Introduction to the Profile
Leadership is described by classical theorists as an instrument that enables organisations to realise a set of organisational goals (de Ver 2009). An effective leader is one who can motivate, inspire, and influence employees to contribute positively towards the realisation of an organization’s success and effectiveness. Different leaders employ different leadership styles. Moreover, each leader possesses different leadership personality behaviours or traits that define his or her leadership style. Jeff Bezos is the C.E.O and founder of the Amazon.com, the largest e-commerce company. As a pioneer in e-commerce, the company started selling books online but expanded to include the sale of electronics and other products (Spiro 2009). Bezos is described as a visionary leader who embraces innovation, enthusiasm, confidence, and the ability to inspire other people (Daft, Kendrick & Vershinina 2010). Through his leadership and management styles, Bezos has managed to transform an internet company from scratch to become the largest online retailer in the 21st century (Spiro 2009). The report is an attempt to develop a profile on Jeff Bezos, the C.E.O Amazon.com. The profile examines the background, working practices and leadership approach against established leadership theory. The report is based on a reflective analysis on why Jeff Bezos is successful in his leadership role. In addition, the report also refers to the application of leadership theories in the business context, personality traits and charisma, conflict management, team work, skills and leadership style.
Brief, General Background of Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos was born in 1964 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1986, Bezos graduated with honours in electrical engineering and computer science from Princeton University. The Princeton graduate worked on Wall Street but he quit his prestigious and lucrative career to start his new company from the garage of his house (Drexler 2007). Bezos was driven by internet potential and capitalised on the new revolution of the internet. In 1995 with the help of family members and friends, Bezos launched Amazon.com. The name Amazon was derived from Amazon River, which is the largest river in the world found in South America, to mean ‘big’. At its inception, Amazon.com operated as an online book retailer that offered books at lowered prices thus attracting a large market share of book readers. Within a period of one month, the firm had presence in more than 50 countries (Drexler 2007). Although the company faced financial and market challenges, Amazon.com became a multibillion-dollar corporation towards the end of 1999 (Drexler 2007).
Through his innovative and visionary leadership, Jeff Bezos changed shopping platform by expanding online books retail to include other consumer goods such as laptops, mobile phones, groceries, and other electronics ((Daft 2008; Daft, Kendrick & Vershinina 2010). In addition, he became a role model to emerging generations of e-commerce investors around the globe. Bezos is a visionary and inspirational leader who has charisma, the energy to inspire, enthusiasm, and with innate confidence (Daft et al. 2010). Amazon.com gives consumers the lowest prices, the best selection, and the cheapest delivery. According to Daft (2009), Bezos other than being a charismatic leader, provides goals and direction of the organization. Because of his leadership styles and skills, Jeff Bezos was named the Time magazine’s person of the year in 1999 (Drexler 2007), and the 2010 Puget Sound Business Journal’s (PSBJ) executive of the year (Engleman 2011). Bezos has been steering his company against well established companies such as Barnes and Noble Inc. As the current C.E.O, chairman, and founder of Amazon.com Inc, Jeff Bezos has emerged as a self-made billionaire and an internet marketing guru.
Critical Application of Theories of Leadership(3)
There are different leadership theories that are used in contemporary organisations. These leadership styles include trait theories, behavioral theories, contingency theories, and influence and power theories. Trait theories are based on personality characteristics which are believed to make an effective leader (Alkahtani, Abu-Jarad, Sulaiman &Nikbin 2011). Contingency theories explore how situations influence leadership style of a leader. The major contingency theories are the the Hersey-Blanchard situational leadership theory , Fiedler's contingency model, and House's Path-Goal theory. On the other hand, behavioral theories include autocratic leadership, democratic leadership, laissez-faire leadership, inspirational, and charismatic leadership styles (Bass & Bass 2009).
Hersey-Blanchard situational leadership is composed of relationship behaviour and task behaviour (Fiore 2004). Under relationship behaviour, a leader engages employees in a two-way communication. This is the case in Amazon.com where Jeff Bezos engages his subordinates although he gives all the directions. Based on the four quadrant model, a leader can direct, coach, support, and delegate leadership. Drawing from the leadership of Bezos, the leader gives directions; delegates’ power to subordinates, supports employees, and employs coaching skills to others (Fairholm & Fairholm 2009; Bolden, Gosling, Marturano, & Dennison 2003). For example, Bezos inspires colleagues and supports them to deliver their best. In participating, the leader share ideas, encourage participation, and facilitates the process of decision making (Bolden et al. 2003). Weekly meetings are carried in Amazon.com where new ideas are encouraged through brainstorming and presentations. Although delegating is allowed, Bezos goes contrary to the expectation of this style. In other words, Bezos does not allow his followers to make most decisions and their implementations. Based on this form of contingency theory, it can be concluded that Jeff Bezos is more of task-oriented than relationship-oriented leader.
Trait leadership is based on the belief that leaders are born and not made. This approach relies on personal characteristics of both successful and unsuccessful leaders to determine leadership effectiveness. It draws different attempts such as psychological, demographic, personality, intelligence, task-related, and social characteristics (Bolden et al. 2003). Traits model of leadership is based on personality behaviours such as residence, determination, and innovativeness, confidence, and integrity, readiness to undertake risk and uncertain ventures, and adaptability (Connell, Cross & Parry 2005). All these traits have been exhibited by the leadership and management style employed by Jeff Bezos. His tenacity and determination reflect an effective leader who has the power and the vision to take risks and explore murky waters. Bezos has been described as innovative and visionary leader (Daft 2009). Through his passion, vision, and enthusiasm, he transformed his small online book retail to be a multi-billion company which is the largest online retailer operator in the world (Drexler 2007). Traits leadership is majorly adopted when defining the qualities that make an effective leader.
The major focus of behaviour leadership focus is on how leaders behave while making organisation’s decisions. These theories see leadership as labelled styles, and patterns of leadership that are adapted to define the way in which effective leaders apply their influence on the behaviour of their followers (Thomson & Baden-Fuller 2010). As earlier indicated, behavioural leadership theories are comprised of autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire leadership styles. The main extremes of these styles are democratic and autocratic. Democratic leadership allows a leader to incorporate his/her followers in the decision making process while in autocratic leadership, the leader makes the final decisions and directives which are unquestionable by subordinates. Some elements of behavioural leadership are indicative in Amazon.com. Under behavioural theory, a leader could be people-oriented and task oriented which are necessary in accounting for effective leadership (Lussier & Achua 2010). Thomson and Baden-Fuller (2010) observe that there exists no ideal type of leadership approach and any effective leader combines the style, traits, and situational variables.
Reflective Analysis On Indivisual Leadership Qualities & Approach
Leadership has continued to play an integral role in realising organisational goals and team effectiveness. Depending on the type of leadership qualities and approach applied, a leader can define the level of creativity and transformation in an organisation. Leaders’ approach and leadership qualities have influence on the behaviour of a given workplace (Burrell & Nikoi 2008). The co-existence of an organisation like Amazon.com Inc. depends on the individual leadership qualities and the leadership approach applied.
Jeff Bezos has been a successful leader and a venture capitalist in the internet retail business. To begin with, as an innovative leader, Bezos has transformed online retail and the idea of commerce by making online shopping more reliable for consumers from all walks of life (Williams 2012). In addition, he is intelligent, and poses some of the leadership traits such as motivating others, goal-oriented, and endowed with personality traits. He is also task-oriented and can carry out leadership based on the situation at hand. Bezos is determined and innovative, confident, and has integrity and a risk taker. For instance, he founded his company when large competitors such as Barnes and Noble Inc. were still operating in the industry. In addition, he quit his job in Wall Street to start a business from his two bedroom apartment. Despite all odds and challenges, Bezos has emerged as a successful leader and an entrepreneur. In addition, he has been inspirational not only to his employees but to students and other people in the business fraternity (Goethals, Burns, & Sorenson 2004).
Bezos is a visionary and a charismatic leader (Andriopoulos & Dawson 2009; Daft 2008; Harrison & John 2010). As a charismatic leader, Bezos has the “ability to inspire employees toward the vision of a global high performing company” (Mills, Mills, Bratton & Forshaw 2007, p. 485). This implies that his leadership skills and styles are geared towards the inspiration of others so as to accomplish the organisation goals in the long run. For example, through his leadership, he has transformed Amazon.com from an online book store and expanded to incorporate an array of diverse goods such as groceries and scientific goods. He has also invented Kindle which is a form of an iPod used for reading books. All these achievement can be realised by a competitive, visionary, collaborative, inspirational, and a transformational leader who embraces the concept of teamwork (Burrell & Nikoi 2008). The current business climate requires leaders who can instil faith in their leadership so as to win unequivocal follower trust necessary to counter high levels of uncertainty and ambiguity (Scully (2008). Bezos is such kind of a leader who has been described by Maccoby (2004) as a narcissistic leader. Narcissistic leaders like Jeff Bezos have huge followers, great vision, sensitive to criticism, and results-oriented.
To ensure continued growth of Amazon.com, Bezos provides the goals and direction for the organisation (Daft 2009). As indicated in organisational development cycles, formalisation is important and it requires delegation of duties and authorities by top management. However, Jeff Bezos according to Daft (2009) “is having trouble managing the transition because he doesn’t want to give up personal control” (p. 344). Despite this drawback in his leadership approach, Bezos leadership has been painted as complex (Engleman 2011). He is highly focused conventional thinker who is egalitarian and approachable leader. The management style employed by Bezos on Amazon.com is exceptional. As a leader, he aligns the organisation’s corporate culture with its strategic plan of being the best e-commerce retail company. His leadership and management skills have assisted in conflict management within the organisation. For instance, he allows junior employees to make their arguments and delegate leadership to junior staff. In addition, two-way communication is employed which a major characteristic is of Hersey-Blanchard situational leadership (Fiore 2004).
Qualitative Analysis Of "Effectiveness as a Leader"
Effective leaders are endowed with certain personality traits and behaviours. Different theories contribute to understanding the effectiveness of a leader (Andriopoulos & Dawson 2009). As noted by Derue, Nahrgang, Wellman & Humphrey (2011), “leadership effectiveness criteria can be conceptualised along three dimensions: (a) content, (b) level of analysis, and (c) target of evaluation” (p.9). The implication made is that effectiveness of leadership can relate to his/her performance, the level of leadership conceptualisation, and the level of satisfaction as a leader. In their qualitative analysis of leadership effectiveness, Murphy and Ensher (2008), found that effective leaders are charismatic and often take part in unconventional behaviours. This finding is reflected in the leadership skills of Jeff Bezos which makes him an effective leader. As an effective leader, he has forged a niche in the technology and entrepreneur world where is categorised with the likes of Steve Jobs, Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell, among others. The effectiveness of a leader is pegged on his level of competencies (Bolden & Gosling 2006). Based on this view, it can be noted that Bezos through his leadership competencies has emerged as an effective leader.
A major component of an effective leader according to Sagie, Zaidman, Amichai-Hamburger, Te’eni, and Schwartz (2002) is directiveness. With reference to Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos is a directive leader who is approachable, supportive, attentive, and egalitarian (Engleman 2011). A former employee of the company describes Bezos as a conventional leader, a motivator, inspirational, and visionary leader (Engleman 2011). The use of appropriate leadership style and create a followership makes a leader effective (Northouse 2010). Just as noted by Palestini (2008), Bezos can adapt different environments and portray effective leadership skills such as integrity, respect, transparency, vulnerability, and development. For example, during the recession, he was able to steer the company towards success while other companies were trying hard to adjust to its shaky aftermath (Engleman 2011). In addition, Bezos has created and retained effective teams of followers by adopting effective interpersonal and organisational communication skills. Situational leadership is adopted by effective leaders to direct decision making process through the initiation of problem –oriented dialogues, eliciting employee suggestions and ideas, requiring solutions, and ensuring that employees get feedback (Sage et al. 2002). These form of approach is reflected in the way Jeff Bezos runs Amazon.com which makes him an effective leader (Soper 2012).
Conclusion Of The profile
This report has explored the leadership style used by Jeff Bezos the founder, CEO and chairman of Amazon.com Inc. Jeff Bezos is a visionary leader who embraces innovation, enthusiasm, confidence, and the ability to inspire others. In addition, he is innovative, conventional, egalitarian, and approachable. As successful leader, his leadership style has been recognised and as a result named as the Time Magazine’s person of the year in 1999 and Puget Sound Business Journal’s (PSBJ) executive of the year in 2010. Through his passion, vision, and enthusiasm, he has emerged as the largest online retailer in the world. His tenacity and determination are a reflection of an effective leader. His leadership style can be summed up as charismatic, visionary, inspirational, collaborative, competitive, and transformational. However, most directions and goals are given by Bezos which make his leadership style more directional and less of a delegation style. Therefore, the art of delegation is less practised in amazon.com because he does not like sharing the company’s control. Bezos is an effective leader who can adapt different environments and portray effective leadership skills such as integrity, respect, transparency, vulnerability, and development. Lastly, he has created a niche for himself and used his leadership and management skills and competencies to convert his business to a multi-billion empire which makes him an effective leader.
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