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The Evolution of Jeff Bezos

This essay originally appeared in Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Sign up here.

Thursday morning Fortune announces its annual list of the world’s greatest leaders. At the top is Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon (AMZN), of course, but also the owner of The Washington Post and sole financier of the rocketship company Blue Origin.

I wrote the magazine feature story on Bezos, and he granted Fortune rare access to all aspects of his business life. I spent an illuminating afternoon at The Washington Post, an institution that had been beaten down like much of the rest of the journalism industry and now has something of a spring in its step. I interviewed the top editorial, technical, and business leader there; each element is important in understanding the Post’s story under Bezos, who is passionate about the Post though uninvolved in its journalism.

At Blue Origin, in Kent, Wash., I encountered a surreal scene. The lobby has all sorts of space-nerd models and real artifacts from space missions. Inside the cavernous manufacturing floors I saw spaceships and rocket engines under construction. The company has been at it for 16 years, and now it is finally building a new world.

Then of course there is Amazon itself, the source of Bezos’s vast wealth—$46 billion at last count—and a hotbed of innovation. Amazon has so many things going at once that no man could possibly manage it all. In fact, Bezos delegates heavily and dives deeply into a handful of projects. Currently these include aspects of apparel, Amazon Web Services, and the company’s next-generation fulfillment centers.

Bezos is evolving, as is Amazon. This week, the company hosted a conference at a swank hotel in Palm Springs, Calif., geared toward robotics and machine-learning experts. In Seattle a couple weeks ago I asked Bezos if the company was becoming less frugal, a hallmark of its corporate culture. “Some things are so hard to measure that you have to just take them as articles of faith,” he said. If he were a politician that might read as a flip-flop or a rationalization. In a business leader such thinking is called an evolution.