As the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos’ net worth is larger than some countries’ GDPs—combined.
But what does the Amazon founder and CEO view as the top sign of intelligence? It’s not money or prestige—it’s the ability to admit when you are wrong.
Emotional intelligence is the foundation of Bezos’ strong leadership and one of the reasons he and his company are so successful. He leads in a way that recognizes and celebrates the softer sides of business and puts him in charge of his emotions. Emotional intelligence or as I like to call it in my book, the skill of Yoda, is one of the most important skills that a leaders can possess.
Here are three of the many ways Jeff Bezos demonstrates emotional intelligence:
1. He acknowledges challenges. Leaders are humans, not robots. They have emotions and understand that their employees have emotions as well. Instead of glossing over challenges, Bezos acknowledges them and their impact on his employees. One recent example came from his announcement of Amazon’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. He began by acknowledging, “These aren’t normal circumstances.” Acknowledging difficulties opens leaders up to empathy and making real, authentic connections with their teams. Successful companies aren’t immune to trials, but glossing over challenges can force leaders and employees to hide their emotions.
2. He is even-keeled. As CEO of one of the largest companies in the world, Bezos faces constant scrutiny, both in his personal and professional life. It’s a trend that many CEOs believe will continue to grow for future leaders. Bill Rogers, CEO of SunTrust Banks, told me this: “Leadership will be a much more public endeavor than it has been in the past.” Bezos is a true example of this. But even with massive amounts of criticism and public scrutiny, Bezos stays steady. He doesn’t get riled up or fight back at critics. He keeps his emotions in check to stay professional and courteous. That doesn’t mean he can’t be bold and passionate, but he does it in a way that protects himself and his company. When claims of Amazon’s allegedly callous workplace practices topped the news, Bezos didn’t fire back. Instead, he defended Amazon’s culture and encouraged employees who had faced issues to contact HR or email him directly. His direct response showed his passion without taking away from the seriousness of the issue.
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3. He surrounds himself with smarter people. A cornerstone of emotional intelligence is self-awareness or knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. Bezos realizes he doesn’t have the answers to every problem, so he intentionally builds teams with people who are smarter or more experienced than him. That self-awareness and humility allow him to follow his own advice and admit when he doesn’t know the answer. Bezos changes his mind as he learns new information. Being self-aware allows him to build strong, collaborative teams and create a culture of growth within Amazon as employees work to acknowledge their weaknesses and make improvements.
Jeff Bezos is living proof that leaders don’t rise to the top simply by understanding numbers and making money. They also must understand people and their own emotions. Practicing emotional intelligence is vital for today’s leaders and especially the leaders of tomorrow. If you want to take on Amazon, you’ve got to have emotional intelligence that takes on Jeff Bezos.
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