Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: Criticism is part of being a leader

Alyssa Rege - Print  | 

After much criticism, Amazon revealed a plan this week to raise the minimum wage of all U.S. employees to $15, effective in November. While difficult, founder, CEO and chairman Jeff Bezos said the criticism he received prior to the decision is just what comes with being a leader, CNBC reports.

In an Oct. 2 speech organized by the Washington, D.C., nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, Mr. Bezos spoke about some of the trials he's faced as the head of Amazon and how he approaches criticism.

"If you're going to do anything new or different in the world, it is going to be misunderstood, sometimes by well-meaning critics, sometimes by self-interested critics. It's okay, it's all part of the process," he said.

Mr. Bezos said it's important for leaders to develop a response framework for similar situations. He said for him, that means listening to criticism analytically to determine if something about his business really needs to change.

"You listen, you ask are [the critics] right, or even if they're not completely right, is there some piece of [their criticism] that's right that you can be inspired by. If you decide that your critics, that there is something, then you should change. If you decide, by the way, that the answer is no ... then no force in the world should be able to move you," he said.

Mr. Bezos said his framework for criticism is a process that formed back in Amazon's early days. The retailer had just begun experimenting with posting negative book reviews when Mr. Bezos received a letter from a book publisher saying the company had misunderstood the business and that displaying negative reviews would reduce sales.

Mr. Bezos said he thought critically about the publisher's advice, but ultimately decided the individual had misunderstood Amazon's business goals.

"I thought, 'No, he's wrong.' We don't make money when we sell things; we make money when we help people make purchase decisions," he said. "It was a different framing."

In terms of the employee wage issue, Mr. Bezos said he tried to understand the criticism in light of the pay disparity at most organizations between executives and employees.

"You can offer competitive compensation or you can decide to lead," he noted. "As soon as we framed it that way, we're like, 'Let's decide to lead,' and I think people will follow."

To access the full report, click here.

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