Management Essays

Order Description

The assessment is in report form:
-Provide a brief introduction;
-Provide major headings to guide the reader;
-Clearly identify the selected theory and leader;
-Include a reference list using references identified for this subject

Identify one person who you believe to be an effective leader (positive impact). The person selected may come from any sector or industry. For example the leader may come from the business sector, manufacturing, health, government, education, politics, sport, entertainment, etc. (Please exclude Steve Jobs)

The selected leader’s behavior, actions and achievements must be compared against either:
-Daniel Goleman’s theory of Emotional Intelligence (EI) (including the competencies & capabilities) as well as Goleman’s six EI Leadership Styles.
-James Kouzes & Barry Posner’s ‘Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership’

Examples of the leader’s behaviors, actions and achievements should be provided as evidence to support this leader’s selection.

The purpose of this assessment task is to encourage students to explore the concept of leadership and to develop individual insights into the topic through reflection, research and analysis. It is intended that students will be able to apply the concepts learnt in class to real life situations.

Answer

Title: LEADERSHIP

Contents

Introduction. 2

Overview of Amazon.com Inc. and Jeff Bezos’ Leadership Style. 2

Comparison of Bezos’ Behavior, Actions, and Achievements against the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. 4

Modeling the Way. 5

Inspiring a Shared Vision. 7

Challenging the Process. 7

Enabling Others to Act 8

Encouraging the Heart 8

Conclusion. 9

References. 10

 

Introduction

In today’s world, leadership is viewed as an important requirement for the success of companies. The world’s greatest corporations attribute their growth and profitability to visionary leadership (Kouzes & Posner, 2006). To contribute to this subject, different theories of leadership have been developed. Furthermore, efforts have been made to apply them in practical analyses of the leadership qualities exhibited by different industry captains and founders of highly profitable firms.

This report examines the leadership qualities of Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com Inc. Fortune.com ranks Amazon.com Inc. as the world’s second most admired company after Apple (Spector & Richardson, 2000).  The analysis of Bezos’ leadership qualities are analyzed using the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership outlined by Kouzes & Posner (2011). These five practices include modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging the heart.

Overview of Amazon.com Inc. and Jeff Bezos’ Leadership Style

Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com Inc., an online retailer, 20 years ago. The online company operates through two segments: the North American segment and the International segment. Customers gain access to the company’s services through retail websites, which provide information about  merchandize, content purchased from vendors for resale, as well as those supplied by third party sellers. Amazon.com has also established programs through which sellers use the company’s websites as well as their own branded websites to drive sales. These programs have enabled authors, app developers, filmmakers, musicians, and other content developers to publish and sell their content. Perhaps more importantly, Amazon is famous for providing an online platform through which independent publishers and authors can make their books accessible to consumers, known as Kindle Direct Publishing.

By building this company through the years to make it what it is today, Bezos emerged as both a visionary leader and a master builder. In 1994, Bezos founded Amazon.com and became the company’s chairman and president. The idea of starting the online retail store became of interest to Bezos because he was always interested in a business idea that could be revolutionized using computers (Brandt, 2011). The growth in internet use intrigued him, greatly influencing his decision to create a business model in which the efficiency of the internet in delivering information rapidly and in large quantities could be leveraged.

Today, the tremendous success of Amazon.com has catapulted Bezos to the position of a great leader. Many professionals particularly in the technology industry aspire to work for him while numerous prospective employees are still firmly drawn to his corporate vision. This situation continues to unfold despite Bezos being a highly demanding leader. People are attracted to his unique leadership qualities that have enabled him to establish himself as a global business leader.

Bezos is known to prioritize customer service and to demonstrate its importance through the so-called ‘empty-chair tradition”. During a meeting, Bezos brought an additional empty chair into the room to remind his lieutenants about the most important person in the company: the customer. Through this approach, he and his team always remains conscious of the effects of their decisions on customers. The tradition also guides the company in its performance evaluation, which is predominantly customer-related.

Bezos’ leadership style also emphasizes the freedom to state one’s opinions and to dispute other people’s. He insists that without such freedom, innovation cannot exist in a company. Paradoxically, this boldness makes Bezos’ landmark decisions memorable but can sometimes be viewed as his main weakness particularly when it borders on rebellion against social norms. He is known for making wild decisions, some of which seem impractical. For example, he recently launched a plan in which drones would be used to deliver packages to customers’ doorsteps.  Since founding Amazon.com, Bezos has insisted that he is willing to be misunderstood for a long time if that is the price to be paid for an invention to be born (Mellahi & Johnson, 2000).

Comparison of Bezos’ Behavior, Actions, and Achievements against the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership

Kouzes & Posner (2011) developed the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, which include modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging the heart. According to Kouzes & Posner (2011), these practices are not the reserve of a few people whose exemplary leadership qualities may have been discussed in literature; rather, they constitute a checklist that can be used by any individual who has accepted the leadership challenge. The practices are as relevant today as they were when investigations about their appropriateness began more than two decades ago (Kouzes & Posner, 2011). This provides sufficient justification for their use in examining Jeff Bezos’ behavior, actions, and achievements at Amazon.com. This section examines Bezos’ leadership style based on each of the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.

 

Modeling the Way

According to Kouzes & Posner (2011), leaders should always model the way. This means that they must be models of the actions and behaviors that they expect of their followers. Exemplary leaders never ask their employees to do anything that they were unwilling to do first. By being models for their followers, they easily gain commitment of their followers, thereby enabling them to achieve the highest levels of performance. When Bezos founded Amazon.com, he effectively passed the test of modeling the way. He outlined a vision that fell within the area of internet technology, which was of intense personal interest to him.

For a leader to model a certain behavior that he expects of others, he must stipulate appropriate guiding principles (Palmer et al, 2001). For Bezos, the most important principle is the freedom to oppose existing ideas and to promote one’s idea even if such an idea triggers opposition from society. In Bezos’ view, every employee should be willing to face resistance and opposition in order to come up with an invention. An integral part of this modeling process involves opening up one’s heart and letting everyone know what one’s views and beliefs really are.

Jeff Bezos has done a lot to express his views regarding his vision and beliefs to all his lieutenants. For instance, he believes that every corporate leader should base his strategy on things that will not change. He argues that regardless of the product one is selling, three factors that should always remain constant include lower prices; fast, reliable delivery; and wider selection. Bezos is also obsessed with the need to put customers in front of all other considerations. He exemplifies this belief through the empty-chair tradition. In some cases, the company leader even uses specially trained employees to play the role of surrogate customers.

Amazon.com has endeavored to be the sort of company that works more to charge less as opposed to one where customers are charged more. This approach has been adopted at Amazon because of Bezos’ insistence on the importance of holding down costs in order to pass the savings to consumers. To do this, Bezos knows that he must promote frugality as the most corporate value at his company. This corporate value is being promoted through a wide range of strategies, including purchase of cheap office furniture, modest revenue growth, and low stock market valuation.

The main reason why Bezos has succeeded at Amazon.com is because he has never minced his words regarding the importance of determining what customers need and working “backwards”. This means that he is opposed to products that are designed based on engineers’ tastes and preferences rather than customers’ needs. Bezos has constantly demonstrated his willingness to do away with powerful products and departments simply because of a product’s poor performance in the market. This principle has enabled the company to come up with revolutionary products such as e-book readers and Kindle tablets.

Amazon’s corporate culture has also contributed to the company’s growth. Bezos has modeled that culture quite effectively. He insists that his company’s culture is both friendly and intense; however, whenever a crisis looms, the company instinctively settles for an intense approach. To actualize this culture, Amazon.com relies primarily on head-to-head tests and analysis of metrics regarding customers’ reactions to various features, products, and website designs. Since information about customers’ reactions is always trickling into virtually every department on a weekly basis, the founder and his lieutenants hardly get any time for social cohesion, bonding, and friendly encounters.

Inspiring a Shared Vision

Every exemplary leader must imagine a highly attractive future of the company he heads. However, it is not enough to have such a vision; the leader must share with everyone in the organization. The leader must look for ways of making everyone understand that that he is capable of making extraordinary things happen. People cannot follow a leader until they recognize the vision as their own. Jeff Bezos continues to inspire existing and prospective employees because he inspires a shared vision. He seems to understand that a leader can inspire a vision but cannot command it.

Dulewicz & Higgs (2003) argue that for leaders to inspire a shared vision, they must bring on board people whom they interact with freely at both personal and professional levels. Whereas Bezos finds little time to sooth workers, he performs fairly well in communicating with them from a professional perspective. His approach may be intense but it nonetheless enables him to win the hearts of followers who subscribe to his philosophy of perfectionism. By embracing the personal side of work relationships, Jeff Bezos can overcome his weaknesses and become an even greater business leader.

Challenging the Process

Jeff Bezos has performed excellently well by challenging the retail process as people traditionally understand it. People all over the world had traditionally become used to the idea of brick-and-mortal retail stores. With the advent of the internet, Bezos saw an opportunity to drive consumers into a new platform, the online medium. This is the essence of exemplary leadership; an effective leader is one who ventures out.

Alimo-Metcalfe & Alban-Metcalfe (2005) state that whereas luck may play a role in leadership success, greatness can never smile upon leaders who are unwilling to accept challenge. If Bezos did not rise to the occasion to identify  and exploit an opportunity that came with increased use of the internet, another business leader would have identified and exploited it in due course. At that opportune moment, all it took Bezos was the ability to confront traditional ideas using radical views to come up with an innovative company.

Enabling Others to Act

Leaders tend to face a major challenge in their efforts to enable their followers to exploit their potential maximally without veering off the company’s overall course. According to Kouzes & Posner (2011), effective leaders can solve this problem by taking two measures. The first one is fostering collaboration through cooperative goals and trust-building efforts; he second one is strengthening followers through power-sharing (Kouzes & Posner, 2011).

Bezos has performed exemplarily well in the pursuit of collaboration through cooperative goals as well as power-sharing (Robinson, 2009). He has emerged as an ardent supporter of the old approach to corporate leadership, where leaders spend 30 percent of their time building great products and 70 percent of their time shouting about these products (Robinson, 2009). The main problem with this approach, for an opponent of socially-cohesive approaches such as Jeff Bezos, is that it may lead to neglect of intra-organizational bonding and trust-building efforts. For example, in many cases, Bezos emphasizes empathy for customers at the expense of the emotional needs of his employees.

Encouraging the Heart

All people in an organization need to be encouraged to contribute to personal, professional, and organizational success. Everyone encounters a moment of self-doubt at some point because of exhaustion and frustration (Reicher, Haslam & Hopkins, 2005). Leaders must show their followers that they genuinely care about their challenges. The ability to demonstrate a caring attitude calls for a certain level of creativity and emotional intelligence on the part of the leader.

Bezos seems to have scored poorly in this area because he emphasizes organizational growth at the expense of personal and professional growth. For example, he has demonstrated his willingness to scrap entire departments because a product that was designed in it performed poorly in the market. Such a move not only demoralizes the engineers involved but also potentially contradicts his stated belief in rejection as the price one must be willing to pay to come up with an innovative idea. To encourage the hearts of his followers, Bezos must be willing to compromise organizational growth if only to strike a balance with personal and professional growth.

Conclusion

The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership as outlined by Kouzes & Posner (2011) provide valuable insights for the comparison of the behavior, actions, and achievements of various business leaders. Through this analysis, it is possible to identify different leadership styles as well as leaders’ personality traits in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. This paper has examined the actions and achievements of Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Inc.’s founder, through the lens of each of the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.

The analysis made in this shows that Bezos is a visionary leader who was able to see what many business leaders of his time never saw: the potential for the internet to revolutionize the retail business. The analysis also exposes his main weakness – the tendency to oppose the conventional view of society. Because of this weakness, Bezos is always promoting the need to emphasize with customers’ demands, even at the expense of activities that can build intra-organizational cohesion such as building close friendships with employees.

 

References

Alimo-Metcalfe, B & Alban-Metcalfe, J 2005, ‘Leadership: Time for a New Direction?’ Leadership, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 51-71.

Brandt, R 2011, One click: Jeff Bezos and the rise of Amazon.com, Penguin, Boston.

Dulewicz, V & Higgs, M 2003, ‘Leadership at the top: The need for emotional intelligence in organizations’, The International Journal of Organizational Analysis, vol. 11, no.3, pp. 193 – 210.

Kouzes, J & Posner, B 2006, The leadership challenge, John Wiley & Sons, San Francisco.

Kouzes, J & Posner, B 2011, ‘Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, Second Edition, Pfeiffer, San Francisco.

Mellahi, K & Johnson, M 2000, ‘Does it pay to be a first mover in e-commerce? The case of Amazon.com’, Management Decision, vol. 38, no. 7, pp. 445 – 452.

Palmer, B, Walls, M, Burgess, Z & Stough, C 2001, ‘Emotional intelligence and effective leadership’, Leadership & Organization Development Journal, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 5 – 10.

Reicher, S, Haslam, A Hopkins, N 2005, ‘Social identity and the dynamics of leadership: Leaders and followers as collaborative agents in the transformation of social reality’ The Leadership Quarterly, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 547–568.

Robinson, T 2009, Jeff Bezos: Amazon.com architect, ABDO Publishing Company, Edina.

Spector, R & Richardson, J 2000, Amazon.com: Get big fast, Harper-Business, New York.

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