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Jeff Bezos LeadershipJeff Bezos Leadership


Jeff Bezos (1964- )


American founder (pronounced Bay-zose, pictured right) of Amazon, the Internet bookstore, in 1994 in Seattle.

Time magazine’s fourth youngest person of the year at 35 (after Charles Lindbergh, 25, Queen Elizabeth II, 26 and Martin Luther King, 34).


Why is he a great leader?


1. Optimistic learner


  • is extremely happy, optimistic and positive (e.g. about failure, which he learns from).
  • listens to his critics and follows their advice, if he’s wrong.
  • learns from his competitors’ strengths and copies their good ideas.

 As a ten-year-old, he learned it's more important to be kind than clever, when he insensitively told his distraught grandmother that her heavy smoking would take nine years off her life.


2. Careful planning and improvement


  • has an eye for detail and continuous small improvements.
  • carefully considers the criteria (in order of importance) for every decision he makes (even marrying his wife!).


3. Opportunist

He is quick to take advantage of market opportunities.Jeff Bezos Leadership

He spotted the opportunity of rapidly rising Internet usage (2300% per annum!) and set up Amazon to exploit it with his wife, MacKensie (pictured right), from their two bedroom house in Seattle.

Amazon started as a bookseller, but has since moved into other businesses like electrical equipment.

Every problem is an opportunity to him.

He wants to make the most of his life and minimize his regrets when he's 80.


4. Customer based vision

He is fanatical about customer satisfaction, wanting to make Amazon great value and as easy to use as possible.

His vision for it is to be “the world’s most customer-centric company”, the place where you can find anything you want online.

So Amazon's mission is

“to raise the bar across industries, and around the world, for what it means to be customer focused”.


5. Frugality and luck

He hates wasting money, only spending it on the things that really matter.

 Although Amazon now has a nice hilltop head office, he still uses the original desk he made from cheap doors!

 He says there’s a lot of truth in his joke about Amazon’s success:

“Half of it was good timing, half of it was luck, and the rest of it was brains”.


6. Bold risk taker

For years Amazon made a loss and was heavily in debt until its first year of profits in 2003.

Long-term success is most important to him.

His radical idea of letting other traders sell on Amazon (Marketplace) has been a huge success, despite strong opposition to the idea within Amazon.

When he set up Amazon, other people thought 300,000 books would be enough, but he stocked a million!

He was proved right, because Amazon got great word of mouth advertising from people who found more obscure books.


7. Lover of change and innovation

He sees himself as a “change junkie”, always flexible and prepared to experiment with new ways of improving customer satisfaction.Jeff Bezos Leadership

But he also stubbornly sticks to the things he and Amazon do well and believe in.

In Amazon's head office in Seattle (pictured right) , a plaque has his message about change:

“There is so much stuff that has to be invented.

There's so much new that's going to happen.

People don't have any idea how impactful the Internet is going to be and that this is still Day 1 in a big way”.

He is constantly encouraging people to have the same urgency to change and innovate, as if it were Day 1 of the company's life.

In meetings, he has replaced PowerPoint with a six page discussion of recommendations to encourage employees' creative and critical thinking.

 Jeff Bezos Leadership

8. Publicist

He loves publicity stunts like playing tennis with Anna Kournikova at New York’s Grand Central Station to launch the sale of her new sports bra on Amazon (pictured right).



9. Passionate and ruthless

He is very excited and enthusiastic about what he does.

“Do something you’re really interested in”, he says.

He is brutal with competitors and under-performers. Brad Stone's book (see below) mentions a quote that went around Amazon:

“If you’re not good, Jeff will chew you up and spit you out. And if you are good, he will jump on your back and ride you into the ground”.Jeff Bezos Leadership



10. Intelligent and self-reliant

He did brilliantly in his electrical engineering and computer science degree at Princeton University (where he is pictured right in 2010).

He’s also very good at solving problems himself - something he learned from the age of four to 16 working on his grandfather’s Texan ranch during the summer holidays (pictured right below aged five - courtesy of Amazon.com).

Jeff Bezos Leadership


Best book on Bezos

Brad Stone, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (2013)



Key quote on customer satisfaction

If you build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.

We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.


Key quote on change

Amazon isn't happening to the book business. The future is happening to the book business.


Key quote on corporate culture

If you look at our company culture, we’ve always had a customer obsession, and we’ve always been pioneering


Key quote on products

A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.


Key quote on positive thinking

Optimism is essential.


Key quote on interviewing

I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person.


Key quote on success

I knew that, if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.


Key quote on society

In the end we are our choices. 


Key quote on business success

We are genuinely customer centric, we are genuinely long-term oriented, and we genuinely like to invent.



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