In his new book, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, which came out last week, business journalist Brad Stone traces the connection between Bezos’ distinctive personality traits and Amazon’s work culture and organizational ethos, which he describes as “gladiatorial” and “notoriously confrontational”.
He cites Amazon employees who “advance the theory that Bezos, like Jobs, Gates, and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, lacks empathy.
The interesting question is whether effectiveness of a CEO increase with progressively lower people skills and more and more of an anal-retentive devotion to shareholder value that can see little else?
In one of the most famous studies of CEO psychology, titled Which CEO characteristics and abilities matter?, Steven Kaplan, Mark Klebanov and Morten Sorensen assessed the personalities of 316 CEOs and their company’s performances. “Success is more strongly related to execution, resoluteness, overconfidence-related skills than to interpersonal-related skills,” they concluded. In other words, a CEO who is warm, flexible, empathetic will not be as successful as another who is cold, inflexible and has no empathy. People like Bezos and Jobs were, in this sense, pretty much typical of the successful CEO personality type.