Andy Jassy will take over as CEO of Amazon on July 5th (GeekWire File Photo / Todd Bishop)
Amazon is at a pivotal moment in its history and faces increasing regulatory and legal scrutiny, as does new CEO Andy Jassy, takes over the reins from founder Jeff Bezos. Could a new principle of leadership help lead the company into the next era?
John Rossman, a former Amazon executive, is the author of books such as The Amazon Way and Think Like Amazon.
John Rossman, a former Amazon CEO, puts forward the idea of a 15th Leadership Principle in a new edition of his book. The Amazon Way. His proposal is based on the Golden Rule, which complements, but doesn’t mitigate, the company’s legendary customer obsession.
“Treat others the way you would like to be treated – employees, suppliers, partners, brands, small businesses, competitors, press, critics, community,” says excerpts from his proposed leadership principle. “Contribute and be a leading steward of your community. Funding and lobbying not in your interest, but in the interest of future innovations and competition. “
It concludes, “Conduct yourself, both personally and as an organization, that your mother and children are proud. Always.”
From the outside it may sound like mere window dressing, but given the role that the existing 14 leadership principles playing in the day-to-day running of Amazon, Rossman says the supplement could have real effects.
“You actually have to put it in the way you hire, how you work each day, how you evaluate how you think about strategy and operation,” he says. “I think that would make them innovate in new ways and work in conjunction – not in contradiction – with their other principles.”
The proposed addition is in line with the themes of Jeff Bezos in his last letter to shareholders as Amazon CEOthat came out after Rossman designed the update for the book.
During his tenure with the company, Rossman played a key role in starting the Amazon Marketplace business before heading the company’s enterprise services business. He is now a business consultant on strategy, leadership and innovation. He’s our guest on this episode of day 2, GeekWires Podcast on Everything Amazon.
Listen above, subscribe to any podcast app, and read on for edited highlights.
A permanent principle: Rossman’s proposed guiding principle resulted from a thought experiment: How would he advise Amazon to counter the growing negative public perception?
“It wouldn’t be the only thing I would do, but one of the places I would start is how do we reset the conversation?” He said. “I tried to create a permanent principle that would work for today as well as for 10, 15 years. I’ve come to something that is based on responsibility. You have to be a senior administrator for all of these other stakeholders. “
Change in leadership at Amazon: While the transfer of the baton from Bezos to Jassy got the most attention, Rossman said another leadership change could be more significant: Jeff Wilkes’ departure as Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer CEO. He was succeeded by Dave Clark, who previously headed the company’s global operations and logistics department.
“Jeff (Wilke) was such a valued leader at Amazon, influencing it tactically, operationally, strategically and culturally,” said Rossman. “It will be really interesting to see Dave Clark and the rest of the executive team get into commercial retail.”
Antitrust Remedies? When asked about increasing government scrutiny of the company’s tactics, Rossman said he believed the responsibility for updating outdated laws and regulations rests primarily with lawmakers and policy makers.
“In my opinion, Amazon doesn’t raise the bar or trigger any of our anti-competitive policies. They absolutely live up to all of their obligations, ”he said. “But what that shows is that our guidelines are out of date.”
“Politicians grumble about Amazon and they have to look to themselves,” he added. “Amazon does what every company does and should do, which is play the game, play the game hard, play the game to win for shareholders and stay within the boundaries.”
What’s next for Amazon Healthcare and wireless communications are two of the most promising areas for the company, Rossman said.
Healthcare will become an increasingly important part of Amazon’s strategy across its business, including Amazon Web Services, e-commerce, employee services, payments, and more, he predicted.
Examples of Amazon’s entry into wireless and mobile technology are the Project Kuiper satellite service and the Sidewalk wireless neighborhood network.
“Amazon is now a big company with big growth ambitions,” he said, “so they have to target big markets.”