What Are The Amazon Leadership Principles?

Sep 16, 2022

Do you have an upcoming interview at Amazon?

Well, if we can only give you one piece of advice, it's this:

Study the Amazon Leadership Principles!

You need to know them front to back. You must also know how to demonstrate how you align with each of them.

Because if there's one thing we're sure of, it's that the recruiters and hiring managers at the company will ask you several questions about the 16 Leadership Principles and how you align with them explicitly.

Most of the Leadership Principles have been around since the earliest days at Amazon, and many of them were written by Bezos himself.

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For instance, the most famous Principle, Customer Obsession, was explicitly outlined in the company's first Letter to Shareholders in 1997. Since then, the Principle has been brought up by Bezos countless times over the years in press releases, interviews, company announcements, letters to shareholders, and more.

"Even when they don't yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf." -Jeff Bezos.

Despite the importance of this first Leadership Principle, there are many others that are all essential, especially if you're applying and interviewing at the company.

Here are the 16 Leadership Principles you need to know for your upcoming Amazon interview:


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.

Ownership

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." As 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 and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

Learn and Be Curious

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

Hire and Develop the Best

Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.

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 drive 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. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk-taking.

Frugality

Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expenses.

Earn Trust

Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team's body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

Dive Deep

Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdotes 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 settle.

Strive to be Earth's Best Employer

Leaders work every day to create a safer, more productive, higher performing, more diverse, and more just work environment. They lead with empathy, have fun at work, and make it easy for others to have fun. Leaders ask themselves: Are my fellow employees growing? Are they empowered? Are they ready for what's next? Leaders have a vision for and commitment to their employees' personal success, whether that be at Amazon or elsewhere.

Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility

We started in a garage, but we're not there anymore. We are big, we impact the world, and we are far from perfect. We must be humble and thoughtful about even the secondary effects of our actions. Our local communities, planet, and future generations need us to be better every day. We must begin each day with a determination to make better, do better, and be better for our customers, our employees, our partners, and the world at large. And we must end every day knowing we can do even more tomorrow. Leaders create more than they consume and always leave things better than how they found them.

Why the Amazon Leadership Principles Are Important

First and foremost, the Amazon Leadership Principles are enormously influential during interviews at the company.

In fact, whether or not a candidate aligns well with the Leadership Principles can make or break an interview.

Check out our Amazon Behavioral Interview Guide here to learn more about using these 16 principles during Amazon interviews. Looking for how to answer the "Why" question this post will give you multiple ways to answer.  

Nail the Amazon Behavioral Interview (Questions & Answers)
Getting ready for an Amazon behavioral interview? Learn about key leadership principles and get answers to the most common behavioral interview questions asked at Amazon.

But these Leadership Principles are still important to know and understand even if you don't currently or plan on working for Amazon or one of its many subsidiaries.

The reason being is simple. Regardless of what you may think about the company and its founder, Jeff Bezos, it cannot be denied that these Leadership Principles helped the company become one of the most valuable and successful companies on Earth.

As such, these principles have much more use outside an Amazon interview and can help you replicate the company's success if you understand and internalize them for your own role.

For instance, if you ever run into an ambiguous problem or are required to make a complex decision, referring back to some of these Leadership Principles can help you make the best one for your organization.

Not only that, you should remember that not every company is as forthcoming with what it expects from its ideal candidates as Amazon regarding its Leadership Principles.

Yet, you can still try to demonstrate your qualities as a candidate in the ways outlined by these principles. For example, if you're interviewing for a position at a tech startup, they will undoubtedly be receptive to hearing about how you Think Big, demonstrate Frugality, and Insist on the Highest Standards.


More Resources

Whether applying to a job at Amazon or elsewhere, you'll need to ace your interviews.

Behavioral Interview Prep Course

Here's how to answer behavioral interview questions that ask about your experience and hypothetical scenarios.

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As you probably already know, tech interviews at Big Tech companies can be incredibly competitive for even the most qualified candidates.

So, you'll need all the help you can get!

Luckily, here at Exponent, we have you covered.

💬 Study up on example interview questions

📖 Read through our company-specific interview guides

👯‍♂️ Practice your interviewing skills with our peer-to-peer mock interview practice tool.

👨‍🎓 Take one of our complete interview courses

Anthony Pellegrino

I'm Tony, a freelance journalist, writer, and content marketing strategist. I write about interview prep and career planning for Exponent, but I also write about climate change, tech, and, politics.

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