The Amazon Way — Book Summary

The Amazon Way Book Cover

The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World's Most Disruptive Company

by John Rossman

Published: 2014 | 146 pages
Rating Amazon:  stars rating 4.5 
Rating by reviewer:  stars rating 4.5 
Author of the article: Syed Amir Ali Shah
Date of the summary: Jan 16, 2021

Do you want to start your own business but have no idea where to start? Read John Rossman’s pages and learn how Amazon works and thrives in the global market.

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John Rossman, a former executive at Amazon, puts to paper insight into its guiding principles. Rossman, who left Amazon and later joined a consulting firm as a managing director, composes his own gladiator stories highlighting Amazon's 14 leadership principles. These leadership principles are no secret; however, Rossman has added beautiful commentary as he has flourished on these principles during his time at Amazon.

An interesting quote from the book

The best customer service is no customer service.

— John Rossman, The Amazon Way

Summary of the book The Amazon Way

1. Obsess Over the Customer

Rossman begins his literature by familiarizing Amazon. Jeff Bezos, Amazon's renowned CEO and billionaire, built his company on an obsession with customer care. He enforced the idea that "the best customer service is no customer service" by reducing human interference and encouraging more technology and innovation. He often sacrificed short-term gains by relocating the cost of advertisements to the "Free Shipping Program," hence marketing its services through its customers' word of mouth. In demonstrating customer care, Amazon's strategy focuses on cheap pricing, wide variety, and convenience availability - which it describes as its "Holy Trinity." Amazon has adopted the Japanese idea of "Andon Cord" that pushes the shut down of a company's operations until the customers' needs are met. Bezos would bring an "empty chair" to the meetings to remind his team that the customer voice is a priority and must be heard.

2. Take Ownership of Results

Leaders at Amazon were taught not to act like renters but rather approach every situation like the company owners. Driven by the vision of shared ownership, they would aim for higher goals with the lens of strategy and be willing to sacrifice short term goals for long term results. Jeff created and preserved the perception of ownership by hiring the right people and implanting a sense of accountability. Perusing the idea of "the open kimono," Amazon often let employees be honest about mistakes, limitations, and failures. This sense of ownership and accountability enables the leaders to master their domain and go beyond boundaries to fix situations.

3. Invent and Simplify

Elucidating further, Rossman describes Amazon leaders as frequently achieving higher sales than their competitors by thinking big, considering not hundreds but millions of potential customers in mind, and simplifying the mechanism for innovation of ideas. Amazon simplifies and invents because of its unique platform opportunity, workflow, automation, algorithms, and technology. Jeff Bezos encourages his team to avoid bureaucracy if it becomes a hurdle in thinking big, being creative, and striving to become fearless.

4. Leaders Are Right—A Lot

At Amazon, mistakes are welcomed but not their repetition. Although Amazon leaders are often considered right, they seldom make mistakes. They learn from their inaccuracies, formulate insights to remedy those mistakes, and share them with the company.

5. Hire and Develop the Best

Through intense scrutiny, leaders at Amazon elevate the performance standards each time they hire and promote. Considering the strategy to hunt extraordinary talent and willingly promote them around the organization, leaders devote their efforts and time to explore and hire the best possible candidates. Hiring the very best ensures that the leaders cultivate future leaders that will train others with serious dedication.

6. Insist on the Highest Standards

Leaders at Amazon have established and maintained exceptionally high standards, which can be unreasonable, according to some people. Amazon lets everyone under its umbrella think of themselves as Leaders and owners; therefore, they are motivated by this ownership of responsibility, and leaders are continually pushing their teams to exhibit unmatched quality standards.

7. Think Big

Leaders at Amazon devise and disseminate a bold direction towards the future horizon that stimulates results. They discourage thinking small and living only for now. They think differently and explore for big new ideas to help customers. Leaders encourage their teams to sacrifice short term profits for long term profits and customer loyalty.

8. Have a Bias for Action

The inclination to push forward, avoid the status quo, and take calculated risks is not lacking in the company. If development and monitoring of metrics are in place, it implies that those metrics' actions and decisions are reversible and do not pose much risk. When challenges arise, employees are encouraged to go for the experiment and capitalize on every opportunity.

9. Practice Frugality

A Leader at Amazon maintains a cost-conscious philosophy and tries to avoid spending on things that customers do not deem necessary. Frugality often cultivates self-sufficiency and resourcefulness; however, it may exhibit downside effects if the idea goes too far.

10. Be Vocally Self-Critical

Intellectual honesty is vital. Leaders and their teams admit their mistakes and are open to criticism. They promote humility and avoid arrogance in the establishment's culture by being proactive in accepting shortcomings.

11. Earn the Trust of Others

Amazon built a culture of trust among its employees. Leaders at Amazon are committed, honest, transparent, and open-minded. This open-mindedness allows them to trust their teams, colleagues, and subordinates and win customers' trust in return.

12. Dive Deep

In projects, personnel stays updated with all the processes, performance, and data. This curiosity in leadership and digging deep strategy enables them to engage at all levels and unearth opportunities. The system stimulates clarity of thinking, enlists priorities, and enforces accountability.

13. Have a Backbone—Disagree and Commit

Leaders at Amazon expect staff to challenge their decisions and always encourage a healthy and constructive two-way debate in disagreement cases. They follow the gladiator culture, where it is very typical to disagree with senior executives and even with the CEO. However, once a decision is made, everyone will commit to it and make it a reality.

14. Deliver Results

Leaders at Amazon arrange all their efforts to focus on the outputs of the operations. If the customer is satisfied and high-quality goods are delivered on time, the overall purpose is served.

Key Lessons

Amazon is both a retail and a platform company. It treats its employees as owners and leaders and disseminates ownership, responsibility, and accountability throughout its structure. At Amazon, free and creative thinking is stimulated, and criticism is welcomed even at the executive level. The customers' priorities are placed above all.

Review of the book The Amazon Way

The author has personally lived and experienced these leadership principles during his time at Amazon. His immaculate commentary of the events tells how Amazon achieved positive results from these principles. These principles are hands-on and not just theories or ideas but the success steps for anyone who wants to learn about leadership, business, and entrepreneurship.


The book is a precise guideline for anyone who sees Amazon as a benchmark of success and wants to start their own business. In this age of intense competition, people struggling on the way to victory might also dive deep into Amazon's unique leadership strategy and find new ways to the heights of glory.

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