How Amazon Web Services’ Nick Walton approaches leadership

Nick Walton, Head of Southeast Asia for Amazon Web Services, talks HRM Magazine Asia through his consensus-driven style of leadership.
By: | September 16, 2017
Topics: Features | Leadership

In Leaders Talk HRHRM Magazine Asia sits down with C-suite movers and shakers to talk HR and leadership.

Don’t forget to check out our main feature interview with Amazon Web Services’ Nick Walton, here.

“I’ve always been involved in technology and I’ve been really passionate about it. I love seeing how technology can change  and improve people’s lives, and how it can help businesses grow and innovate,” says Nick Walton, Head of Southeast Asia for Amazon Web Services.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Walton says he is drawn to “high-change environments”.

Having grown up and attended university in New Zealand, he has since lived and worked in both the UK and in Australia. He spent 15 years in various business development and technology roles, including working for Microsoft.

Always passionate about the rapid changes heralded by technology, Walton joined AWS as Regional Sales Manager in 2011, where he was involved in helping establish the business in Australia.

After assuming the role of Head of Enterprise in 2014, Walton took over the reins as Head of Southeast Asia in January last year.

Walton religiously ascribes to the Amazon motto indoctrinated by Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos.

“At Amazon, it’s always Day One. We always look forward, not backwards. We’re always challenging ourselves in serving our customers,” he says.

“We’re just getting started.”


Consensus-driven leadership

How would you describe your leadership style?

One thing that is really important to me as a leader, and one that’s been particularly crucial since I moved to Southeast Asia, is to be open and hire people who are more experienced and capable than me. The strength of the people around you is such a key part of success.

I’m also very open-minded and I would describe my leadership style as being heavily consensus-driven. That’s a really key characteristic of the culture at Amazon.

We believe that the best ideas come from all parts of the organisation. It’s not just the most senior person who has all the right ideas; we encourage and expect ideas to come from employees who have different roles and who are at different levels. We do a lot to encourage this type of culture where everyone can have a voice and really contribute to come up with the best strategies for the business.

How would your employees describe you?

I’ve been with the business for quite a while and have a reasonable degree of experience working with customers and understanding how they are able to leverage on cloud technology.

But it’s also about adopting that consensus-driven approach. I encourage and like to hear ideas coming from different people within the organisation. I’m under no illusion that I have all the best ideas. That’s something that is important to me. 

What’s your top tip for leaders?

Specifically in Southeast Asia, I think it’s about being really open-minded and sensitive to the different ways business is conducted across a very diverse and dynamic market.



I love: A light-bulb moment

I dislike: Moving slowly

My inspiration is: Family

My biggest weakness is: Impatience

In five years’ time, I’d like to be:  Empowering more customers in Southeast Asia

Favourite hobby: Tennis

What advice would you give to your younger self:  Don’t give up

Favourite quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – Wayne Gretzsky, Ice Hockey player

For more Asia-Pacific CEOs and business leaders discussing their HR challenges, head to HRM Asia’s  dedicated Leaders Talk HR microsite.