The challenge of succeeding Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

by | Feb 4, 2021 | News

Cirrus CEO Dr Simon Hayward talks to BBC World News

Jeff Bezos has announced he is standing down as CEO of Amazon. Andy Jassy will take over the role in summer 2021 and Bezos will become executive chair. Taking over from a high-profile CEO is always challenging. Bezos founded Amazon in 1995 and his style and beliefs are inextricably linked with the powerful Amazon brand.

Simon shares his view on the task in front of Jassy in taking over the reigns from Bezos. “Recognising Jeff Bezos is intrinsic to the DNA of Amazon but also wanting to build on that and bring in a more collaboration, sense of profitability and scale.”

Cirrus CEO and renowned leadership expert Dr Simon Hayward appeared on BBC World News to talk about the challenges ahead for Jassy and Amazon.

Jassy joined Amazon in 1997 and founded Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2003. The cloud platform is used by millions of companies, schools, and governments to run websites and apps. It is a classic example of market disruption from Amazon, challenging legacy players such as Oracle and Microsoft. It boasts a dominant 30% share of the cloud computing market.

Bezos has communicated to all employees that he has ‘full confidence’ in Jassy and believes he will be an ‘outstanding leader’.

The departure of a high-profile CEO can leave a void which is difficult to fill. When Tim Cook took over from Steve Jobs at Apple, many were concerned that Cook could never lead the company as successfully as Jobs had. Cook acknowledged that Jobs DNA ‘will always be the foundation of Apple’ and built on Jobs’ legacy, proving to be less of a ‘hero’ leader and more of a collaborative leader, subsequently growing Apple to be the world’s most valuable publicly traded company.

Part of being a successful leader is developing the leadership capability of others – nurturing talent across the organisation and encouraging others to step up and drive growth and performance improvement.

In the interview, Simon states that “Succession is a long-term game. It’s about developing the executives for the future throughout the leadership pipeline in the business. Clearly Amazon has done this well…”

“…It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time to nurture that talent, to give them the range of experiences and give them the opportunities to prove themselves. I think Jessy has benefited from this enormously.”

Although most organisations understand the importance of developing a rich leadership pipeline, many could do more to offer challenging experiences that take future leaders out of their comfort zones so that they develop new, more innovative ways of working. 

Jeff Bezos has been completely open about his succession plan and announced this on the back of exceptionally successful trading. This is reassuring for colleagues, customers and stakeholders. It builds confidence and removes uncertainty, which ultimately can help avert dips in share price or lapses in loyalty.

Discover more about leadership development at Cirrus.

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