The Leadership Transition of Jeff Bezos – 5 Lessons for Us Regular People

You don’t have to run the largest (and increasingly controversial) company to be thoughtful about succession planning. You don’t have to be a techie, a founder, or even the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) to learn some important lessons in leadership.

Jeff Bezos announced last week that he would step down as CEO, elevating his long-time second into the role of CEO. Bezos will stay engaged at a greater distance, focusing on strategy, new products and larger questions of company direction in his new role as Executive Chairman.

So, what can us regular people learn from this transition? A few things to consider:

+ What’s your plan for institutional knowledge? Not all of us can choose our successor and groom them for 10+ years, but we can begin to transfer our knowledge. (The earlier, the better to prevent feeling so overwhelmed!) All of that stuff that only exists in your head is valuable. It’s also stressful and heavy. Ensure that someone else can access that information, either through a central depository or through verbal download, or both. Bonus: you don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night, worried about all the things that completely depend on you.

+ Know thyself. Why do you love this work, or do you? What lights you up? If you keep tabs on what’s interesting and powerful for you, then you’ll be able to envision a more focused future. Well-known for being extremely hands-on, Bezos isn’t walking away entirely. He’s refocusing and honing that energy on the future of the company. Bonus: this clarity might also help to prevent burnout.

+ More than a pretty face. Your shareholders, colleagues or the larger community may blur the line between ‘you’ and ‘the organization’ – but this doesn’t have to be a permanent state. First determine to what extent this is true through honest conversations and/or the help of a third party. Then find ways to elevate and give credit to your stellar teammates. Bonus: giving genuine praise and support to others is good for you too.

+ Relationships matter. Emotional intelligence isn’t usually measured in your quarterly reports or annual review but the challenges of change are rooted in emotion. Whether we admit it or not, business is not devoid of feelings – tension, fear, anxiety, excitement, guilt, anticipation, hope, and more. Strong relationships can open up new options for growth, advancement, and stepping back or stepping out. Bonus: you’re more likely to get the benefit of the doubt and a little grace on a bad day, if you have strong relationships.

+ Philanthropy now! Giving back and supporting a better world doesn’t have to wait until you reach some particular milestone. Lead by example now and create depth to your work and perspective. See Mackenzie Scott.

It can be intimidating to think about changing your status and responsibilities. And whether you proactively think about it or not, change is inevitable. Take some of the potential sting out by preparing for the future and reap the bonus rewards now!

Interested in learning more about navigating leadership or life transitions? Let’s set up a free chat!