Amazon CEO Andy Jassy shares how his childhood and love of tennis shaped his demanding leadership style

Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy gives a presentation onstage.
In July, Andy Jassy replaced founder Jeff Bezos as CEO. Amazon
  • In a recent fireside chat, Jassy sat down with an Amazon colleague for a wide-ranging discussion.
  • The Amazon CEO shared how playing tennis taught him the value of personal accountability.
  • He also shared how his dad helped him embrace the value of hard work.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

If Andy Jassy’s childhood dream had come true, he’d be training for the next Wimbledon.

Fortunately, his actual job is pretty high-profile, too.

In a recent Amazon-hosted fireside chat, the 53-year-old CEO shared how his early life experiences – including a competitive tennis career and lessons from his father – shaped him as a business leader. Both, he said, helped him cultivate a hard work ethic and sense of accountability that he carries with him in leading the $US1.6 ($AU2) trillion retail and cloud-computing giant.

“Tennis was a particularly interesting growing-up experience. It’s actually a difficult way of growing up because it’s such an individual sport,” Jassy said. “It taught me a lot of life lessons that have been helpful later in my life.”

The CEO’s values that he learned from tennis (“diligence”) and his father (“doing things right”) have impacted the way he’s leading Amazon. In his first memo to employees, Jassy stressed the importance of moving quickly, getting things done, and working hard to solve customer problems. As analysts told Insider, it showed he’s going to push employees to work hard.

“Tennis taught me what happens when you really work on something, and what happens when you don’t,” Jassy said in the recent interview. “Tennis is very much a meritocracy. There’s no favoritism, there’s no politics. You either win or lose based on how you perform in the moment.”

From the beginning, Jassy has been known to press his workers to perform.

According to Fortune, early in Jassy’s tenure in the 1990s, multiple members of Amazon’s music team once had to pull an all-nighter to draft a proposal of a new, experimental service. (Amazon disputed that description of events, Fortune reported.)

The CEO is also known for his ability to quickly figure out if someone isn’t prepared for a meeting, according to CRN. “He’ll know and he will make it clear,” Scott Chancellor, a former Amazon Web Services director, told the news outlet.

Jassy credited his father for shaping his world view. In addition to frequently taking him to New York Rangers and New York Giants games as a kid, his father taught him the value of dedication.

He recalled his father telling him, “Whatever you do, either do it all the way or don’t do it at all,” a line Jassy says “always stuck with me.”

Jassy brought that spirit of commitment to his first day as CEO. In his memo to employees, he underscored the work he had in front on him, saying he would continue working to constantly improve customer and employee satisfaction.

“Know that I care,” he wrote, “and that we will work together to make Amazon better every day.”