In a competitive and ever-changing world, companies need more from their employees than ever. Leaders like Jeff Bezos of Amazon have put a relentless focus on culture -- because it pays off. Bezos is now the richest person in the world, and Amazon is one of the strongest forces in all of retail. The drive to act like a startup, not a traditional corporation, is one overarching principle of Amazon's success. Startups are keen to focus on constant and continuous growth. Culture is the cornerstone of the company and the development of employees.
To create the kind of culture that innovates and grows with intention, you must understand the new era of leadership as Bezos has. Here are three principles of this new era that will make you a better leader.
You Can't Pay For Loyalty
Imagine walking into an organization where you know most people are there for a paycheck, and they aren't committed to the mission of the organization. You can't pay employees to be loyal. They have to "want" to be there to truly take care of the business and grow it.
A different perspective on leadership is one that makes people feel like they are growing and contributing to the company. Shannon Graham stated "What if you could walk into your organization and know everyone was there because they wanted to be?" Graham is the author of Expand: Leadership that Moves, Fulfills and Changes the World. In his book, Graham shares unique perspectives of the future of leadership. It is all about expanding the capacity to lead others.
In 2009, Amazon bought shoe retailer Zappos for $1.2 billion. Bezos did it because he wanted to understand the Zappos' culture. In the purchase documents, the Zappos' culture would be kept unchanged and operated separately from Amazon. Bezo's began adopting the Zappos' "pay to quit" model, which allows unhappy employees to leave with payment up to one month's salary. This, among other practices, has had visible effects with Amazon's and Zappos' employees. It is the opposite of what most leaders would do, and this is why it is important to understand.
You can't pay people to be loyal, but you can invest in them, so they want to be there.
Leadership Transformation is Not Enough
Evolved leaders are quick to invest time and money into their own transformations. They attend leadership retreats, have regular coaching sessions and read dozens of books per year to keep up with their own evolution. These investments pay off as they shift into intentional leaders. However, this is not enough anymore.
When you want to create a growth-oriented culture, you must put intention on the transformation of your people. Leaders who are investing in the transformation of their people are getting a stronger culture as a benefit. This means they are bringing in outsiders to help people through the roadblocks and blind spots of personal growth.
Graham said, "An expanded leadership culture is one where the employees feel valued, celebrated and encouraged to grow." In my work with fast-growth companies, leadership that has an understanding of the people's fears and their insecurities is more likely to create an environment of growth. When you ignore the people's needs, you miss an opportunity for deep levels of trust.
Core Identity, Not Accomplishment, Drives Behavior
A change in actions comes from a change in behaviors. This is true for leaders, cultures and everyone within the organization. These behaviors come from something deep inside each of us. It is our "identity." Identity is who we believe we are and has nothing to do with our accomplishments. This is hard for many to grasp in our society of constant achievement -- we believe we are a reflection of what we do. This is just not accurate.
When I talked with Graham about identity, he said, "Identity is the top of the chain -- because identity drives behavior. Your decision-making process has everything to do with who you believe you are at the most fundamental level."
The awakening of yourself can only be done with a shift in identity. If you want lasting and deeply-grounded change, you must shift your identity at the core of who you are. If you want others to change, you must get them to shift their identity to align with the change.
Back to Bezos who had to face a major identity shift when he decided to leave his job at a Wall Street hedge fund to start Amazon. His brother Mark Bezos said his decision required "a lot of soul-searching." It was not easy for his brother. He finally made this leap in identity by asking himself "What does your heart say?" The rest of the story has been a constant evolution of Bezos to be the leader he is. His identity shift continues as the company navigates next level growth.