What Are Amazon’s 16 Leadership Principles?
It is easy to forget that Amazon began life as a modest online bookstore when you encounter the global leader that it now is. But to what can this outstanding growth be attributed?
Jeff Bezos, founder and Executive Chairman, has developed 16 principles of Amazon Leadership. They are at the very core of how the company operates, and their importance to company culture is massive.
Amazon makes it their business to ensure that new candidates fit into their culture and their own unique way of operating. They put a strong emphasis on the leadership principles as part of that recruitment process.
If you are applying for a job at Amazon, it is important to learn these principles inside out. In the application and interview processes, the company will be checking that you tick all the boxes.
Table of Contents
What Are Amazon’s 16 Leadership Principles?
1. Customer Obsession
This simply means putting the customer at the forefront of everything Amazon does. Rumor has it that Jeff Bezos brings an empty chair to board meetings in order to remind those present who they should have in mind at all times.
Amazon’s continuous growth can be attributed to understanding that a loyal customer will attract other loyal customers, thus continuing the cycle of growth. Customer Obsession means that standards of customer service will be continuously raised and developed in order to meet demands.
- Tip for interview – Consider ways in which you have delivered excellent customer service in the past. How have you resolved complaints or problems, and what did you learn from this?
The principle of ownership means that leaders think long-term and act for the entire company, not just their own team – they will never declare something as ‘not being their job.’
Leaders who demonstrate the ownership principle will go above and beyond their official job description and will focus on goals for the whole company – it is not enough to do the bare minimum to get the job done. Instead, think of ways in which you can help others and, therefore, the company as a whole.
Being accountable for your mistakes as well as your mistakes is vital for ownership as well as being prepared to take the measures necessary to correct any errors.
- Tip for interview – Think of a time when you went above and beyond in a previous role. How did your actions benefit other departments? Conversely, describe a time when you made a mistake – how did you rectify that mistake and how did you own it?
3. Invent and Simplify
Many of the internet experiences that we now take for granted were invented by Amazon and the way it encouraged its customers to interact. Sometimes implementing change requires courage as things may not always work out as you first expected.
There may well be challenges along the way, and some resistance even. But Amazon puts high value on innovation even if it is not successful the first time around.
- Tip for interview – When did you simplify a process, creating something that was more efficient and quicker? Did you go against long-standing systems and how did you approach this? Can you describe a time when an idea didn’t work and identify what you learned from this?
4. Leaders Are Right, A lot
Amazon believes that leaders have strong judgment and good instincts. If you look to join the Amazon leadership team, then you will be expected to demonstrate your outstanding decision-making abilities. However, that does not mean thinking that you are always right immediately.
A crucial part of the decision-making process is to seek out ideas that challenge your beliefs to gain perspective and find the best way forward.
Good leaders are open to a variety of ideas. They are able to listen to team members as well as present their own thoughts and opinions. They value the team and do not have a closed mindset.
- Tip for interview – When did you find the best way forward from a number of conflicting opinions? Describe a situation where the idea you adopted was not the one that you first had and how you arrived at your decision.
5. Learn and be Curious
It is important to remember that we never stop learning. In business, new possibilities will present themselves all the time. A good leader will show curiosity and a desire to learn and develop their skill set.
Amazon is committed to learning and developing through curiosity as it believes that creativity will be enhanced accordingly. For a company that is constantly striving to find the next groundbreaking idea, creativity is essential!
- Tip for interview – Be prepared with examples of new skills that you have learned in previous positions. When did you develop a new idea, and how did you share it with your team?
6. Hire and Develop the Best
It is perhaps no surprise that a company’s success can be almost solely attributed to the quality of its workforce. At Amazon, excellence has become the norm. New employees will be required to demonstrate how they will add value to the company.
Leaders will seek to hire the best and take an ongoing interest in coaching team members to develop and achieve their full potential by sharing their expertise, mentoring, and nurturing growth.
- Tip for interview – How have you helped or supported a previous employee or colleague to develop their skills and grow professionally? If you have experience in the hiring process, discuss one of your most successful recruits and the strategy you employed.
7. Insist On The Highest Standards
Good leaders will have consistently high standards and will always be looking for ways to raise the bar. If customers are consistently demanding new and better products, it stands to reason that Amazon leaders will seek to meet these demands and exceed them wherever possible.
Leaders will have the same high expectations for themselves as they do for their team members, avoiding complacency at all costs.
- Tip for interview – What steps have you taken previously to ensure that your high standards were met? When did you use these high standards to meet customer obsession goals and how did this raise organization performance?
8. Think Big
Amazon expects its leaders to think big. Their stratospheric growth from day one, was not achieved by thinking small. They have always looked at the bigger picture, pushing boundaries and finding new ways to grow.
An Amazon leader will need to be prepared to move in new directions and inspire their team to do likewise.
- Tip for interview – How has thinking big guided you in your career? Describe a time when you pursued a big idea. How did it influence performance and how did you encourage your team to pursue your vision?
9. Bias For Action
Stagnation, especially in the tech world, can be a recipe for failure. There is little time for procrastination. Amazon leaders will need to take calculated risks and make quick judgment calls to move forward.
Time is a precious commodity, and it is not always possible to deliberate or analyze for too long.
- Tip for interview – When did you last make a quick judgment call and what was your thought process? What were the results and what did you learn from this?
Sometimes, having limited resources can lead to the most creative ideas. Amazon prides itself on self-sufficiency and the ability to use limited resources as opposed to endless or reckless spending.
- Tip for interview – When did you practice frugality in order to get the best from a limited
11. Earn Trust
Respect, trust, and honesty are at the very core of Amazon’s operating principles. Being able to admit when you are wrong and respecting the views of others are important leadership qualities. A good leader will treat those around them ethically, fulfilling promises and not thinking themselves to be above others.
Valuing the team and their efforts is vital. Being able to remain humble in times of success will go a long way to earning the trust and respect of others.
- Tip for interview – Can you remember a time when you made a mistake? How did you own that mistake and convey it to your team? How do you ensure that you show your team that their views are respected in order to earn their trust?
12. Dive Deep
Amazon leaders will show real attention to detail. No job will be beneath them. They will be prepared to analyze the minute details of a project to make sure that they are fully aware of all its intricacies. This will enable them to have a thorough understanding of the data in order to problem-solve where necessary.
- Tip for interview – Describe a time when your attention to detail enabled you to solve a complex issue.
13. Have a Backbone – Disagree and Commit
One of the trickier parts of a leader’s role is the need to be prepared to respectfully challenge the decisions of others, even if the process is uncomfortable. A good leader will not shy away from confrontation, especially if doing so means that they compromise on performance or objectives.
Being open to the views of others does not mean never needing to challenge or disagree. It is important to conduct disagreements with respect and solid reasoning, but challenges must still be addressed. A leader must be prepared to back up their decisions and commit wholly to them where necessary.
- Tip for interview – When did you last need to present your case under difficult circumstances? Describe the outcome whether the final decision went your way or not.
14. Deliver Results
It is no surprise that, as a tech leader globally, Amazon puts such importance on the bottom line. The delivery of results is essential for success within the Amazon organization. Leaders will be expected to deliver those results in a timely and efficient manner whilst maintaining the leadership qualities outlined in this article.
Tip for interview – Describe a situation in your previous position where you delivered results in the face of significant challenges and the impacts you made. Remember to give data to support your answer in terms of budget, revenue, and sales.
15. Strive To Be Earth’s Best Employer
Amazon leaders will strive to lead with empathy. They will create a working environment that is safe, productive, and diverse but also fun. They will seek to ensure that their employees are developing and growing and that they feel empowered and ready for the challenges ahead.
They want success for their team members and are passionate about well-being. They have their best interests at heart and understand that performance and well-being are intrinsically linked.
- Tip for interview – Describe the steps you have taken in your career to improve the well-being of your team. How have you helped team members to fulfill their potential whilst maintaining their well-being?
16. Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility
Understanding the impact and influence that the Amazon organization has on the world and the great responsibility that it brings is fundamental to the way in which the business operates. Amazon leaders will be expected to understand how their actions impact the business and the wider world.
Amazon is committed to being a force for good in the world and expects its leaders to share that vision, leaving behind more than they consume.
- Tip for interview – Be prepared to discuss ways in which you help others or protect the environment. What morals or values are important to you, and how do you strive to make a positive impact on the world?
You can find out more about the Amazon leadership principles and access resources to help you prepare for a leadership career with Amazon at JobTest Prep.
Sarah is an accomplished educator, researcher and author in the field of testing and assessment. She has worked with various educational institutions and organisations to develop innovative evaluation methods and enhance student learning. Sarah has published numerous articles and books on assessment and learning. Her passion for promoting equity and fairness in the education system fuels her commitment to sharing insights and best practices with educators and policymakers around the world.