Amazon, under the leadership of Jeff Bezos, has been a great success story. It really created the online retailing sector with an initial focus on books and now has expanded to sell just about everything that can be sold online. It has been an innovator with new cloud services, the online shopping experience and the Kindle.
Part of Jeff’s success he attributes to the idea of having no regrets, taking risks, and having a powerful customer focused mission to drive everything. These are three ingredients key for genuine customer focused leadership. After all being customer focused requires listening and understanding customers better than the competition. However, at some point risks need to be taken to use that knowledge to create new solutions that may or may-not hit the mark.
He is what Jeff has to say about his regret minimization framework:
“I projected myself to age 80 and I looked back…and I said, ‘What I want to have done at that point is to have minimized all the regrets in my life.’
When you are in the thick of things, you can get confused by small stuff. I knew when I was 80 that I would never, for example, think about why I walked away from my 1994 Wall Street bonus right in the middle of the year at the worst possible time. That kind of thing just isn’t something you worry about when you’re 80 years old.
At the same time, I knew that I might sincerely regret not having participated in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a revolutionizing event. When I thought about it that way, in the regret minimization framework, it was incredibly easy to make the decision.”
KEEP TAKING RISKS
As companies like Amazon grow, there is a danger that novel ideas get snuffed out by managers’ desire to conform and play it safe.
Jeff describes how Amazon deals with this issue:
“You get social cohesion at the expense of truth,” he says. He believes that the best way to guard against this is for leaders to encourage their staff to work on big new ideas. “It’s like exercising muscles,” he adds. “Either you use them or you lose them.”
A MISSION THAT DRIVES EVERYTHING
Another key part of Jeff’s leadership has involved a mantra to drive alignment of all employees around one mission – “to save customers money”
While their vision is publicized as “Our vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
The mission is something I have heard from a number of employees in different parts of the company (IT, marketing, HR) and they say it drives everything they do. It creates alignment and focus around customers in a powerful way.
Does your leadership style include these elements?
I found this post to be very interesting as I was searching for topics on innovation. I recently read an article that explained how Amazon has completely changed retail and has driven major companies, such as Walmart, to develop a new strategy to be able to compete with Amazon in the online shopping market. After reading your blog, I can completely see that Amazon’s success is highly due to Jeff Bezo’s leadership and innovation, and think that some of the companies who are struggling should take a look at Bezo’s leadership “ingredients.”
Hey Lindsey thanks for your comments, I am glad you found the post useful. It seems that leaders like Jeff are too rare. On the innovation front it definitely requires a certain type of culture to foster innovation, one that will tolerate risks and in particular embrace failure rather than make outcasts of those willing to risk everything and try something new!
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