Jeff Bezos: How his unique leadership style set Amazon apart

Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos has institutionalized the “customer is king” philosophy, and Amazon is continually looking for ways to keep customers 100% satisfied.

While most billionaires of the internet age were spending their youths learning to program and code, Jeff Bezos was fixing tractors on his grandfather’s farm. Years later Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, would reminisce about the rural, agricultural lifestyle, stating that,

People do everything themselves. That kind of self-reliance is something you can learn, and my grandfather was a huge role model for me: If something is broken, let’s fix it. (excerpt from One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com by Richard Brandt)

While his upbringing may have been out-of-the-ordinary, his leadership style is even more unconventional. Here are two ways that the leadership style of Jeff Bezos has set Amazon apart.

Customer is king
While you might find other internet firms focusing on a fun, relaxed atmosphere for their employees, Forbes writer George Anders says that, “no-frills Bezos is proving the potency of another model: coddling his 164 million customers, not his 56,000 employees” in his article Jeff Bezos Reveals His No. 1 Leadership Secret. It is this obsession with the customer experience that consistently placed them at or near the top of the University of Michigan’s annual retail customer satisfaction survey. Bezos places a great deal of focus on what the customer wants and doesn’t want. Mr. Anders’ found that Amazon learned that customers “hate delays, defects and out-of-stock products.” So each of these issues are continually addressed, even to the smallest detail. In fact, Amazon’s metrics revealed that 0.1 second delay in the loading of a page equals a “1% drop in customer activity” so they work tirelessly to improve the loading rate.

Expect more from your employees
Working for Jeff Bezos isn’t always a walk in the park. He has high expectations for his employees, and doesn’t apologize for it. In his Wall Street Journal article, Richard Brandt shares a story from the early days of Amazon, when they were only a bookseller.

Everyone at the company was working until two or three in the morning to get the books… shipped. Mr. Bezos had neglected to order packing tables, so people ended up on their knees on the concrete floor to package the books. He later recalled in a speech that, after hours of doing this, he commented to one of the employees that they had to get knee pads. The employee, Nicholas Lovejoy, “looked at me like I was a Martian,” Mr. Bezos said. Mr. Lovejoy suggested the obvious: Buy some tables.

Mr. Brandt also states that by 1999, Amazon had 500 employees for the sole task of answering emails. They were each expected to answer 12 emails per minute, and could possibly be fired when that number dropped below 7. By having high expectations of his employees, Bezos has created an incredibly efficient machine, which is now famous for being able to make same day deliveries in over a dozen US cities. Without his penchant for continuously raising the standard for his employees, this would have never been achieved.

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