Tuesday, January 27, 2015

11 Leadership Lessons from "Crazy Jack" Ma

The World Economic Forum offers everyone an opportunity to interact directly with global leaders in business, politics, economics, and civil society who are "committed to improving the state of the world."

The world's best minds are corralled onto stages and into various types of sessions to share their findings, their visions, and their practical guidance for the world at large as well as for their own countries, governments, businesses, and communities. These decision makers are shaping the future with each word and deed. However, it's not just about talking - it's about doing.


...in 2008-2009 when the financial crisis came I think it's better to go back to work because we can never win the world by talking...

                                                                    Jack Ma, World Economic Forum 2015


Sure - attendance at the event in Switzerland is by invitation only, but you don't need to be there physically in order to engage. You can put on your pajamas and listen in as I did for several of the live-streamed sessions or you can listen to the playbacks and read, read, read... I'm working my way through talks, panels, debates, and reports with the goal of using what I learn to grow and contribute in bigger, better ways. 

It's Your World!

Safe to say that it's important to know who these leaders really are and what they're planning on our collective behalf - and to find ways to actively participate as much as possible. This is my second year of remote "streaming" participation and every moment has been well spent.

Many individuals may be waiting for leaders in their companies, colleges, governments, or communities returning from the WEF to distill the findings into strategies for them to execute.

Why wait? It's your world!

Empower yourself with first-hand knowledge of what's going on then develop your personal and professional strategies based on your new insights. Change is not new and will be forever present. However, the pace of change is astounding. Waiting for someone else to guide you may leave you at their whimsy - living their dreams instead of living your own.

11 Leadership Lessons from "Crazy Jack" Ma

One of the most impressive talks I replayed was Charlie Rose's interview with Alibaba's founder Jack Ma (An Insight, An Idea with Jack Ma). I'm now a huge fan. Hearing about his humble beginnings made me want to work even harder to make a difference. "Crazy Jack" has a lot to teach about following your own path no matter what others have to say about it - and you know what? He's right...

The historical and gargantuan nature of Alibaba's IPO continues to give everyone in business a lot to think about. His company has managed to shift business models for millions of small and medium companies around the globe in ways never seen before and has also created job opportunities for millions of individuals.


...I thought when I was young I said everything is possible. Now I know not everything is possible...you have to think about the others...customers, society, employees, share holders, so many things...
If you continue to work hard there are possibilities
For the first five years I just wanted to survive. So many people's lives changed. For the first three years we made zero revenue. We were so excited to continue to work...

                                                                    Jack Ma, World Economic Forum 2015


What if Jack Ma hadn't followed his own vision? What if he had listened to the naysayers around him? What if he had quit because various supporters pulled back? What if Jack hadn't failed so many times throughout his life? What if?...

We can say "what if" about virtually all of the breakthrough moments that have occurred in human history. What if those crazy folks had been normal? I for one wouldn't want to live in that kind of world. Crazy is good! According to Jack, being crazy is not the same as being stupid.

In addition to empowering millions of young people, Alibaba also focuses on gender diversity and inclusion - another of the world's greatest challenges. The employee population of Alibaba contains 47% women (was 51% prior to recent acquisitions). The top layers of the company also shows strong gender diversity results with women representing 33% of company managers while there are 24% women in senior management including the CEO, CFO, and CPO.


...One of the secrets of our success is that we have a lot of women... 
If you want to win in the 21st century, make sure that other people are powerful and better than you are, you have to empower others
Women think about others more than they think about themselves...

                                                                    Jack Ma, World Economic Forum 2015


I've listened to Jack's interview several times, each time gathering more insight into his secret sauce. Some of Jack's key leadership philosophies include: 

     [1] If everybody believes that your idea is good, you have no chance

     [2] Go global

     [3] Calm down... There's always a way out

     [4] Keep yourself balanced

     [5] If you want to change the world, change yourself

     [6] To win in the 21st century, empower others

     [7] Pay close attention to quality

     [8] Grow your mind, value, and wisdom

     [9] Spend more time with young people

     [10] Never give up, believe in what you're doing

     [11] Work hard, don't complain

There are so many more insights that could have been included on this list such as embody humility, study your world, and get used to failure. Despite over 30 lifetime failures including 10 rejections from Harvard, "Crazy Jack" is someone to know and learn from. After all his results speak volumes.

What will you learn (or what have you learned) from Jack Ma's story? Leave your insights in the comments section.

Check out these and some of my other LinkedIn feature articles:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

In Honor of Dr. King: Truth, Justice, and Service

This morning I woke up - grateful...

Grateful that on Monday we will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King's national holidaywhich was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 (yes - that's right!). The holiday has been celebrated in all 50 states since 2000 for all of the right reasons.

Truth, Justice, and Service

Dr. King represents the best of the best that humanity has to offer and he belongs to all of us. Wonderfully powerful and awe inspiring for his ability to raise the consciousness of America and the world to new heights, truth and justice were his calling and he answered boldly.
We cannot have an enlightened democracy with one great group living in ignorance.... We cannot have a nation orderly and sound with one group so ground down and thwarted that it is almost forced into unsocial attitudes and crime.
Dr. King knew what had to be done, but he certainly didn't do it alone as was so brilliantly shown in Selma.
There were countless names and faces - some mentioned and some not mentioned in history books - yet they carried the burden for the rest of us. It was their very lives that made it possible for America to change.
I can only shake my head in amazement at the strength and courage that it took for human beings of all stripes who realized that life simply wasn't supposed to be the way that it was so they set out to change it - and they changed it.
When I reflect on my contributions to date, I'm proud of where I am but I know that I didn't do it alone and that I have so much more to do. Much of the work was done before I was even born.
With gratitude I'll do what I can to support others on their journeys forward. While making the most of the opportunities that I've been given, I also have to create opportunities for others while I'm at it. The national Martin Luther King Day of Service is one of those openings - a chance to serve alongside others in honor of Dr. King. After all it's not just about me and mine.

The Next Generation

Last summer (2014) I took my daughter along with several family members on a tour of national monuments. My goals were to decompress, spend high-quality time with my daughter and family, and to enlighten them about the history of the country they call home. Our first stop was Washington DC where we spent time walking the entire mall (yes - walking!). One of the major highlights of our visit was the MLK Memorial.
I was pleasantly surprised that my daughter and her young cousins - all under 15 - were actively engaged in the education that they were receiving without too much prodding from me. They listened and asked lots of questions at each stop. They were quiet and reverent when required. Their tech gadgets were used to document their lessons learned. My daughter is shown using her iPad Mini to take pictures of the quotes lining the MLK Memorial wall.
Yes - there were also lots of complaints about the heat and all of the walking but there were sufficient breaks in between as well. I was determined to ensure that my next generation came away with a full experience and positive anchoring from which to grow their futures.
There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.
While many youngsters may be super-absorbed in selfies and on-line social encounters, there are alternatives that are equally engaging. It's important for the adults in their lives to set the tone through exposure and increased awareness to the good in all of us and alert them to the tragedies that can result when good people remain silent. With properly directed insight next generations can work to expand truth, justice, service, and human dignity (the essence of bold leadership) in their everyday lives or in broader contexts as they are called to do so.

How will you lead and who will you serve on Dr. King's holiday?

Add your comments or insights below.