Amazon Leadership Principles

For Managers

On January 7, 2019, Amazon grabbed the notable accolade of being the most valuable company in the world in terms of market cap. Later on in the year, the company also reached a value of over 1 trillion U.S. dollars (let that sink in for a minute!) The meteoric rise of Amazon is due, at least in part, to the Amazon Leadership Principles they implement in their company. But everything wasn’t always roses for Amazon.

Thought of as a potential dot com bust back in 2000, Amazon has battled through and triumphed over two market collapses. The company’s quirky and famous founder, Jeff Bezos, believes a strong core company culture is essential to success. So, Bezos and an early leadership team created the Amazon 14 Leadership Principles. In 2021, 27 years after the company’s founding, Amazon added 2 additional Leadership Principles, bringing the total to 16 principles. These Amazon leadership principles influence everything from team dynamics to interview questions.

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See these examples of how Amazon Leadership Principles changed the culture of this internet behemoth.

Amazon 16 Leadership Principles:

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      1. Customer Obsession
      2. Ownership
      3. Invent and Simplify
      4. Are Right, A Lot
      5. Learn and Be Curious
      6. Hire and Develop the Best
      7. Insist on the Highest Standards
      8. Think Big
      9. Bias for Action
      10. Frugality
      11. Earn Trust
      12. Dive Deep
      13. Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
      14. Deliver Results
      15. Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer
      16. Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility

Amazon Leadership Principles Graphic, Amazon 14 Leadership Principles, Amazon Leadership Principles interview, Amazon Leadership Principles interview questions, amazon leadership principles examples

What Are the Amazon Leadership Principles?

The Amazon Leadership Principles are 16 fundamental values that govern the company and its employees. The company desires that Amazon Leadership Principles be implemented everyday while on the job. They also want the principles used in interview questions. Amazon believes in hiring those who align with these principles. They go so far as testing people for these qualities during interviews.

Not to worry, all of the 16 Amazon Leadership Principles are not tested for in every interview. Amazon is sure to test candidates only on the principles that are most relevant to the role that they are applying for.

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  1. Customer Obsession

Leaders are customer centric. Perhaps they are so customer centric that customers’ preferences and needs become an obsession. This means they always endeavor to work backwards from what the customer might think or want in deciding what to do with the product or service. At the margin, deep insight into what drives customer loyalty and trust should be even more important than a deep understanding of competitive strengths and weaknesses, market trends, or technology.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • Tell me about a time you knew you couldn’t do everything the client wanted. How did you prioritize, and what was the outcome?
      • Give me an example of a time things went very poorly in a customer interaction or when delivering a service or product. How did you try to make things right?
      • In your experience, what makes some customers especially difficult to manage while others are easier?
      • Tell me about a time you chose to apologize for doing something wrong, even though you weren’t 100% sure it was your fault.
      • Have you ever obsessed over giving high quality service to a customer?
  1. Ownership

Leaders adopt an ownership mindset. They don’t view themselves as simply employees, they think of themselves as owners. This causes them to think long term, imagining how each action will play out in terms of results today, tomorrow, and far into the future. They do what’s best for the company, keeping in mind value creation for customers, shareholders, employees, and stakeholders.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult short term decision to make long term gains.
      • Tell me about a time when you took on a task that went beyond your normal responsibilities.
      • Tell me about a time when you took it upon yourself to work on a challenging initiative.
  1. Invent and Simplify

Leaders look for new ways of doing things that are remarkable in their simplicity. Albert Einstein is often quoted as having said “everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” This quote certainly reflects Amazon’s perspective on leadership. Leaders should urge their teams to invent and design new approaches, but demand that they be simple to understand. Leaders are also comfortable with the idea that some percentage of new ideas, inventions, and approaches will not “stick” right away, if ever. It is imperative that you are okay with failing fast and learning from that failure to try something new.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • Tell me about a time when you failed to simplify a process and what you would have done differently.
      • Tell me about a time when you innovated on something and it went wrong.
      • Tell me about a time when you changed a process at work through either an innovative new way or simplification.
      • Have you ever invented a service, product, or process that could truly be described as unique?
      • Given me an example of a time that you were faced with a complex problem, but the solution you designed could be described as simple.

  1. Are Right, A Lot

Leaders should be objective and fact-based. They should seek the counsel of others and incorporate diverse perspectives when they make decisions. They should also be willing to admit when they are wrong. All that said, leaders should expect that they will be right a lot, and have the confidence to lead in the direction they deem best.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • Tell me about a time when you had to rely primarily on your judgment to solve a problem because there was limited data available.
      • Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision with a partial data set?
      • When was the last time you made an incorrect decision?
      • Tell me about a time when you incorporated a diverse set of perspectives into solving a problem.
      • Tell me about a time when you had your beliefs challenged and how you responded.
  1. Learn and Be Curious

Leaders tend to be life-long learners. They are curious, interested in self-improvement, and seek feedback so they can learn how to improve. They naturally inclined to explore diverse perspectives and methods of doing things.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • Tell me about a time when your superior command of the underlying facts or dynamics of a situation helped you make a good decision.
      • Tell me about a time when your ability to ask probing questions is what helped a group or individual reach a solution?
      • Tell me about an experience you went through that changed your way of thinking.
      • Tell me about a time when your curiosity helped you make a smarter decision.
      • Tell me about the most important lesson you learned in the past year.
  1. Hire and Develop the Best

Leaders hire very well. They enjoy being mentors. They are not afraid of developing exceptionally talented subordinates and allowing them to receive credit and advance throughout the organization. Leaders are serious about spending time coaching others. They actively seek opportunities to give and to receive feedback.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • Have you ever coached someone successfully?
      • Tell me about the best hire your ever made. How about the worst? How did each situation play itself out?
      • What qualities do you look for most when hiring others?
      • Who is the most important person in your life and why?
  1. Insist on the Highest Standards

High standards are a hallmark of great leaders. These standards apply to everything in the organization, from hiring to manufacturing to product and service design and delivery. Leaders want their subordinates to achieve more than they may have thought possible and view high standards as critical. They also hold themselves to high standards, and ensure their teams understand this.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • Have you ever been on a team where a team member wasn’t doing what you expected of him or her?
      • Have you ever been unable to meet your own expectations? Why?
      • Tell me about a time when you raised the bar.
      • Tell me about a time when you motivated a team to go above and beyond.
      • Tell me about a time when you were dissatisfied with the quality of something at work and went out of your way to improve it.
  1. Think Big

Leaders believe that whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. So, they tend to pursue aggressive plans and provide bold direction to their teams. They are not afraid to pursue objectives that some people in and outside of the organization may believe simply can’t be done. The believe thinking big is a way of inspiring and encouraging others.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • Have you ever gone way beyond the initial scope of a project and produced a positive result?
      • What academic or professional achievement are you most proud of?
      • Tell me about a time when you were disappointed because you didn’t think big enough.
      • Tell me about a time when your vision resulted in a big impact.
      • Tell me about a time when you had to make a bold and difficult decision.
  1. Bias for Action

Studies have shown that successful companies don’t necessarily make better decisions. But they do make more decisions. Leaders understand that even if things don’t work out, the benefit of making more decisions and having some of them be wrong is that you can learn, adjust, and improve. Leaders therefore have a bias for action and are comfortable taking calculated risks.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • When is the last time you took a calculated risk?
      • What have you don’t in the past when you needed information from someone to make a decision, but they weren’t being responsive?
      • When is the last time you took the initiative to correct a problem instead of waiting for someone else to address it?
      • Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision with little data or information.
      • Tell me about a time when you made a decision too quickly and what you would have done differently.

  1. Frugality

While leaders avoid being “penny wise and pound foolish,” they also value being resourceful and seek to get as much out of resources as they can. They don’t want to overspend and seek to avoid paying too much for inputs. Many leaders could be accurately described as frugal. It is in their nature to try to do more with less.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • Tell me about a time you had to rely on yourself to finish a task.
      • Tell me about a time where you turned down more resources to complete an assignment.
      • Tell me about a time when you beat out the competition with less resources.
      • Tell me about a time when you had to be frugal.
  1. Earn Trust

Leaders don’t demand trust and allegiance from their peers and subordinates. They know and expect they’ll have to earn it first. They seek candid feedback, speak honestly, and listen to their teams.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • What would you do if you found out that your closest friend at work doing something potentially unethical?
      • What is the quality you value least about yourself?
      • What do you do to gain the trust of your teammates?
      • Tell me about a time you had to speak up in a difficult environment
  1. Dive Deep

Leaders view high level strategy development, major operational issues, and the nitty gritty of what it takes to execute day to day as part of their purview. They seek to avoid being micromanagers, but they also value understanding all levels of a business. They don’t view certain tasks as beneath them, and they understand that to effectively outsource and assign a task, it’s important to have a deep understanding of the task or activity, first.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • Tell me about the most complex problem you’ve ever worked on.
      • Tell me about a time when understanding the details of a situation helped you arrive to a solution.
      • Tell me about a time you utilized in depth data to come across a solution.
  1. Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit

Leaders are willing to respectfully challenge decisions even when it’s uncomfortable. Although they avoid “dying on their sword” over a minor disagreement, they won’t back down simply to move on or appease someone if they believe strongly that one path is right. But once a decision is made, they commit wholly. They don’t second guess.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a team member’s approach and had to convince a group to go in a different direction?
      • Have you ever argued against doing something a direct manager was telling you to do? How did the situation play out?
      • Have you ever refused to accept the status quo, even when others were resistant to change?
      • Have you ever made a really unpopular decision? What did people think?
      • What do you believe that no one else does?
  1. Deliver Results

Leaders know that consistently doing things right and putting in the effort will result in positive outcomes. But they are also committed to delivering results, staying on budget, and achieving stated goals. When there are setbacks, they tend to rise to the occasion and find a way to persevere.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • Have you ever been more than halfway through a project, but forced to switch gears or change the approach –did you succeed?
      • Have you ever had to juggle multiple difficult assignments simultaneously? How did you prioritize and deliver results?
      • What is the hardest situation you have ever faced in your professional life? How did you handle it?
      • Tell me about a time you had too much on your plate to deal with and how you handled getting everything done.
      • Tell me about a time when everyone else on your team gave up on something but you pushed the team towards delivering a result.
  1. Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer

Leaders work to create a work environment where fellow employees can thrive. They look beyond themselves and ask, “What can I do to help others grow, have fun, and feel empowered at work?” Leaders take the success of their employees personally and seriously – not only while they are at Amazon, but elsewhere should they move on.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • Tell me about a time when you capitalized on an opportunity to help a co-worker or employee grow – how did you approach the situation, and what was the result?
      • Tell me about a time you worked to create a safer or more productive work environment without being prompted. What did you do?
      • Tell me an example of incorporating fun into your work-day.
  1. Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility

Leaders live with humility and an awareness of how their actions affect others and the world around them. They recognize that they have a responsibility to make the world a better place, and to leave it better than they found it for the generations after them. They don’t take success lightly.

Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions Examples:

      • Tell me about a time you worked to contribute to something bigger than yourself. What was the impact of that?
      • Tell me about a time you left something better than you found it – big or small.
      • Have you ever been faced with a moral dilemma in the workplace? How did you respond?

Concluding Thoughts

The Amazon Leadership Principles are a set of principles that the company uses to identify candidates who best fit within their culture. Even if you’re not going to apply for a position at Amazon, the principles are still a great way to reflect on your own leadership skills. If you are preparing for an interview with the company, we suggest preparing a handful of your best stories that are broad enough to fit a wide range of potential questions and scenarios. Of course, above all, be genuine in your responses. Amazon continues to test for these leadership principles on the job as well, so you’ll want to make sure you truly are a good fit for the company.

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