What Makes Jack Ma a Good Leader
Good leaders are hard to find and when you find one, you try to learn more about how this leader differs from the rest. What is it that brought the leader to position? How was the leader during childhood days? Did the leader already exemplify qualities that make the leader what he or she is now? For this presentation, the focus will be on Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire CEO of Alibaba company.
Who is Jack Ma
As a child, his interest in learning the English language grew such that he traveled for 40 minutes every day for eight years to show tourists around the area free. His purpose was to learn and practice his English. That was how his eyes and mind opened up and began thinking globally – especially after he realized that what he learned in school about the world is not exactly how it is in reality.
Leadership Qualities of Jack Ma
One of the reasons that make the soft-spoken Jack Ma the leader of my choice is that he is passionate and dedicated to his work. He is focused on his business logistics and marketing, which are the reasons he was able to steer his companies towards what is today. Employees who work for Alibaba can attest to this. Lili Li, who has been with the company for six years under the Sales Research Department says despite high company targets every year, they were able to meet the goals and objectives of the company, which adds to employee confidence, and trust to the leadership of Alibaba (Alibaba.com: A Smiling Community with a Dream, n.d, p. 4).
Jack Ma is also a visionary who can sense opportunities when he sees one. Case in point is the yellow pages company that he set up in 1995. He never knew about the internet prior to his visit in the United States in 1995 (Fannin, 2008). Nevertheless, that visit set the stage for his first ever online business venture (Rose 2010). Apart from business, he saw opportunities in providing jobs to his countrymen and opportunity for small business to thrive in China as well through the internet.
He also takes time to effectively research on any venture that he chooses to engage in. For example, the leader founded the Chinese yellow pages in the year 1995. Before launching the product, Ma carried out intensive research on the product and developed it to the full satisfaction of the customers. He has done this same thing with Alibaba Group and Taobao. In his interview with Charlie Rose, he said he was never trained in Technology, but because he had a huge respect for Technology, he “always hired the best people” (2010). He may not have started as internet-savvy, but he has a mind open to opportunities. What he lacked in knowledge when he initially started his companies, he compensated well with his acute business sense.
Jack Ma is very approachable and open for ideas. This makes him develop a strategy and a policy whereby he receives all his stakeholders’ opinions and uses them to improve on the quality of the services that his companies offer. People who work in his company appreciate his openness to communication. As the Director of Organization and People Development Echo Lu says, he “will meet with all new employees in a group setting, has meetings with management at least quarterly, and bi-annual staff meetings with all employees” (as cited in Alibaba.com: A Smiling Community with a Dream, n.d, p. 5). He encourages entrepreneurial thinking and spirit, which further empowers his employees to think for the betterment of the company considering that employees are shareholders of the company, too.
Jack Ma, as a leader, cares about the people who work for him. He believes that health is wealth and one thing that employees remember clearly is the day when management decided to let employees work from home during the SARS outbreak when one employee was suspected to contract the disease. Because of that act, the company was able to contain the disease and since then, it has been known as the Alibaba Day. It may seem like a small act for the company, but clearly, for the employees like Echo Lu, “the spirit of Alibaba came alive that day” (Alibaba.com: A Smiling Community with a Dream, n.d, p. 5).
Lastly, a leader should lead by example, and this is exactly what Jack Ma has done, as seen through his accomplishments and achievements, which brought him rewards. For example, he has been on the cover of Forbes magazine, he has created many employment opportunities for China and other countries through his companies, and played a major role in reducing costs for supplier companies in China through Alibaba Group’s management team. Due to his company’s discipline adherence to achieving its mission, goals and objectives, he has also built a strong reputation for his Alibaba Group company, gaining respect and recognition from all areas across the corporate world (Young, 2006).
Good leaders inspire trust and build relationships based on trust. They show appreciation and belief in each individual’s capacities. Good leaders engage their people in the communication process by either clarifying issues or simply informing them about concerns pertaining to the company, including the company’s mission, vision, goals, and values. Good leaders ensure that goals and actions are aligned to what is important for the company and how success is measured. Good leaders help in unleashing talent of people who work for them, which empowers individuals to use their creativity, resourcefulness, and intelligence to their full capacity. Considering all these attributes of a leader, Jack Ma exemplifies all of them. He is a progressive leader who believes in his people and leads with trust and strength of mind.
Alibaba.com: A smiling community with a dream. Retrieved from http://media.ft.com/cms/c6aba388-74a6-11db-bc76-0000779e2340.pdf
Fannin, F. (2008). How I did it: Jack Ma, Alibaba.com. Inc. com. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/magazine/20080101/how-i-did-it-jack-ma-alibaba.html
Rose, C. (2010). Jack Ma, Founder and chairman of Alibaba. Retrieved from http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11215
Young, D. (2006). Building your company’s good name. New Jersey: Wiley, pp. 89-156.