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Smile from A to Z. Did you know that’s the design concept behind Amazon’s logo? It’s intended to signify that Amazon is willing to deliver everything to everyone, anywhere in the world. It’s about providing the best care to customers, and that is a value instilled by Amazon CEO Jeffery P. Bezos. Beyond sparking smiles across the world, Bezos has carved a name for himself as a business leader by creating sustained growth in his organization. Between owning 10 percent of North America’s E-Commerce (according to Business Insider) and amassing 164 million customers, it’s hard to argue with Amazon’s success, or by extension, deny the leadership ability of Bezos. So the question is, what are some qualities that make him such a great leader?
As mentioned in a 2012 Forbes article, Jeff Bezos is known for his empty chair tradition. During staff meetings, he frequently pulls an additional empty chair into the conference room. That chair serves as a reminder of the person not in the room: the customer. This helps him and his team to be conscious of how the consumer would feel about their decisions, and the customer is a priority. In fact, Amazon tracks its performance against about 500 measurable goals, and 80% of them are customer related (Forbes).
Not every leadership style is warm and fuzzy, although empathy (a component of emotional intelligence) is important for all professionals. Though at times the boldness and backbone that make Bezos so memorable can be his weakness, for the most part, it seems to serve the company well. Engrained into his every action and even into company culture is a rebellion against “social cohesion.” In fact, “have backbone, disagree and commit” are part of Amazon’s 14 leadership principles. Bezos feels that without freedom to state opinions and freedom to dispute, there is no innovation.
Perhaps his wild ideas and active imagine stem from his early love of Star Trek or it’s a personality trait. Whatever the origins of this quality, Bezos is known for thinking outside the box, or re-shaping the box, or throwing it away altogether. From buying the Washington Post to launching a plan for the use of drones in package delivery, Bezos constantly defies the norm, and it works for him. He has said “Often times invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood.” Breaking away from the pack and making “crazy” decisions leads to innovation. That is often an element of successful leadership and management.
Meaningful leadership doesn’t always look like King Arthur and his knights at the round table. It isn’t always cookie-cutter and delivered with a warm and fuzzy bow. Staff members have admitted that while the leadership style of Jeff Bezos can be intense, it is also highly innovative and exhilarating. They also explain that while he is to the point, he isn’t heartless. In fact, the employees that stick it out are continuously growing and usually enjoy the company culture after they adjust. So, take that all with a grain of salt. Communicating clearly and confidently stating opinions are good things, as long as others are invited to do the same.
Center for Work Life of Orlando, Florida is an award-winning executive development firm providing leadership and management training to executives and organizations. Our main services include executive coaching, leadership development, executive succession planning, emotional intelligence training, career planning, staff development, and communication in the workplace.