Leadership Lessons from Alibaba's Jack Ma

Updated: May 7

Today things are changing very fast in the world and every industry, every job, every person is being impacted by exponential change. Exponential change is being driven by accelerating advances in technology, digital transformation and societal change is being driven by a combination of accelerating technology change, the democratization of technology and information, and by the sea change of geopolitical, social and generational disruptions. There is alot of disruption and pressure to adapt, pivot, learn and serve and the people who are able to surf the waves of change yet stay stoic in the face of it will be able to thrive in the new age.

Exponential Technologies and Our Technologically Disruptive and Digitally Transformed Future

Industry 4.0

There are many examples of leaders in today’s world with high emotional intelligence and those are both the most respected as well as the most successful in their industries or domains. But Jack Ma comes to my mind as one such role model in business for emotional intelligence among many others. I am going to talk about Jack Ma, because he has the perfect balance of intelligence, empathy and ruthlessness that got him to where he is. And after thinking about this alot, I believe that people do need the trifecta of intelligence, empathy and ruthlessness, especially in business, and especially in the Hi-Tech Industry. And I believe all of these can be developed and all people are born with higher degrees of at least one of these, but when these all are highly developed, people can become unstoppable in their fields and reach that level of acuity.

Leaders need more empathy and humility now than ever before because of the pressures on them and the multiple stakeholders they serve. Also it would be impossible to coerce others in today’s environment of hyperchange, because talent retainment and talent acquisition is becoming one of the biggest problems. But leaders also simultaneously do need a degree of ruthlessness and I know this will sound unpopular, especially today. But some ruthlessness is needed especially to drive change and be proactive about building a better future constantly. And so I believe the combination of empathy and ruthlessness is needed in the servant leaders that will ultimately drive us and pioneer a better future.

Hi-Tech Businesses, Corporations and Startups are a platform for change when coupled with exponential technologies and the cutting edge of science and innovation because they uplift many people ultimately through greater decentralization and democratization of better products, services, societal, technological and paradigm shifts. So in that context, I do strongly believe that business can be the greatest platform for positive change especially, those that invest heavily in science and technology, because innovation is a tide that lifts all boats. Especially when people use them positively and proactively in their own lives and then to uplift and empower others. Technologies and science is a double-edged sword. It can be used as a force for good or for bad, but technology is ultimately neutral. It is up to people, to us, to decide how we want to use these superpowers, and what impact we want to create on the world with them.

I think today in 2021, when we are facing a multitude of challenges that it is better, regardless of one’s role, that everyone becomes more human today. Jack Ma was able to lead a massive technology company, Alibaba to massive heights from humble beginnings not because he was necessarily a computer genius, but because of his high levels of adaptability, creativity, emotional intelligence and leadership style. And I believe especially in the technology industry, Jack Ma is the role model to emulate for people interested in becoming tech leaders in their lives.

He also does emphasize the importance of all these traits, and of IQ, EQ, and LQ and I think its not just necessary for those with aspirations in the technology industry but almost everyone today because every industry, role and person is being dramatically affected by the seismic changes that have come and are yet to come from both a technological and a societal perspective.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma says to be a successful leader you need EQ, IQ, and LQ

Jack Ma stands up for innovation and technological disruption as well as free markets even when its not popular in CCP-controlled China. He recently gave a speech at the Bund Summit in Shanghai where he wanted deregulation to encourage more innovation in fintech. His critical remarks about state-controlled banks triggered a retaliation from President Xi Jinping who would start a crackdown on Jack Ma’s Alibaba and cancel Ant Group’s IPO (His Ecommerce and FinTech Conglomerates which have brought unprecedented wealth and innovation to China and which epitomize the success of a Free-Market Capitalist Mindset and Internet or P2P Entrepreneurs and Companies in China).

He spoke up on his values that were not aligned with the CCP’s arrangement understanding that his own personal safety as well as business/financial interests would face peril, because Jack Ma wants to promote values of innovation, entrepreneurship, capitalism, private business, free speech and the promise of the internet so that China and its younger internet-savvy generations has a successful economic and financial future.

SCMP | Jack Ma urges financial regulation reform on eve of Ant Group’s ‘biggest IPO in history’

Interconnected Blog | Jack Ma's Bund Finance Summit Speech

FT | Jack Ma’s Ant defies pressure from Beijing to share more customer data

Bloomberg Opinion | Jack Ma Was Good for Press Freedom in Hong Kong

FT | Jack Ma vs Xi Jinping: the future of private business in China

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