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The contemporary world is characterized by its rapid development. Business is one of the spheres that progress at the fastest pace. Large companies and popular industries are constantly followed and studied by millions of individuals for the purpose to analyze and recreate their success. The most well-known business leaders of the world are widely admired and praised, and their unique approaches and styles are explored by the researchers, students, and aspiring business makers. One such leader is Jack Ma, an outstanding Chinese philanthropist, and entrepreneur whose massive success serves as an example for the new generation. This paper attempts to introduce and analyze Jack Ma’s life, personality, and career, describe the leader using 7 traits paradigm, list his core competencies, and his relationship with the followers.
Jack Ma comes from Zhejiang Province in China. He was born in 1964 and has started to demonstrate the passion for self-realization and education ever since he was a child (“Jack Ma – Success behind Personality” par. 3). He began with the improvement of English language proficiency and communication skills by talking with foreign tourists as a teenager. His aspiration to learn English was a clear sign of his progressive thinking and orientation in the international arena. Learning English was quite an accomplishment in a country as isolated from the rest of the world as communist China was back then. After a few years, Ma graduated from Hangzhou Normal University where his specialty was English (“Jack Ma – Success behind Personality” par. 3). Further, he became interested in business development and entered the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business that is located in Beijing (“Jack Ma – Success behind Personality” par. 3).
Jack Ma’s first profession was a teacher of English, an occupation that is very different from what this leader ended up pursuing. Allen described Ma’s career as a former teacher becoming “the most mammoth successful entrepreneur in the world’s biggest country” (par. 1). Ma’s career path is truly astonishing and serves as an excellent demonstration of the importance of determination, passion, focus, and progressive vision in modern leadership and career development. The life of Jack Ma is a chain of attempts of this leader to achieve success in various spheres he deemed successful. As a person with excellent vision, Ma captured the opportunities and the impact the internet might provide in the future right in the middle of the 1990s when he first encountered it. Further, his business attempts in China were directed at the provision of the connection between people, such as the establishment of the Chinese yellow pages that never succeeded (Allen par. 5).
When Ma accidentally met the co-founder of Yahoo Jerry Yang, he could not miss his chance to learn from this outstanding leader. As a result, in 1999 Ma founded Alibaba, his first successful business that was based on the connection of the Chinese companies with the rest of the world (Allen par. 5). Ma’s Alibaba is a universal combination of some of the most famous e-commerce means such as eBay, Amazon, PayPal, and Google Play (Allen par. 6). Having incorporates the advantages of several services Ma managed to achieve the best coverage, great revenue, and a huge client base. For instance, two of Ma’s online shopping sites (Tmall and TaoBao) have wider merchandise than Amazon and eBay together (“4 traits leading to Jack Ma’s success” par. 1).
As an individual, Ma is quite fond of martial arts fiction, chivalry, and combat leadership; he admits that spends a lot of time thinking about what kind of military leader he could have made if he was born in the times of war (“4 traits leading to Jack Ma’s success” par. 3; Allen par. 7). Apart from chivalrous spirit, this leader possesses excellent vision and is often compared to Steve Jobs in his authentic way of thinking and market intuition.
Description of the Leader (7 Traits Paradigm)
The seven traits associated with leadership are the drive, desire to lead, honesty and integrity, self-confidence, intelligence, job-relevant knowledge, and extraversion (Leadership: Chapter 2 11). Jack Ma’s drive is rather obvious due to his determination and passion for self-development that were noticeable ever since he was a child and a teenager. In addition, Ma’s career includes a multitude of attempts to build a successful career, some of which have failed, and some resulted in massive success. The fact that Ma never stopped trying to put his ideas and visions into practice signifies his strong drive.
Ma’s desire to lead is expressed in his admiration of martial art fiction and his admitted dream to live during wartime and try himself as a military leader (Allen par. 7). Ma’s aspiration to participate in combat as a general has never come true due to historical time during which he was born. However, his drive to lead had to be expressed, and that is why he became a business maker. As a leader in the e-commerce industry, Ma gets to practice tactics, strategy, make tough decisions, organize, motivate, empower, and manage a lot of people.
Honesty and integrity of this leader can be noticed in his devotion to the promotion of the Chinese culture and increasing the economic impact of his country in the world. Ma is a devoted patriot, and all of his business ideas and projects have been orientated to the improvement of China’s position in the international arena and the maintenance of its domestic success.
The self-confidence of Jack Ma is obvious from his brave attempts to perform and compete in the new and unknown sphere (the internet in the middle of the 1990s) without even having any qualifications for it.
Ma’s intelligence is expressed in his desire to learn new skills and improve his education on a regular basis. His job-relevant knowledge is based on his choice to master the English language as the foundation for his connections, traveling, and business opportunities in the international arena. Ma has an outstanding ability to identify potentially beneficial spheres to pioneer as a businessman.
Finally, Ma’s extraversion is seen in his desire to communicate and learn from the experiences of others. Since childhood, Ma worked on his English language skills by means of communication with the foreigners and giving them free tours around his area in China. This behavior shows that Ma’s main focus was not money, but communication and knowledge that he saw as the investment into his future. In fact, all of Ma’s businesses were based on the provision of communication – teaching language, interpreting, yellow pages, Alibaba and all of its derivatives.
Core Competencies of Jack Ma (HPDM Platform)
The success of Jack Ma has demonstrated that one of the main HPDM competencies – his strategic vision (Jain 12). Ma’s ability to see the opportunities where no one else can see them and approach issues without overcomplicating them and thus finding the most original and simple solutions are the qualities that facilitate the comparisons between his and Steve Jobs. Just like the well-known founder of Apple, Ma is an outstanding visionary. Besides, Alibaba e-commerce company created by Ma is an excellent demonstration of this leader’s systems thinking competency that represents an ability to incorporate multiple spheres of knowledge, skills, and services (cloud computing, electronic payments, supply-chain management, investments, and streaming entertainments) into one efficient resource. At the same time, Ma’s desire to create something that has not existed in China before and that way take the country to the new and more progressive level is the sign of his creative thinking. Moreover, the constant development of Alibaba and its multiple derivatives demonstrates Ma’s flexibility and adaptability as he improves his business according to the needs of the clients.
Jack Ma’s Relation with the Followers
The concept of leadership is composed of three main components – a leader, the followers, and the context (A Survey of the Conceptual and Empirical Leadership Literature 4). In other words, as a social phenomenon leadership is represented by the interaction between several people within a particular situation where one of the actors obtains authority. Jack Ma admits that over time he has developed as a leader as he got more experience at managing people. For instance, Ma says that the worst leadership mistake he has ever made was telling his employees that it was impossible for them to develop their careers within Alibaba any further than the management positions (Kux par. 2). Ma used to believe that the only way to obtain professional executives for his company was to hire them from the outside.
This relation with the followers fitted the transactional theory of leadership where the followers have a limited set of duties, and they are rewarded for accomplishing them (A Survey of the Conceptual and Empirical Leadership Literature 116). This kind of leadership is often counter compared with the transformational leadership where the followers are encouraged to learn, improve as professionals, and move forward in their career field. The leadership style Jack Ma embraced after realizing his mistake fits in the transformational leadership theory, and now he believes that a successful executive can be raised within the company. Today, Ma values his workers’ passion, determination, and attitude over their theoretical knowledge (Kux par. 2). He believes that over time and under the right leader an employee can transform into a professional of a higher class.
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Jack Ma is one of the world-renowned business leaders of the modern world. He is the richest man in his country and one of the wealthiest business owners on the planet. Jack Ma has a legendary story of self-development, aspiration, and determination that allowed him to build himself as a leader, and then to create his massive business. Ma stands out due to his fantastic market intuition and vision that helped him become an innovator without inventing anything brand new. Ma is a transformational leader and a role model for the younger generations of business people. He is a living demonstration that never giving up and always trying to improve oneself are the key elements to success in business.
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Kux, Steve. 8 Keys to Success from Jack Ma, Self-Made Billionaire and CEO of Alibaba. 2014. Web.
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