- Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella each have a codified list of leadership principles to guide how they and their employees run two of the most well-known and valuable companies in the world.
- Business Insider recently obtained an internal list of Nadella’s leadership principles, while Amazon publishes those of Bezos on its website.
- Taken together, the two documents give some insight into how the two chief execs approach management.
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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella run two of the most well-known and valuable companies in the world. But when it comes to the business of actually running their respective international business empires, the two execs have very different management styles.
Business Insider recently obtained an internal list of Nadella’s leadership principles, drawn from the strategy that helped the company re-establish itself as a major market player. The company’s market value has gone from about $300 billion when he took over as CEO in 2014 to some $1.2 trillion today.
Nadella’s principles, which urges leaders to “create clarity” and “generate energy,” are required reading for every new manager at Microsoft, and the subject of an online course at the company.
Bezos’ principles – starting with the “customer obsession” that the company often talks about – are posted on Amazon’s career website for prospective job candidates and anyone else to view.
By comparing the two documents, plus some additional insight from Nadella’s professional memoir “Hit Refresh,” it’s easy to see the difference in how they approach the concept of business leadership.
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Bezos: 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.”
Nadella: Deliver success
- Drive innovation that people love
- Be boundary-less in seeking solutions
- Tenaciously pursue the right outcomes
“[Leaders] find a way to deliver success, to make things happen. This means driving innovations that people love and are inspired to work on; finding balance between long-term success and short-term wins; and being boundary-less and globally minded in seeking solutions,” Nadella wrote in his memoir.
On prioritizing the company over team:
Nadella: Generate energy
“Leaders generate energy, not only on their own teams but across the company. It’s insufficient to focus exclusively on your own unit,” Nadella wrote in his memoir.
“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.'”
Bezos: 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.”
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.”
Nadella: Ensure shared understanding
“I don’t want to hear that someone is the smartest person in the room. I want to hear them take their intelligence and use it to develop deep shared understanding within teams and define a course of action,” Nadella wrote in his memoir.
Nadella: Synthesize the complex
“Leaders take internal and external noise and synthesize a message from it, recognizing the true signal within a lot of noise,” Nadella wrote in his memoir.
Bezos: 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.”
Bezos: Bias for action
“Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.”
Nadella: Define a course of action
Nadella believes it’s a leader’s responsibility to get everyone on the same page and take action together, according to his memoir “Hit Refresh.”
On leading a team:
Nadella: Inspire optimism, creativity, and growth
“Leaders need to inspire optimism, creativity, shared commitment, and growth through times good and bad. They create an environment where everyone can do his or her best work. And they build organizations and teams that are stronger tomorrow than today,” Nadella wrote in his memoir “Hit Refresh.”
Bezos: 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.”
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 standard
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.
Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.
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.”
Bezos’ customer obsession:
Bezos: The ultimate leadership principle at Amazon is the notion of “customer obsession.”
“Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”
And prioritizing customers is echoed through his remaining leadership principles.
“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.”
“Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.”
Nadella’s ‘changing the culture’ at the company:
Nadella: The Microsoft CEO summed up his leadership principles in his memoir “Hit Refresh” by saying “Changing the culture at Microsoft doesn’t depend on me, or even on the handful of top leaders I work most closely with. It depends on everyone in the company—including our vast cadre of middle managers who must dedicate themselves to making everyone they work with better, every day.”