Amazon’s Leadership Principles – Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part post on leadership based on Amazon’s Leadership Principles. Click here to view the first post.

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.

Having high standards are great, setting the tone to produce high standards, that is the difficult part because if leaders haven’t well equipped themselves, it isn’t easy to set a high standard. The term high standards in itself are very subjective, but I believe that in order to generate a group of people who want to deliver the highest of standards in your deliverables, we have to look at the Japanese. Their sense of pride makes them want to deliver the best that they can deliver. I once had a client who thought me that even the smallest of things require the closest attention to detail. One of those things was the meeting invite I would be sending out via Microsoft Outlook. Every key detail had to be in the invite, including making sure the right parties are involved, what the meeting is about, what is the desired outcome and during the start of the meeting, to anchor the whole meeting on these principles in order to achieve maximum productivity. 

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.

If you have not seen the movie, The Founder, I would advise you to do so. It talks about how Ray Kroc wrestled control of McDonald’s from the McDonald brothers. Sounds like a villain of the show? Well, in my opinion, Ray though big. He believed in his dream and forged forwards. In the show, you can also learn about how the McDonalds brothers revolutionised the drive-in market. Steeped in the setting of the typical American dream, there are definitely bits and pieces you can learn from the movie itself. 

Bias for Action

Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking. 

The action a leader takes in steering their company has long been a key factor. Put in a weak leader and the company steers off the track. In the case of Uber, there have been some actions which they took that did lead to a massive protest which sparked the #deleteUber hashtag. But once you reach a size like Uber, it is easy to draw haters. 

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.

In one of the episodes of the series Silicon Valley, when the Pied Piper team got funded and moved to new offices, they bought loads of items which included a 6-screen setup for Dinesh to play Solitaire on. Sometimes more is less and being frugal whilst achieving more with less, that is definitely a good trait to have. I mean, how many times have we heard the story of local companies setting up shop, get funding from the government and the owner spends half of that funding to buy a Mercedes?

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.

Leaders earn trust from their team members, poor managers demand trust. Trust is built up over time through exemplary leadership qualities but also easily broken in just seconds. 

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.

Like in the analogy of the iceberg, at the surface we see only the tip. Diving deeper will we get to see the enormity or the complexity of things. I see good leaders getting down in the trenches with their team to understand the process better. Franchisors always force their franchisees to actually run the stores before letting staff take over. This way, the franchisees get to experience the operations and what it means to be on the ground. During those times, you get to experience what your front liners feel. 

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.

One of my dislikes about certain “leaders” is that in the meeting they may stay silent about a matter being debated but then only bring out their displeasure after the meeting. It is as if they don’t have the balls to say it out loud in front of their peers. Definitely, at times, I felt that I myself have fallen into that category and is something I need to improve on. 

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.

Fairly straight forward.