Valuable Leadership Lessons from Jack Ma  

Jack Ma, the Co-founder of Alibaba Group and the Co-founder of Yunfeng Capital, needs no introduction in the business world.  Born in HangzhouZhejiang on 10th September 1964 as Ma Yun, he is one of the renowned global business icons of the twenty-first century till now.  Today, Alibaba Group is one of the huge e-commerce businesses in the world and Jack Ma’s net worth is a staggering 24.3 billion USD.

Overcoming Failures

Life of Jack Ma, who stepped down as Alibaba’s Executive Chairman in 2019, can and should inspire many entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs to not lose the resolve to reach success despite suffering a series of failures and disappointments. It is startling to know that after his graduation from Hangzhou Normal University in 1988, Jack Ma applied for 30 different entry-level jobs but couldn’t manage to get even a single one of them. He tried for the police and was told that “You are no good.”

He even applied for a job in KFC and out of the 24 applicants, he was the only one not to get the job. “I even went to KFC when it came to my city. Twenty-four people went for the job. Twenty-three were accepted. I was the only guy (rejected)…” Ma said once in an interview. Jack Ma also applied to Harvard Business School, not once or twice but ten times and was rejected every time!

What is more, at the formative stage of his enterprise, he talked to 30 to 40 venture capitalists to get funds for Alibaba but was rejected every time.

From the Co-founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, which besides e-commerce also specialises in retail, Internet and technology, and whose consolidated revenue was around 126.49 billion USD in the 2022-23 fiscal, we can get inspired to not give up on our dreams, not losing our self-worth and confidence and not losing our resolve to fight despite multiple setbacks. 

One of the methods of overcoming or surviving failures that is suggested in one of his interviews is self-realisation and introspection rather than complaining about others. Not only entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs but all people trying to find success and aiming to do something worthwhile in life could adopt this principle of Jack Ma in overcoming failure.

Freedom and Customer Satisfaction 

Jack Ma doesn’t believe in micromanagement and neither does he practice it.  Not getting too involved in every day-to-day operations but empowering the employees to exercise their own creativity can help the business leaders and entrepreneurs to facilitate the growth of their company/ies. On the other hand, micromanagement can infuse frustration and disillusionment among employees.

He is also focused more on his customers than on his competitors. His famous quote reads: Forget about your competitors, just focus on your customers.” This can inspire emerging and new entrepreneurs and even established business leaders to focus on tailoring their product and/or services towards their consumers’ needs and wants without bothering about competition. If their customers are completely satisfied they needn’t worry about competition much, in fact competition may follow them.

Seizing the Opportunity 

He was one of the first great entrepreneurs to understand the unimaginable power of the Internet and e-commerce, when both were in their dormant, nascent stage. He had the vision to sense a huge future opportunity in nascent fields, whose latent power didn’t emerge during that time. Like Ma, entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs should get inspired to discover the areas where the vast reservoir of untapped opportunity lie and channelise their business vision towards exploring them. This endeavour is likely to keep them many steps ahead of competition. 

Ma believes that if you really want to be an entrepreneur you have to wake up before the other people wake up. By being the first mover or early bird, the entrepreneur can get the edge over her/his competitors. In one of his talks, he gave the immortal line “Don’t try to be the best. Be the first. Be the first to change, be the first to take the challenge, be the first one to overcome the difficulties.”  These words have the potential to translate into a golden rule of leadership for new entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs, and also for established business leaders.

Jack Ma doesn’t believe in compartmentalising challenges and opportunities but thinks that opportunities lie in challenges and complaints. Adhering to this perspective can give rise to many champion business leaders who can see the seeds of opportunity in every challenge and consumer complaint. 

Being Goal-centric 

Ma has the rare ability to unify his team, partners and investors to work towards a common goal. It is much easier and much better for a new entrepreneur or even an established business leader to motivate her/his team towards a common goal than solely towards her/his own growth and progress. “Do not allow your colleagues and employees to work for you. Instead, let them work for a common goal,” said Jack Ma and this style of leadership has the potential to serve as a source of inspiration for numerous aspiring entrepreneurs as well as seasoned business leaders alike. 

Recruiting Smartly

Jack Ma believes in hiring people with superior technical skills than him. This is perhaps one of the reasons for his enterprise’s amazing growth story. Many managers may feel insecure about hiring people with superior skills than them but Ma showed that a business enterprise should not let ego and insecurity impede its journey towards success.

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