Almost every company has a mission and vision statement to guide its business and its employees. In some cases, it will also have a set of core values that can inform everything from day-to-day actions to hiring processes. Amazon, one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world, also has a mission/vision statement, as well as a set of what it has dubbed “leadership principles” that show what kind of employees it seeks to hire.
Here are those 14 principles and how it relates to its larger combined mission and vision statements.
Mission and Vision Statement
According to Amazon’s website, when it launched in 1995, it was with the mission “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”
While this is still true for Amazon, today it has grown to the point where it has millions of customers worldwide, and also has sellers, content creators, and developers and enterprises. Each of these groups has different needs.
While Amazon acknowledges this, it clearly has not felt the need to publish a revised mission or vision statement. Instead, as the innovator it is, it does things differently. In this case, it focuses on its 14 principles that explain what it wants from each and every employee (all who are expected to be “leaders”).
Core Values of Amazon
1. Leaders are customer-obsessed.
In any business, it is easy to begin from an internal perspective – in other words, thinking first about your product or other offering, then working down the line until you reach the customer. For Amazon, its first principle is to start with the customer, then work backwards.
This self-professed “obsession” with how the customer thinks and feels is intended to create deep and lasting trust from customers, since all Amazon leaders begin with the customer in mind.
2. Leaders take ownership.
Companies are starting to think outside of a “silo” approach that limits their area of influence. Amazon expects all of its employees to take full ownership of the entire company, not just what their specific team has been assigned to do. Employees should think about how their decisions and their work will affect the entire enterprise and ensure that they are creating long-lasting value instead of just a short-term boost.
3. Leaders invent and simplify.
Innovation is key for all Amazon employees. The company looks for people who are willing to try new things, surprise others with their ideas, and pull inspiration from virtually everywhere. What’s more, this innovation should be produced and delivered in such a way that it is simple to understand and execute.
A simple yet powerful idea trumps a convoluted plan every time, and even if the goal seems unattainable or the path seems unusual, employees should commit and make their dreams a reality.
4. Leaders are right, a lot.
This is another way of saying that employees should possess and use good judgment, not that they are required to be correct and accurate every second of every day.
Being “right” means that they should have a good instinct for what will work and what will not, and when presented with several options, they should be quick to discern what will create the best outcomes. This also includes a strong element of collaboration, ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard before making the “right” call.
5. Leaders learn and are curious.
Ideas and inspiration can come from all sorts of places. Employees at Amazon are expected to be lifelong learners. Just because they come with credentials, education, or experience in a particular area does not mean that they should limit themselves to that area their entire careers.
They should also not rest on their current knowledge base, but should keep themselves on the cutting edge of industry trends. They should constantly be on the lookout for how their new learnings, their present experience, and their problems can intersect.
6. Leaders hire and develop the best.
Amazon is proud to recognize excellence within its organization, and is always willing to promote from within when it sees individuals who have the potential to excel. Each and every hiring decision is expected to improve the overall performance of each division.
This also applies to mentorship and leadership coaching within the existing management structure; employees are expected to grow and mature as leaders, with the understanding that they could become leaders themselves someday.
7. Leaders insist on the highest standards.
Perfection is the bar, and nothing else is satisfactory. Only the highest quality in products, the highest reliability and delivery in services, and the highest degree of excellence in day-to-day activities will be acceptable to Amazon.
These standards may appear unreasonable to those outside the organization, but all employees commit to this standard when joining Amazon. If problems do arise, they are addressed immediately and completely so that they do not affect things later on, and mistakes or accidents always result in some kind of positive learning experience.
8. Leaders think big.
Bold directions and massive goals are the order of the day at Amazon. Employees at every level of the company should reach for bigger goals than they think are possible, because striving for greatness and not accepting anything less gives you the best chance to deliver. If employees are willing to settle for second-best, they will usually get it. Only by stretching to the limit can Amazon continue its upward streak of excellence.
9. Leaders have a bias for action.
It’s easy for companies to take extended periods of time to make a decision. When market share or profit margins depend on quick action and delivery to market, such delays can be devastating. Amazon employees are expected to spring into action quickly when opportunity arises.
This “bias for action” does not mean that any course is unchangeable; decisions can be modified or even canceled, but waiting out of fear or mere uncertainty is not acceptable.
10. Leaders are frugal.
Resourcefulness, efficiency, and, yes, “frugality” are all words that should describe Amazon employees. This does not mean that costs should be sacrificed at the expense of quality – delivering a high-quality product is even more important than the cost.
That being said, having an oversized budget for the sake of sharing how much you spent to deliver excellence is simply uncalled for. If there are ways to do more with less, and leaders should find a way to do so. This shows that they are committed to excellence while also being responsible stewards of the funds and resources at their disposal.
11. Leaders earn trust.
Trust is critical for any company, whether it is between the business and its customers or among its own employees. Amazon holds itself to a high standard as far as trust is concerned. It strives to be trustworthy in all things, presenting an image of true integrity.
This also involves being vulnerable and honest, open to criticism and feedback, and willing to admit fault when necessary. It also makes it a point to be forthright in a constructive way when giving its own thoughts and opinions.
12. Leaders dive deep.
Similar to being open to new ideas and ways of doing things, Amazon employees should focus on both the big picture and the smallest details. Nothing is outside of their sphere of influence; they need to pay attention to, and be willing to work with, anything the job requires.
This means keeping careful track of their own workloads as well as the general success of the company and its ability to perform well. If there is an apparent discrepancy, employees need to be able to get to the bottom of the disconnect and find out the true picture.
13. Leaders have a backbone, but commit despite disagreements.
This can seem like a contradictory point, but it all boils down to a spirit of deep collaboration built on openness and honesty. Differing opinions should always be voiced respectfully, but employees should not keep them hidden in an attempt to keep the peace.
Disagreements are allowed and encouraged if they are sincerely held, but once a consensus is reached and a final decision is made, everyone is expected to follow directions. They can at least do so knowing that their objections have been heard and respected.
14. Leaders deliver results.
As with any company, Amazon expects its employees to create positive results. Whether that leads to direct sales, improvements to a product or service line, or increased efficiency for back-office work, every employee should create high value with the quality, timeliness, and investment in their work. Even if things do not go according to plan, the milestones are the milestones and excuses will not be tolerated.
Having a set of guiding principles, as well as putting the responsibility of leadership on every employee, is a unique way for a company to faithfully execute its mission and reach its goals. Amazon’s leadership principles have helped them become extremely successful and will likely keep the company on its current upward trajectory.
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