Millions of people watched the 60 Minutes television report on Amazon and the interview with its leader, Jeff Bezos. Most of the attention turned to the unveiling of small drones that could be used in the future to deliver packages. In fact, Bezos hopes packages will be delivered by drones within 30 minutes from order. That possibility generated its own level of conversation and debate. You can see the entire 60 Minutes segment here (It’s about 15 minutes long).
Unfortunately, the fixation on the drones overshadowed some profound leadership lessons Bezos can teach us. We can learn from him and Amazon whether we like him and the company or not. Believe me, as president of LifeWay, I know up close what a fierce competitor Amazon can be.
I just watched the 60 Minutes segment a second time right before I wrote this post. Again, I came away amazed at some poignant leadership lessons I learned from Bezos and Amazon. Here are five:
- Throw away the box. Most of the time we use the well-worn phrase “Think outside the box.” The problem with that type of thinking is that the box is still our point of reference. We need to be asking how we can do things well beyond our existing and traditional systems. It’s a difficult but necessary exercise. Amazon is Amazon because they refused to use current paradigms as their starting point.
- Hard work is strategy. I’ve never known a successful leader who did not expend years working hard. Sometimes we tend to think that there is a lot of luck in success. While there may be fortuitous circumstances, great leaders work hard to take advantage of them. Just eighteen years ago, Bezos was taking Amazon packages to the post office himself.
- “Complaining is not a strategy.” A lot of energy has been expended complaining about Amazon. Many have said they have unfair competitive practices. Others object to the way they acquire companies. Great leaders don’t waste time complaining about others. They use the precious resource of time to look to the future. The reason I have the sentence above in quotation marks is because it came directly from Bezos in the interview. It was my favorite quote of the segment.
- Constantly take incremental steps to do everything better. Even if Amazon is not making dramatic changes or causing disruptive innovation, the company is constantly seeking to improve its existing systems. If you decide to watch the segment, see how they are improving their fulfillment centers incrementally but constantly. Continuous small improvements lead to major improvements.
- Create your own disruptive innovation. It is better for an organization to innovate, even if hurts your existing services, products, or even ministries. If you don’t innovate, some other organization will, and the lifespan of your organization will be reduced.
Amazon may not be the paragon of virtues; but they are an incredible company. And Jeff Bezos is an amazing entrepreneurial leader. We would do well to learn from both of them.
Did you see the 60 Minutes interview? What else did you take away from it?
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on December 4, 2013. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at Facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.