete Short Sprints

Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

15. Ditch the Distractions

Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

16. Use Nootropics

Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

17. Celebrate

For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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The Bottom Line

Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

More Tips on How to Learn New Skills

Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

Reference

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