Portrait of a perfect leader

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This article is published in number 1 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until January 4, 2022

Seattle it is often gloomy and humid during the winter months, but on that particular January day, torrential rain was beating on the window panes of the 37-story skyscraper. In the distance, the Space Needle appeared and disappeared in the clouds. Inside, the building was quiet. Like every day, for the past twenty years, Andy Jassy was the first to arrive at the office, in his 1998 Jeep Cherokee Sport, the same car he has driven since he moved here in 1997 and started working for Amazon on Mondays after earning an MBA from Harvard Business School. Unlike most Amazon employees who worked smartly as the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the world, Jassy made the commute from his home in the Capitol Hill neighborhood to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) headquarters. the largest cloud computing company on the planet, with over $ 50 billion in annual revenue.

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A few hours ago, Andy Jassy he had received an email from his supervisor Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, asking if they could talk on the phone. Bezos wasn’t used to contacting Jassy directly, he typically sent him a couple of emails a month, so such a request meant there was something important to discuss, perhaps a problem in one of the company’s many divisions dealing with things. everything from keeping top secret government documents to making toilet paper. Jassy’s seventh-floor office was overflowing with multimedia whiteboards with to-do lists, ideas and miscellaneous notes. There were so many of them that they almost covered all the walls. That day he sat down at his desk and called his boss. Bezos began the chat by talking about this and that, mixing business and personal topics. Then suddenly he said something Jassy never expected to hear.

“I’m thinking about stepping down as Amazon’s chief executive,” he explained. “It’s not a problem for me to keep doing it, but if you like the idea of ​​becoming my successor, and only then, I’d take a step back.”

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“Can I think about it a few days?” He asked, surprised and flattered but obviously taken aback.

“Sure,” his boss replied.

Andy Jassy is a very man of habit and tied to traditions. See i two sons, a boy and a girl, once a week for breakfast (always separately), on the same day and at the same time, and has been doing it for years. She schedules two hours a week to read (usually work notes) and has been dating every Tuesday night for 25 years his wife, Elana.

That evening, sitting in a neighborhood restaurant with tables covered with plastic domes to separate patrons from each other, the Jassies discussed the pros and cons of the offer. Had he accepted the position with the most visibility on the planet, he would have taken the reins of a company with a market capitalization of over $ 1.75 trillion and 1.4 million employees; he would be in charge of the divisions that build electronics, produce clothing, sell books, grow food, procure data, and distribute pharmaceuticals; not to mention continuing to run his baby, the cloud computing division that offers Internet services. He would also be responsible for Amazon’s Alexa, Ring and Twitch; of all the companies acquired by the e-commerce giant: Whole Foods Market, IMDb, ComiXology, Audible, Amazon Studios and countless other companies whose name begins with Amazon: Amazon Advertising, Amazon Fresh, Amazon Drive, and so on. Not to mention the mammoth production chain.

The new position would inevitably drag him in front of Congress and the cameras, where enraged politicians would try to tear him apart and where he would be forced to answer questions about Amazon’s monopoly business practices and a range of Antitrust issues. It would put him at the forefront of the fight with Amazon workers trying to organize themselves into unions. Jassy would have seen his name and face in the front pages of thousands of newspapers and would have had to keep at bay the fierce competition and foreign governments that want to split Amazon into small pieces. But most difficult of all, if he had accepted the position, it would probably have been having to sustain the astonishing growth of the company, which continues to have a 37% year-over-year revenue increase, with $ 443 billion in revenue. annual revenues.

“I was surprised,” Andy Jassy told me, recalling the phone call with Jeff Bezos from that Tuesday. “I didn’t expect it, it wasn’t my wish and I liked the work I was doing, but obviously it was an electrifying prospect and I was flattered.”

Sure, the cons were many, but the potential pros far outweighed them. A few days later, he called his boss and said, “I’m in.”

You need to have a certain type of personality to want to run one of the largest companies on the planet. Recent psychological studies have found that up to 20% of corporate CEOs exhibit psychopathic tendencies, meaning that a huge percentage of them are emotion-seeking manipulators who totally lack empathy towards others. Without a doubt Jeff Bezos has at least some of these personality traits. But Andy Jassy, ​​as far as I can tell, doesn’t have them, or at least not yet.

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