Amazon’s Leadership Principles – Part 1

I have made it known previously that I listen and follow Tim Ferriss’ podcast and also subscribed to his 5-bullet Friday newsletters. Great stuff and if you haven’t listened to his podcasts, check out what I have written about him previously. One of the snippets I picked up was a link to Amazon’s website on their Leadership Principles. 

Here are the principles in which they work hard to keep as well as my own comments about it. 

Customer Obsession

Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

ML: The term customer is always right seems to have been used in the wrong context at times. I like the term “being obsessive” and that basically means that leaders would take the time to go down the trenches and spend time engaging with the customer. I have friends who are managing their businesses who go down to the ground ever so often and face the customer. This is especially true in the F&B line. There are famous stories as well and one of them was about Bill Gates who actually took a tech support call.


Leaders are owners. They think long-term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.” 

ML: I have heard two sides to this principle before. From the hotel industry, the term “that’s not my job” definitely isn’t one that is commonly used. Ritz for example, no matter the level, whether you are the cleaner to the general manager, if a customer asks for help, they will accompany the customer and assist them through. Even if it isn’t what they have the authority to do, example if it is a room booking issue and the customer asked the bell boy, the bell boy would accompany the customer to the right team and stay with the customer until their issue has been resolved. 

On the other hand, there are companies which preaches to their staff to reject things which are not under their purview as much as they can. This is looking at it from the terms of productivity on an individual level. I believe both works in various situations and different types of companies. 

Invent and Simplify

Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here”. Because we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.

ML: In today’s era, invention and simplification doesn’t have to just be related to technology and digital. There are many areas, from process, to human behaviour and many more. In some industries especially those that have been around for ages, a lot of “ways of working” have been adopted over the years. Some might get more and more bloated whilst others may be covered in red tape. Simplification is key, and if you can’t simplify it, why not invent something new? 

Are Right, A Lot

Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgement and good instincts.  They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

ML: I like leaders who are right, whether it is now, or sometime down the road. The instincts that they have and their gut feeling is something of a great subjective quality. What I like about the point is that leaders seek diverse perspectives not from within but also from external sources. 

Learn and Be Curious

Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

ML: Learning and development is a lifelong process. Great leaders are constantly learning new things and picking new things up. They may not be the domain expert but they are privy of the concept and how to apply them. This can be seen when new technology such as the block chain emerged. How leaders react to it shows how curious they are and how willing are they to learn about it. 

Hire and Develop ‘The Best’

Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognise people with exceptional talent and willingly move them throughout the organisation. Leaders develop leaders and are serious about their role in coaching others.  We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.

ML: This is an easy tag line but always a difficult principle to standby and execute. In business it is always about finding the right balance of your budget to hire someone into a position. For the larger “branded” companies, this may be a little better but after seeing SME’s struggle to attract and maintain talent, it isn’t really easy at all. 

To be Continued

Honestly, I definitely am not a leadership guru or some management expert but most of these opinions are things which I have noticed in the workforce in both multi national companies and local companies as well. Watch out for the 2nd part soon. 

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