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Ian Golding

Customer Care

Fourteen Leadership Principles That Drive Amazon to Be Customer-centric

All without mentioning drone delivery

Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - 13:02

During the last five years, a small number of organizations have been 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 practices 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. Recently, I wrote about Jeff Bezos and why I believe he is a, if not the role model for customer-centric leaders.

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 Bezos article and contacted me shortly afterward.

“Did you know that Amazon has 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 specializing in a subject is that I never stop learning more about it.

For reasons unknown to me, the fact that Amazon has 14 leadership principles had completely passed me by.

What my friend brought to my attention is fascinating—and goes a long way to explaining why and how 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…

14 principles to be a customer-centric business

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

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.”

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.

Are right, a lot
Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives.

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

Hire and develop the best
Leaders recognize people with exceptional talent and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and are serious about their role in coaching others. They work on behalf of their people to invent mechanisms for development.

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.

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.

Bias for action
Speed matters in business. They value calculated risk-taking.

Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-suffiency, and invention.

Earn trust
Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully.

Dive deep
Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.

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.

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.

What’s not to like about that list?

I love this! Fourteen leadership principles seem like a lot. However, I think it is extremely difficult to read them and disagree. How many leaders are actually demonstrating all 14 of these? Not enough, in my opinion.

Bezos is the role model, customer-centric leader and is instilling global best practices that lead into the way his organization works. I am inspired by this.

What are your views on Amazon’s principles?

I hope you found those 14 leadership principles inspiring or challenging. Given some of the news coverage questioning Amazon’s employment practices, I can imagine some challenge here.

So, I welcome your comments. Should you emulate Jeff Bezos and Amazon?

First published Jan. 14, 2020, on the Customer Insight Leader blog.


About The Author

Ian Golding’s picture

Ian Golding

Ian Golding, is a Certified Customer Experience Professional and Customer Experience Specialist and author of Customer What? A certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Golding has spent over twenty years in business improvement, working hard to ensure that the businesses he works for are as customer focused as possible.


Fourteen Leadership Principles (minus one big one)

Very good article you provided.  Amazon's success and delivering value to custimer is undeniable.  A great model.  It is good to be riminded of that no and then.   I just read an article that desccribed Amazon treatment of workers at warehouse/distribution centers not so good.  I have heard this from others as well (we have two large distribution centers in Cleveland, OH area.   Perhaps you could explore the principle that is described as "Earn Trust".  This goes hand-in-hand with Respect for People.   Is it possible that the internal culture is not rock solid in all places?  I put a link in my comment that references the article.


Anyway, thanks for posting your article.

Mike C