When I joined Amazon, I became curious of the company’s peculiar culture. And nearly 11 years later, I still consider myself a student of it. There are so many aspects of Amazon that make this a unique place to work and drive impact—like the way employees are encouraged to take on opportunities outside of their specific roles, and the many offerings they have to upskill in their careers. As we say, it's always "Day 1" here—and for me, that means I'm always learning, and I'm energized when I hear about all the ways our employees are learning and growing, too.
One of my favorite parts of our culture to study are the Amazon Leadership Principles, which are a set of guidelines for how we think and do business. I’ve actually laminated them and carry them everywhere I go. I find that I'm constantly going back to them, applying them, and quoting them in conversations with our teams. I also love hearing about how Amazon employees experience the Leadership Principles, and the different ways they impact and help guide each individual's day-to-day work.

Here are three ways I use Amazon’s Leadership Principles to grow my skills and better serve Amazon employees.

Page overview

Read the descriptions—then re-read them

Read the descriptions—then re-read them
Embrace the tension
Use the Leadership Principles to think through tough problems
Read the descriptions—then re-read them

Everyone experiences Amazon’s Leadership Principles in different ways. That’s why I recommend reading, and re-reading the descriptions to get a full understanding of what each principle is actually trying to say and how it applies to your current situation.

For example, one principle that’s often misunderstood is “Ownership.” You may hear the word ownership and think that means you own the project, but it’s a bit more nuanced. The description says: Leaders are owners who 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, and they never say, “that's not my job.” The principle is actually about thinking long-term, not just fixing the problem that's right in front of you.

Two Amazon Employees sharing information from their tablets at work. Photo by JORDAN STEAD

I think that's important, because the work you need to do to solve a customer’s problem doesn’t always line up with your job assignment. This is a great example of how the descriptions provide the extra detail you need to get the most value from the Leadership Principles.

Embrace the tension

When you look closely at our Leadership Principles (LPs), it's clear that every word was carefully crafted and thought about. You'll also notice that there’s tension between the LPs, and that’s on purpose. Amazon has such a high bar that we don't allow ourselves to get stuck in an either-or situation, and it can be challenging to get the balance just right when using the LPs to help me navigate a challenging situation or make a hard decision.

I ask myself things like, "Is this a moment where I should be leaning more into ‘Bias for Action’? Or is this really a ‘Think Big’ moment?" "Can I balance 'Deliver Results' while also practicing 'Insist on the Highest Standards?'"

An image of an Amazon employee in an orange work vest lifting a package in a fulfillment center.

Leaning into the tension between the LPs has helped me continue to grow as a leader. Even after many years, I believe that seeking the right balance between the LPs for each situation goes a long way in helping serve customers the best way possible.

Use the Leadership Principles to think through tough problems

I use the Leadership Principles as a cheat sheet to help navigate ambiguity. When I’m struggling with what to do for a customer—in my case, those customers are employees—I use the Leadership Principles to help me get it right.

As an example, I’ve used the “Think Big” principle many times to encourage myself and my team to come up with more creative and helpful solutions to some of our most difficult challenges. We resist the urge to come up with a quick answer, and take a step back. For the first two weeks, I’ll ask my team not to come up with a solution, but instead just go wander in the data and anecdotes. Then we’ll meet to share what we found and start looking for patterns. This is how we find ideas that will really make a difference for the customer.

Four Amazon employees sit in a conference room while one writes on the whiteboard.

Hopefully these tips help you get the most benefit from the Leadership Principles as you develop your skills and build your career. Read the full list of Amazon’s Leadership Principles and their descriptions, and keep them handy when you need them.