In the age of technology that is continuously developing, one can’t help but wonder how billion-dollar companies formed and who took the courage to start from scratch and build up. Such courageous actions require significant determination, and that is the trait Jeff Bezos, the founder, and CEO of Amazon.com, had. As I psychology major, I wondered what drove Bezos to be so determined in his life that caused him to succeed so profoundly. Determination requires a leader to be able to persevere in the face of obstacles (Northouse, 2016). From ages four to 16, during the summers, Bezos got the opportunity to observe his grandfather, who was a civil servant and rancher that displayed self-reliance and was very resourceful (Bezos, 2020). Bezos noticed that his grandfather tackled any problem faced even if some seemed unsolvable. I believe this is the life-changing period for Bezos because, despite so many failures, Bezos always found a way to get back up and try again. He learned very well from his grandfather that every setback is a chance to try again (Bezos, 2020).
The trait approach to leadership believes that leaders are born rather than made (Northouse, 2016). In the case of Jeff Bezos, throughout the journey of the expansion of Amazon.com, we see him tackle failures as opportunities to do better. But what traits held him up so strong? In a study done by Judge et al., there appeared to be a strong relationship between the Big Five traits of the Five-Factor Personality Model and leadership. In order of importance, extraversion is the number one factor associated with effective leadership, followed by conscientiousness, openness, low neuroticism, and agreeableness (Judge et al., 2002). Jeff Bezos positively demonstrates some of these factors while other factors portray him as a leader that can be demanding.
When you google Jeff Bezos, you immediately can notice several media outlets that reference his passion and vision for change. As an active entrepreneur, he exhibits the extraversion factor of the Five-Factor Model of personality by being competitive, impactful, and self-confident. Bezos values his customer’s opinions greatly, which makes him always on the lookout for negative customer reviews. His style of work ethic reminds us of the conscientiousness factor, which shows his organized nature, controlling views, thoroughness, and decisiveness. Bezos’s eye for detail has been a significant factor in portraying him as a demanding boss. For instance, he developed a system on Amazon that tracks each associate’s productivity and automatically issued terminations due to quality and productivity without the checkup of supervisors (Lecher, 2019). Imagine your performance being monitored by robots. So, leaders who are perfectionists have incredibly high standards and are inflexible when it comes to mistakes (PSU WC, 2016, L.2).
Yet, on the other hand, Jeff Bezos portrayed the factor of openness or intellectance by continually looking for new opportunities from the growing consumer and supplier data Amazon collects. Taking the customer reviews into consideration, Bezos is known for standing strong against failures. Back in 2014, Bezos lost $170 million when the Fire smartphone failed. He even stated in an interview, “I believe we are the best place in the world to fail.” Inventing new things require trial and error eventually. There is no guarantee that every innovative idea will lead to a multi-millionaire deal. So by embracing failure, Bezos exhibits the neuroticism factor because he can stay emotionally stable.
The last factor of the Five-Factor Model of personality is the one Jeff Bezos seems to exhibit the least due to his narcissistic nature. He knows among his employees has someone who is never content with the company’s accomplishments. While striving to seek out new opportunities, Bezos can easily kick out anyone that slows down the process. I can tell he would score low in agreeableness because he lacks empathy for his workers and is not friendly when work is his main priority. In an interview conducted by the New York Times, a worker described Amazon as the greatest place they hated to work. It makes me realize that the only empathy Amazon has as a company is only towards its customers because only their views matter the most when a change needs to happen.
If we put together all the factors, it is pretty clear that Jeff Bezos would only score well in extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness. Because he possesses a narcissistic personality, he lacks the agreeableness factor making him a problematic leader to deal with within the workplace. Despite the difficulty of working with him, from the outside, he sounds inspiring because he never gave up after losing millions of dollars with every failed invention.
Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. 7th Edition. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Lecher, C. (2019, April 25). How Amazon automatically tracks and fires warehouse workers for ‘productivity.’ Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/25/18516004/amazon-warehouse-fulfillment-centers-productivity-firing-terminations
Bezos, J. P. (2020, July 28). Statement by Jeff Bezos to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary. Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://blog.aboutamazon.com/policy/statement-by-jeff-bezos-to-the-u-s-house-committee-on-the-judiciary
Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2016). Psych 485 Lesson 2: Five-Factor Model (FFM) of Personality. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2075467/modules/items/30110372
Kantor, J. (2015, August 18). Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0
Krantz, M. (2020, February 18). Jeff Bezos Boldly Fails So Amazon Can Thrive. Retrieved from https://www.investors.com/news/management/leaders-and-success/jeff-bezos-big-mistakes-made-rich/