A Critique of the Amazon Leadership Principles, Part 5

Dennis Consorte
8 min readOct 16, 2021
Leaders have strength and fortitude. Source: Pixabay

In Part 1 of my Critique of the Amazon Leadership Principles, I covered the first two principles of Amazon’s guiding documentation: Customer Obsession; and Ownership. In Part 2, I went over three more principles: Invent and Simplify; Are Right, A Lot; and Learn and Be Curious. In Part 3, I covered these three principles: Hire and Develop the Best; Insist on the Highest Standards; and Think Big. In Part 4, I reviewed these principles: Bias for Action; Frugality; and Earn Trust. In this article, I will review these principles:

  • Dive Deep
  • Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
  • Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer
  • Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility

Each section begins with a quote from the original document, followed by my critique. This is a work-in-progress and I acknowledge that my critique is subject to… critique. This is Medium, so please feel free to highlight those sections with which you agree or disagree, and leave your comments.

Dive Deep

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.

I agree with all of this, except that at an organization the size of Amazon, a leader shouldn’t spend the majority of their time buried in the details. They should know how to delegate responsibility to other team members to conduct the audits. The exception would be when there is an opportunity for a teaching moment, either in humility, or in the transfer of skills.

At smaller businesses, you should also delegate whenever possible. But, there will be more opportunities to engage in tasks that are better-suited for your team. At a start-up, where you have to wear many hats, you will need to do more hands-on work while driving the vision of your company. And, you’ll want to lead by example. Show your workers that you’ll never ask anything of them that you wouldn’t do yourself, and you’ll earn their respect. If you’re finding that your team needs a lesson in humility, then take out the trash once per week. I mean it. Roll up your sleeves, visit everyone’s desk and empty their wastebasket into a bin. Then take it outside.