Ecommerce and High Technology Entrepreneurship Leadership Lessons from Alibaba's Jack Ma

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. Jack Ma talks about the need to reform our education system to make it relevant in the digital age.

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.

He says “If you want to be successful, you have to pay the price!”. And many people want to be successful, but do not understand the price they have to pay to be successful. And the more successful you want to be, the higher the price you have to pay.

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.

Jack Ma has attributed much of his success because he helped empower as many other people as possible from his customers and the small businesses who use the Alibaba e-commerce platform to his employees and helping give back to other entrepreneurs. He says that you are more likely to get more lucky, successful and wise in life and in business by giving your luck, success and wisdom to others. I think what he meant by this is seeing things whether in life or in business as a more positive sum game where you share your struggles and successes so others can learn from your mistakes rather than a zero sum game. A positive sum game is a much better game to play because that means that more people can win. Some people might win more or rise faster, but everyone benefits. In zero sum games, for one person to win, someone else has to lose. I think that is where I say that he is a role model for empathy in business leadership which is often seen as very cutthroat.

Where Jack Ma has ruthlessness however, is the speed at which he moves as an entrepreneur. Jack Ma doesn’t like waiting on others to like him, or waiting for the government to approve everything he wants to achieve. He said if you wait too long, or wait for everything to be perfect, or wait for the regulators to approve everything, then you have waited too long. I agree with this move fast and break things philosophy. He said you should always aim to be the first-mover and you gain two advantages through being a first-mover: time to learn about an industry and the privilege of making and hopefully learning from your mistakes in that industry. Because if you wait too long, in today’s world where things move tremendously fast, then you will likely get beat by a competitor who will take advantage of the same opportunities.

Jack wants to inspire as many people as possible as fast as possible under a common umbrella. He said that its impossible for him to get many people to like him or to work with him just like that, but that its easier to work for a shared vision of the future or a shared dream and then to fight hard for that shared vision or dream. I think that long-term thinking and the ability to delay instant gratification is critical in life, business or empire building. If you get bogged down in the day to day too much without ever thinking differently, then it will be impossible to think, strategize and act in a way that is truly satisfying and victorious long-term.

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.

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 technology and business leaders in their lives in the 21st century.

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. Jack Ma understood the importance of the Data Technology Revolution and how Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are reshaping the economy and job creation. And he also believes that we are moving from bigger companies to smaller businesses because of globalization and the move towards inclusive capitalism in the next 30 years.

He also does emphasize the importance of all these traits, and of IQ, EQ (Emotional Intelligence), and a 3rd Q, LQ (The Q of Love or Love Quotient) 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. It’s important to be able to have tremendous empathy regardless of one’s role or walk in life today, and I think the LQ is the most important for gaining connection with other people or becoming a better leader. Jack Ma has said that the leaders of the future or of the 21st century will lead from the heart.

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

CNN Business | Jack Ma: In 30 years, the best CEO could be a robot