The 14 Leadership Principles that Drive Amazon


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Over the last five years, a small number of organisations have featured multiple times in my writing. In the vast majority of cases, I have used these businesses as a way of bringing to life global best practice in the field of Customer Experience Management. It is inspiring to be able to share insight and ideas from those who have been able to take the principles of Customer Experience and firmly embed them into the very fabric of  the way their companies work.

The company I have perhaps mentioned more than most is Amazon. Not only am I a regular customer of the global retail giant, I am also a huge fan of the man who founded the company. Only recently, I wrote about Jeff Bezos and why I believe he is a, if not the, role model customer centric leader.

I am always overjoyed when others read my ‘ramblings’, adding their thoughts, perspectives, opinions and insight to the topics I feature. A good friend of mine read the Jeff Bezos article and contacted me shortly afterwards. ‘Did you know that Amazon have actually embedded 14 leadership principles into the way they work?’, was the question posed to me. I did not. As I say on a daily basis – one of the wonderful things about specialising in a subject, is that I never stop learning more about it. For reasons unbeknown to me, the fact that Amazon have 14 leadership principles had completely passed me by.

What my friend brought to my attention is fascinating – and goes a very long way to explaining why and how Jeff Bezos has been able to create such a strong customer centric culture in his business. If you have never heard about or seen these principles before, I am sure you will find them fascinating AND inspiring as well – here they are…

  1. 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.
  2. Ownership
    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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Insist on the Highest Standards
    Leaders have relentlessly high standards – many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving their teams to deliver high quality products, services and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.
  8. Think Big
    Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.
  9. Bias for Action
    Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.
  10. Frugality
    Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention.  There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size or fixed expense.
  11. Earn Trust
    Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing.  Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odour smells of perfume.  They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.
  12. Dive Deep
    Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are sceptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.
  13. Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
    Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.
  14. Deliver Results
    Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never compromise.

I. LOVE. THIS!!! Fourteen leadership principles seems like a lot! However, I think it is extremely difficult to read them and disagree. How many leaders are actually demonstrating all fourteen of these? Not enough in my opinion!

Jeff Bezos is THE role model customer centric leader and is instilling global best practice leadership into the way his organisation works. I am inspired by this – I hope you are too.

p.s. you may want to forward this on to a leader you think may learn from it as well!!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Golding, CCXP
A highly influential freelance CX consultant, Ian advises leading companies on CX strategy, measurement, improvement and employee advocacy techniques and solutions. Ian has worked globally across multiple industries including retail, financial services, logistics, manufacturing, telecoms and pharmaceuticals deploying CX tools and methodologies. An internationally renowned speaker and blogger on the subject of CX, Ian was also the first to become a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) Authorised Resource & Training Provider.


  1. Great 14 principles.Hard to disagree in any one of them. Customer is king said Dr. Samuelson Nobel Prize winner in economics.
    Only people with achievements can raise a company toward new levels. Talent is innate in a person; in a short or long shot. Nurture your customers and the money will come by a repeated buying. Prioritize your customer above all, the rest is real easy.Positive thinking is crucial; plus other positive emotions. You are what you think. If you have to think, think big.

  2. Amazing principles of Amazon

    Very true and apt for every individual

    Very much inspired by the reflection of the company’s experience rendered to their esteemed customers

  3. But does these also set Amazon up for some ethical dilemmas? Leveraging their success off the backs of their employees? These all sound great, but when can these principals go to far?

  4. What, exactly, does it mean to focus on the customer? Is it focusing on their deepest needs and how to meet them, or is it focusing on getting them to do what you want them to do for your own benefit?

    These principles are self serving and don’t include much outside accountability. They border on anti-social.

  5. Sounds like a formula for success and unhappiness. Missing are any principles that protect employees, promote a healthy work culture, or place employee satisfaction of any kind above the bottom lime.

  6. You need to think about it where the customer is everyone. Employees are the customer of the company. IT department has many customers, Finance, Marketing, Operations, etc and so forth. As customers of the company succeeds, ie employees, then the company will succeed as well. This will form a circle of trust. Also, fail often and move fast.

  7. These 14 Principles are like anything else a guide line or base line to gauge yourself from. Human nature keeps us from being perfect specimens. But does that really mean, we shouldn’t try anyway. Always treat others as you wish you were treat. Not how you are treated. Otherwise you have no room for complaining. BTW these 14 principles are a great base line for success as a person. And obviously in business too.. just my 2cents, now I’m going to go have a Coke and a smile

  8. These 14 Principles prove amazon as amzing to its name.working backwards towards customer is the best about then. Positive thinking is crucial; plus other positive emotions. Go on with the same aspiration and be an inspiration to the youngsters. Overwhelmed by ur services all the time.

  9. Super amazing principles.
    Amazon is growing with the speed of light. When I went through their services and understood what they are providing, reading their leadership principles and knowing what they stand for, now I believe in them. They expanded their operation up to190 countries and still working to achieve max market share in the world.
    Today, I memorized all of them, So going forward I don’t need to reed them somewhere else, it will be part of my heart. Invention and continuous Improvement are in my DNA.
    When I read them deeply, It was interesting for me, because I already was using most of them in my past professional career without knowing someone like Jeff Bazos gathered and implemented them at Amazon.
    Thanks for entire Amazonian with their great job

  10. These principles have been around for a long time, but very few companies actually implement them. Especially not as vigorously as Amazon. I also have not seen them expressed so clearly and concisely.

    I moved into an international sales position in 2002 and my allowed me to follow similar customer-centric principles and my territory grew faster than the company as long as I was allowed to do that. Eventually, there was a re-organization and the new “leadership” became very bottom line focused and controlling. Fortunately I was at retirement age and even though I could have worked a few more years, I retired rather that put up with what I know was the wrong approach.

    So I’ve personally seen these principles work and Amazon is incontrovertible proof that they work!


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