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1BSCI 607 final group project

Leadership Profile: The Case of Jeff Bezos
CN2: Xianfan Meng, Weihao Song, Yiming Liu and Xuan Sun
BSCI607 Final Project
Professor Shawn Herrera
1. Introduction overview of this leader
Jeff Bezos is one of the prominent business leaders whose name has gained
global popularity due to his successes and business acumen. However, as the great
aphorism goes, success is a journey of struggles. Bezos’ success story must be
inspirational and worthwhile to all his mentees and people who aspire to achieve
significant milestones in life. One of his most notable enterprises is the Amazon Inc,
which is arguably the world’s leading e-commerce platform. The story of the
business therefore creates a critical basis in understanding Bezos’ profile; his
journey, background and leadership successes / failures. Apparently, it appears that
in every sphere of business that he lays his hands on, success is the inevitable
outcome. However, that does not mean that the arguably richest man in the world
today according to Forbes (2020), started at the top. His has been a journey that is
characterized by both ups and downs.
However, it is certain that Bezos’ journey is worth emulating. Also, it is a
reality that to reach the pinnacle of global success, he has been creative, innovative,
and strategic amongst possessing other qualities and personalities. Nonetheless, his
work history as a leader is also tainted with some failures and criticisms. Unless one
has an insightful understanding of his story and how he rose to where he is today, it
would be difficult to emulate him. Numerous media outlets have interviewed and
quoted him giving an insight on his type of leadership. Besides, he has also been a
personal of interest to the business and academic world due to his huge influence in
the world of business. As such, this essay aims at examining his leadership profile
by embarking on a research of his work history, where he has worked for him to rise
to his current status. Through his experiences and approach to leadership, it will be
possible to establish how the contemporary leaders could or could not apply his
methods in business today.
Where they worked
Since his breakthrough in the world of business, Bezos’ reach has only been
growing. Currently, while he owns numerous business enterprises, Amazon is the
one, which has been fundamental pioneer of his success. However, according to Foer
(2019), Bezos has successfully grown his empire such that it is difficult to
comprehend the nature of his empire or even the limits of his ambitions. In his
journey to success, it appears that Bezos has been inspired by the well-good of
humanity. So far, he has engaged in numerous ventures, which shows that he has an
overly-ambitious goal. According to Foer, his creation in Amazon.com can be
equated to a tangible company, which is way much more powerful in abstract form
(2019). The biography.com (2020) describes him as the “founder and CEO of
Amazon, owner of The Washington Post and the founder of the space exploration
company Blue Origin.” But his life history, study, and work explain his enthusiasm
with technology.
Since his early years, Bezos had a passionate love for computers, which
prompted him to study computer science and electrical engineering. Thereafter he
joined Walls Street whereby his zeal so him becoming the youngest senior deputy
president of an investment company known as D.E. Shaw (bibliography.com, 2020).
It was during his tenure at the lucrative job in that investment he quit for years later
to start Amazon.com. The business started operations in 1994 as an online bookstore,
which would later grow to become one of the most successful internet stories of the
21st century. He continued expanding his empire as Amazon continued purchasing
and acquiring other firms such as The Washington Post and Whole Foods in 2013
and 2017 respectively. But prior to his ventures in Amazon, he had shown a deep
interest in business whereby he started Dream Institute while in High School
(bibliography.com, 2020). Thus, there is not much in Bezos’ life about employment;
much of his life has been in entrepreneurship.
Their leadership successes / failures
While Bezos is a perfect example of a business leaders who did not limit
himself in organizational periphery, he has had a history of both success and failure.
To become a global leader, Bezos has paid the cost of undisputed stress by facing
numerous challenges. Nonetheless, he has eventually managed to leverage his point
and ambition. Patel (2017) has noted that great leaders have the ability to manage
themselves; which apparently is one of the greatest source of success for Bezos.
While perhaps one could assert that Bezos was a born leader, it is also imperative to
appreciate that he has through his experiences learned the systematic, logical, and
analytical approach that is leadership.
Nonetheless, various sources have also quoted his failures. Despite his
massive success especially through the disruptive technology that changed the way
of product consumption, Bezos has had his failures. According to Woods (2019),
Bezos’ idea by way of the Amazon smartphone failed significantly where within two
months its prices had dropped from $ 199 to 99 cents. Besides, the acquisition of
Pets.com by Amazon was also a major failure after the former went out business
barely 3 years after the deal. For those and other reasons, Bezos acknowledges to
have “made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com” (Woods, 2019, citing
Blodget, 2014). Personally, he also acknowledges that “failure and invention are
inseparable twins” (Mullaney, 2017). Ultimately, his failures have been a lesson and
inspiration to many through his current entrepreneurial and innovation successes.
2. Formative Experiences on Leadership
In 1986, Jeff Bezos successfully got his degrees from Princeton University,
and he majored in both electrical engineering and computer science, meanwhile, he
participated in extracurricular activities actively, such as joining in Phi Beat Kappa
and Tau Beta Pi, which were quite influential honor societies in the United States of
America (Fabiano, 2019). It is noteworthy that after graduation from Princeton
University, Jeff Bezos got a series of offers from good companies, such as Intel and
Bell Labs, but he finally joined in a start-up company Fitel, a fintech
telecommunication company in 1988. This work did not last long, and Jeff Bezos
turned to Bankers Trust in 1988, after another two years, he went to D.E. Shaw &
Co., a newly hedge fund company at that moment, and he continued to work there
until 1994.
The year 1994 was a crucial time point for Jeff Bezos because he finally
decided to found his own company, namely Amazon. When work for Shaw & Co.,
Jeff Bezos realized the potential of the World Wide Web, and the 2,300% growth of
the World Wide Web usage a month stimulated him to resign and start his own online
company (“Jeff Bezos: The King of E-Commerce,” 2020). With the investment from
his parents, Jeff Bezos quickly built up the original website of Amazon in Seattle.
Of course, this company, even at the initial stage, quickly attracted a large number
of customers on the internet. The first domain of Amazon is to sell books, and
compare with traditional book stores, Amazon was a more interesting option for
netizens. In a short time, new competitors appeared, and Barnes & Noble was a
typical example. This company also quickly opened its book store online to compete
with Amazon, but Amazon easily defeated competitors like Barnes & Noble by
expanding its product ranges. Amazon did not only sell books but also began to sell
CDs and other products, this expansion made Amazon become a huge website which
sold various kinds of products instead of only books at the early stage.
However, the prosperity of Amazon did not necessarily mean that the
company made much profit. In 2002, the company almost went bankrupt, and the
company decided to close many distribution centers and fire many employees in
2003, after which it successfully survived (Fabiano, 2019). After this crisis, the
company began to make profit, and it contributed to many new products, Kindle was
a typical one published in 2007. Since Amazon had already become quite successful,
Jeff Bezos began to explore some new domains gradually. In 2013, Amazon
purchased the Washington Post; the company Blue Origin that founded by him in
2000 also became larger and worked with NASA in terms of space exploration.
The first factor contributes to Jeff Bezos’ leadership is his abundant work
experience in different domains. He had abundant knowledge from the two degrees
of Princeton University, and after graduation, he also worked in technology
companies and finance companies with different job positions, which enabled him
experienced the creation of international network trade so that he could see future
direction and good opportunity on E-commerce platform. Such experience allows
Jeff Bezos to have professional and practical knowledge in domains including
engineering, computer science, finance, management, and so on. With such
professional knowledge, Jeff Bezos can become a leader since he is an expert in
these different domains, and it makes others comply with him.
Secondly, Jeff Bezos is a man with clear future vision. When Amazon faced
the challenge from Barnes & Noble, Jeff Bezos decided that Amazon should not
only be a website sell books. Then, under his leadership, the Amazon gradually
expanded their sales of toys, electronics, clothes, CDS, and so on. As a result,
Amazon easily defeated Barnes & Nobles, because Barnes & Nobles’ website was
just an online book store, while Amazon became a platform sell various kinds of
products already (biography.com,2020). Jeff Bezos clearly realized the importance
of vision for an excellent leader. After all, when a leader makes decisions, he or she
must take into consideration what may happen in the future. Having a clear target
can help a leader focus on both current businesses and future opportunities.
Obviously, what Jeff Bezos wanted is not an online book store, but a platform that
can influence people’s daily life. Therefore, the successful expansion of Amazon’s
product range helped Jeff Bezos better understand the importance of long-term
vision for leadership.
Thirdly, Jeff Bezos also became more decisive in these years. It is noteworthy
that when he left Shaw & Co. and decided to found Amazon, some investors wanted
to invest in Amazon, and Jeff Bezos said that the chance for success was only 30%
(Fabiano, 2019). Not all company founders will highlight the risk when face
investors, but Jeff Bezos is one. He may not want other people to lose money because
of him, and this shows his empathy and sense of responsibility to some degree.
However, as mentioned above, in 2002 when the company had the risk of bankrupt,
he finally decided to close many distribution centers, and this caused a large number
of unemployed people. Does this event show that Jeff Bezos become cruel, not
empathetic anymore? Not necessarily. This event may help him understand that a
leader must be decisive in urgent situations. It is true that building a good
relationships with investors and employees is necessary, but such emotion should
not prevent a leader from making wise decisions.
3. Their approach to leadership
One of the most important values of Jeff Bezos is the regret-minimization
framework. Bezos says he kept staring at the Net's 2,300 percent annual growth
figure and placing his thoughts within what he calls a "regret-minimization
framework" (Bayers, 2018). Firstly, this life philosophy explains why Jeff Bezos
left D.E. Shaw to run Amazon that is related to the Internet. We have to know that
Bezos quit a stable and prosperous job at that time, and those who can do this must
have the entrepreneurial spirit to dare to try and take risks. Innovation and envision
is the embodiment of this belief. Owing to this spirit and embodiment, Jeff Bezos
and his enterprise can become the first symbol of global e-commerce. Second, This
value allows Jeff Bezos and his people to think about more than just now. In other
words, Minimizing regret allows them to review their decisions or works from a
future perspective and try to make decisions more comprehensively.
Regret- minimization makes Jeff Bezos at the forefront of the industry and
help his company grow and expand over time. This value also cultivates the whole
company having the spirit of innovation and envision too. There are two main
Bezos leadership methods that are related to this value. One of the leadership
methods is to build a clear long term vision. By looking at their work or upcoming
decisions from a future perspective can give them a clear long-term vision and
make product decisions based on that vision. Bezos always looks at his goals in the
long run. Just like Ray writing a set of principles in Bridgewater, Bezos have five
principles for whether managers, employees or shareholders: focus on customers
not competitors, take risks for market leadership, facilitate staff morale, build a
company culture, and empower people. Take focusing on customers as an
example. Every stage in Amazon's schedule always involves serving customers,
which means customers are Amazon's top priority in order to maintain loyalty and
trust. In theory, all company cities care about their customers, but what Bezos
values is not to focus on their competitors. Taking a long-term look, focusing on
their customer can help them to get ahead of the market. Too much research on
competitors may be able to win more profits than them just now, but not for the
future. Another method is knowing your market. Before starting Amazon, Jeff
Bezos worked for several financial companies on Wall Street. Bezos has a unique
advantage and understanding the market is part of his job, so he was eager to try
when he learned that the internet had increased by 2300% in a year. However,
Such understanding and observation of the market is often lacking, especially in
startups. The team may have a good idea for the product, and maybe some
premonitions about the audience, but it is rare to grasp the market and influence
trends. Regret-minimization, again, plays a significant role in cultivating people in
Amazon with a view from future to check their work or decisions and help them to
fully understand the market, which helps them to predict how these developments
will affect the customers’ behavior and provide more Effective products or
Another value of Jeff Bezos’ s leadership is work–life harmony. “I like the
phrase ‘work-life harmony'”, Jeff says. “Balance implies there’s a strict trade-off”
(Constine, 2018). More specifically, there is a strong correlation between life and
work. Work will affect our way of life, and life will also affect our work
efficiency. If the work pressure is too high or the job satisfaction is too low, it will
affect employees’ life therapy, which in turn will make them lose interest in the
work and become numb. Balance sometimes makes one side less than the other
slightly, but harmony means both sides can improve at the same time.
Bezos utilized this value to make employees think like owners and keep
their job satisfaction. For example, Mr. Bezos tried to avoid arranging meetings
before ten o’clock in the morning, at the same time arranging meetings that require
a lot of brainstorming before lunch, and tried to make the most difficult decisions
before five o’clock in the afternoon (Medici, 2018). This is not only to express that
Jeff Bezos needs enough time to rest for better decision-making, but also for
ordinary employees or management. In this situation, everyone in the company has
enough time to complete their tasks. Therefore, employees’ job satisfaction will be
improved, and their spare time will not be occupied or their life will be affected.
Not only does this method increase job satisfaction, but also it motivates people to
work efficiency. Besides, Jeff Bezos makes people in his company think like
owners. The stock options in hiring approach is a good example. “We will continue
to focus on hiring and retaining versatile and talented employees, and continue to
weigh their compensation to stock options rather than cash” (Bezos, 1997). We all
know the main responsibility of managers is maximizing the shareholders’ value.
If these values are directly related to the employees themselves, they would think
that they have a great responsibility for the company and work more seriously.
4. Applicability to business leadership today
Overall, I think bezos's four leadership strategies can be applied to other areas.
Firstly, Focus on your customers, not your competitors
An artist, performer, salesman, or engineer cannot be a great success without
considering the audience's view of the work. The audience- the customer is the
ultimate goal and focus. Competitors are important, but they are never the focus.
When the COVID-19 crisis hit, one of the first things Microsoft did was to take all
copies of the apple store down. Microsoft's app store looks like Apple Store. Zune
looks like an iPod, and the first surface looks like an iPad. Bezos opposes the use of
agents to understand the target consumer groups (research, focus groups, etc.), but
emphasizes primary research, intuition, deep understanding of the market and
external trends that drive the market.
Innovation comes from you and your customers, not your competitors. That doesn't
mean you can simply repeat those successful experiences and succeed again.
Secondly, Take risks and stay ahead
No one is doomed to fail at first. But fear of failure is a powerful obstacle. Fear can
lead to paralysis at the individual and corporate levels. If you try to accomplish a big
thing for the first time, you will fail at least once. Of course, failure has a price, but
it's not an excuse. But if you don't take risks, you'll never make progress.
Take a rocket company like SpaceX. They didn't get the Rockets right in the first
place. You know, every time they make a mistake, the rocket explodes. If they don't
dare to try, there won't be rockets. There are no falcons. There is no Dragon.
This principle has a wide range of applications. Growing up and accepting failure
will make you stronger. You're always changing. You're always growing. Weakness
is your teacher, so is the failure. The wisdom of willing to fail, coupled with humility,
discipline, and the desire to learn, will put you in a good position.
Thirdly, Boldly authorize and improve the original salary structure
Your actions and creations are the product of you and your company. If you don't
take care of yourself (or your people), you won't create anything. One of Bezos's
ways to solve this problem is to pay employees as much as their boss and let them
participate in high-level decision-making, so as not to cause irreparable damage to
the company. The action is simple and elegant. Bezos doesn't just tell employees to
solve customers' problems. He encouraged them to do so. Amazon employees invest
in the company's future for their economic interests.
Besides, many people have the potential to accomplish great things. Because of the
environment, many of them didn't realize it. Your goal is to change that. Your goal
is to help others become stronger in some ways, so you can go further.
Besides, Jeff Bezos divides Amazon's decisions into "category 1" (irreversible
decisions) and "category 2" (other decisions). He allows non-executive directors to
make type 2 decisions - which he believes reduces "stagnation and risk aversion"
across the company. Bezos said the authorization of type 2 decisions is the reason
why Amazon Prime's video business is expanding rapidly.
Looking forward to a brighter future, I believe those who have good employment
and motivation can do a good job. If you delegate to others, promote them, rather
than hinder them, your company and business will become flexible. You will be one
step ahead of competitors who are afraid to take these steps.
Fourthly, Design corporate culture
When people think of an enterprise, they usually think of some problems. For
example, what is your brand? What is your philosophy? How do you treat your
employees? What's unique about you, inside and outside your industry? Etc. You
will have a social image, and you will have a reputation. Whether you're in business
or not, you should consider whether you've carefully created a character set. Usually,
customers will only think about you or your brand before they leave to do something
else. You may not even be able to get into the customer's consciousness. They may
be subconsciously thinking about you. You don't want your culture and brand to be
set by someone who doesn't care about your maximum profits.
Every action you take will shape your image and your culture. Make sure you take
positive steps every day to create a positive effect.
Works Cited
Bayers, Chip. (2018, March 7). The Inner Bezos. WIRED Web.
Bezos, Jeff. (1997). 1997 LETTER TO SHAREHOLDERS. Media Corporate Web.
B. (Ed.). (2020, May 11). Jeff Bezos. Retrieved October 04, 2020, from
Constine, Josh. (2017, November 7). Jeff Bezos' guide to life. TechCrunch Web.
Fabiano, J. (2020, June 19). Life and career biography of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Retrieved October
05, 2020, from https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/amazon-ceo-jeff-bezos-life-career-cars
Foer, F. (2019, October 10). Jeff Bezos’s master plan. The Atlantic.
Https://www.biography.com/business Figure/jeff Bezos. (2020). https://www.biography.com/businessfigure/jeff-bezos#:~:text=Born in 1964 in New,the investment firm D.E. Shaw
Jeff Bezos. (2008, October 10). Retrieved October 04, 2020, from
Medici, Andy. (2018, October 1). Jeff Bezos doesn't schedule meetings before 10 a.m. And other insights
into the Amazon CEO. Washington Business Journal.
Mullaney, T (2017, January 12). 5 key business lessons from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Retrieved from
Patel, D. (2017, March 22). 11 Powerful traits of successful leaders. Retrieved from
Woods, L. (2019, April 18). Jeff Bezos’ most outrageous business failures. GOBankingRates.