Jeff Bezos was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and from an early age he showed his mechanical attitude developing intense and varied scientific interests. This is why his parents send him in a special program for gifted children where Jeff could nature his love about gadgets (Byers, 2006,).
When his family moved to Florida, he discovered his ‘great passion’, computers so he left his studies on Physics and got a degree on Computer science and electrical engineering (Sherman, 2001)
After his studies, Jeff Bezos started to work for Bankers Trust and at the age of 26 he became the youngest Vice President for the company (Byers, 2006).When he noticed in 1994 that internet usage was increasing by 2300% a year (Hamalainen & Saarinen, 2007) he started to plan his next step, Amazon.
He started Amazon in 1995 with 3 micro stations in his garage (Robinson, 2009) by selling books and today Amazon.com is one of the most preferable internet retail platform where customers can find Dvd’s, CD’s, MP3 downloads, Books and toys. According to Economist (2000) Amazon.com is the most visited internet retail platform in USA and one on top 3 in Germany, UK, France and Japan.
THE IMPACT OF AMAZON.COM
Amazon.com is today the largest electronic retail on world (Financial Times, December, 2011) and according to J. Bezos (Wired Magazine, December, 2011) Amazon is a cultural pioneer who lives to disrupt even its business. It is now recognized by 55% of conscious population and it is part of our today’s culture (Spector, 2002, p20). The company spends almost 40% of their incomes on brand building (Margolis, 1999) and that’s why Amazon.com is a trustable and a well-known brand name (Economist, 2000, Marketing, 1999). 70,000 people works today for Amazon and the company turns over 48 billion a year (The Telegraph, October, 2012).
Amazon.com launched in November of 2007 Kindle E-book reader (Clark D., Goodwin S., Samuelson) and as Bezos puts it “Millions of people owns now Kindles” (Information Week, 2010). According to Gonsalves (Information Week, 2010) Amazon sells 6 Kindles titles for every 10 hard books and this strategic move increased profits up to 71%.
Jeff Bezos vision about Amazon.com is to be the most customer-centric company in the world (Mellali-Johnson, 2000) and according to them the success key of the company is… innovation-innovation & innovation.
J.BEZOS APPROACH TO LEADING AMAZON AND HIS KEY FACTORS THAT HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO HIS PERFORMANCE.
He was named “Man of the year 1999” (Time Magazine, 1999) and “Business person of the year” (Fortune Magazine, 2012).
Jeff Bezos is a visionary entrepreneur leader (Dyer, Gregersen, Christensen, December, 2009). According to Moment (2004) the essential traits of an effective entrepreneur is to be singular focus, self-driven, ambitious, achievement oriented, imaginative, independent and versatile.
According to Quittner (1991) “Bezos, naturally enough is unmoved by the nay saying”. He asserts some instinctive characterics from other leaders that makes him resist. Can he be described as a “Great Man/ Great leader”?
As Huczyonki and Buchanan puts it (2007, p699) “Great man are born leaders and emerge to take power regardless regardless of social, organizational or historical context”
Other researches on trait theories tried to specify the traits of a great leader ()and found hundreds on them but according to Kilpatrick and Locke (1991) these are the typical leadership traits: drive to archive, motivation to lead, self-confidence, ability to withstand setbacks , honesty and integrity, standing firm, cognitive ability, knowledge of business, emotional resilient.
When Bezos decided to quit from the Wall Street Job, he had a strong feeling that his new business plan for an internet based retail platform would be his chance to move his ideas one step further (Academy of achievement interview, 2001).
According to Stogdill (1948, 1974) a great man is confident and he has a strong ego. A great man also has traits as honesty and integrity (Kilpatrick and Locke, 1991) and Jeff Bezos believe that one of the principal key of a leader is the courage “to tell the hard truth” (Butcher, Martin, Knaebel, M. Butcher, April, 2006)
His collaborators and people that spend lots of time working with him subscribes Bezos as “immensely likable man” (Eskenazi, 2005) signs that shows us his very good social skills and they are surprised by his brainpower and the way that he inspires and lead his subordinates (NY Times, 2005) (signs of his intelligence and his motivation to lead)
EXAMINE THE STYLE, APPROACH AND CONTENT OF THE LEADERSHIP DEMONSTRATED BY SPECIFIC EXAMPLES
Daft (2009) subscribes Bezos as a strong charismatic and also a visionary entrepreneur leader (Dyer, Gregersen, Christensen, December, 2009).
According to Sclooser and Todorovic (2006) there are communalities between entrepreneurs and charismatic leaders. Subordinates usually are attracted from the way that an entrepreneur charismatic leader shows his great passion on achieving goals, take risks, add value in the organization and how they control the business (Schlooser and Todorovic, 2006). According to Daft (2009) in organization like Amazon where growth increases and the leader (Bezos) provides his major goal for continued growth they are exited and fully committed.
Bezos has also a great ability to adapt to change and he believes that doing only things that you know they works you cannot explore other things and lose lots of opportunities (The business journals, May, 2008)
Amazon.com motto is “Work hard, have fun and write history”. According to Adair (1979) in order to increase the effectiveness of the group, leaders (managers) must find ways to cover three basic needs of their subordinates, Task needs (work hard), individual needs (have fun) and Team maintance needs (write history). This approach is called Action-Centred Leadership and is part of Functional Approach where attention is focused on the content of leadership and how the group of the subordinates is affected from the leaders behaviour.
Bezos is also an situational leader, when Amazon had 2,9 million dollars in loses he changed his strategy from “getting Amazon bigger and faster” to “look inside the house”(New York Times, 2005). Situational approach (Hessey and Blanchard, 1979) focuses in the situation where characterics of an effective leadership are depending on the situation.
Furthermore Bezos is a transformational leader. Researchers in leadership argue that visionary and charisma are some of the characterics of a transformational leader (Mullins, 2010). A transformational leader inspires and gives vision about the next day of the organization and knows how to connect the archivements of subordinate with the organization goal (Kark andShamir, 2002). Shares are distributed for bonuses to the subordinates in order to motivate Amazon subordinates to see the big picture and to feel their participation to the organization goal.
EVALUATE WHETHER JEFF BEZOS COULD HAVE BEEN AS EFFECTIVE IN A DIFFERENT CONTEXT OR ORGANIZATION, GIVING A CREDIBLE ARGUMENT FOR THIS SUPPORTED BY REFERENCED THEORY
Jeff Bezos has showed he can lead Amazon.com through change via his ability to make it the most costumer centric company in the world (Sherman, 2001). His visionary entrepreneur leadership style (Dyer, Gregersen, Christensen, December, 2009) allows the ability to fits in change (The business journals, May, 2008). His transformational leadership style (Burns, 1978) also indicates his charismatic way on leading his organization in different situations.
Also, Jeff Bezos and Amazon made their move launching the new Kindle Fire HD tablets (Spencer, 2012). Kindle Fire Hd is now one of the most hi tech tablet gadgets in the world and Apple’s IPad finally found a real competitor. According to Spencer (2012) Bezos and Amazon are planning another big surprise for their competitors: The new Kindle phone. These shows us that Bezos remains a real leader when the context of the company changes.
Jeffrey Bezos is an entrepreneur and like the others entrepreneurs he is known by starting his own business so it is unknown his ability to lead an established organization. It can be said that he could feel not comfortable leading companies that are out of his ‘area’ (computing & internet) but he also founded ”Blue Origin” a human spaceflight company (Boyle, 2006).
According to these transferable skills and his traits (charisma, creativity, energy-drive, strong ego, honesty and integrity, social sills) he could lead different context companies in different situations.
We have discovered that Jeff Bezos is a strong visionary and charismatic entrepreneur leader with traits of a great man. He is also a situational and transformational leader with a great ability to inspire his suborders who really admires his brainpower and his way of doing the right things. He can adapt to change and his transferable skills make him able to lead different organization by his own way.
Kark R, Shamir B (2002) The dual effect of transformational leadership:
Priming relational and collective selves and further effects on followers. In: Avolio BJ, Yammarino FJ (eds)
_Transformational and Charismatic Leadership: The Road Ahead_. Amsterdam: JAI Press,67-91.a
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