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Amazon Is America’s CEO Factory

Its executives are spreading the giant’s scrappy mentality throughout the economy—and leaving


The Wall Street Journal | November 20, 2019


The Wall Street Journal article, “Amazon Is America’s CEO Factory," quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Nada Usina on why future CEOs leave Amazon. The article is excerpted below.

Latchel Inc. is a 3-year-old, 20-person startup in Seattle that sells home-maintenance services. It has something in common with its enormous neighbor Amazon.com Inc., AMZN 0.50% specifically, 14 leadership principles, many of which are identical.

That’s not a coincidence. Will Gordon, a Latchel co-founder, worked for the e-commerce giant for nearly three years. And like many former Amazon executives, Mr. Gordon took with him its management style—including principles such as “customer obsession” and “bias for action”—when he left a few years ago. He’s part of the diaspora of Amazon alumni spreading the business gospel of Jeff Bezos across the corporate world.

For decades, General Electric Co. was America’s breeding ground for corporate chiefs. Executives who rose through the conglomerate’s ranks in its heyday and passed through its rigorous management program went on to run behemoths such as Home Depot Inc. and 3M Co.

In the Big Tech era, Amazon has become the incubator for CEOs and entrepreneurs. At the core of Amazon’s ethos is a scrappy startup mentality that encourages employees to constantly innovate and challenge the way things are typically done.

...

The company Mr. Bezos founded in his garage 25 years ago has also spawned a legion of startup founders, who run or have run companies as varied as content-streaming site Hulu, e-commerce platform Verishop Inc., cannabis hub Leafly Holdings, Inc., and trucking-software maker Convoy, Inc. And when directors of troubled property-leasing startup We Co. ousted their leader, they tapped an ex-Amazon executive as co-CEO to try to stabilize the situation.

...

Some Amazon executives go elsewhere because they perceive a ceiling at the upper end of its ranks, says Nada Usina, co-leader of executive recruiting firm Russell Reynolds Associates’s global technology practice. That’s because Amazon’s top leaders tend to be long tenured. Mr. Wilke, 52, just hit his 20th anniversary. Amazon Web Services chief Andy Jassy has been at Amazon for more than 22 years. The S-team, with 18 high-ranking executives, rarely has openings.

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Amazon Is America’s CEO Factory