Effective leadership promotes the productivity of people in organizations. Good leaders influence and motivate their followers to perform well in their respective tasks. Since ancient times, masses have been led by influential leaders focused on meeting their end goals. While political leaders who were involved in implementing changes such as the abolition of the Jim Crow laws, guiding troops during the First and Second World Wars, promoting peace after the Second War among other events can be considered great, other modern leaders such as Jack Ma can also be considered as being influential leaders. This essay addresses the leadership style used by Jack Ma, the strength and weaknesses of his leadership styles, and the qualities he possesses which makes him a great leader.
Individual and Leadership Style Chosen
Jack Ma is a Chinese businessman who is also the founder of Alibaba Group, a technology company that focuses on online businesses. He was born in September 1964 and studying English by conversing with tourists. He obtained his name “Jack” through a nickname that he was given by a pen pal friend who could not pronounce his English name. He attended Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute and graduated with an English major. After his graduation from the school, he became a lecturer and taught English for a while before seeking to further his education at Harvard. His Harvard applications were rejected about ten times before he decided to focus on applying for other jobs. Ma applied for more than thirty jobs, which were rejected. His friends introduced him to the internet and they created a website about Chinese companies. The discovery of the internet led him to explore e-commerce. As of June 2019, he was the richest man in China with a net worth of $35.6 billion. The Forbes magazine ranked him as one of the most powerful people globally because of his influence on people (Kelly, 2019). His humility and focus on change characterize his leadership.
Jack Ma is a transformational leader. This type of leadership is characterized by qualities such as having a clear vision, being courageous, self-motivated, inspirational, knowing the people one is working them and treating them with respect, following through with the plans they make (Ghasabeh & Provitera, 2017). This leadership style encourages and inspires employees to be creative and innovative (Tucker & Russell, 2004). Jack Ma encourages his employees by telling them stories about his past failures and his determination to succeed. Aside from being inspirational, he has also used creative ideas to improve the working environment for his employees and ensure that he attracts the best talent to work in his company (Sieren, 2018). He is a fun and charismatic leader who makes his employees feel comfortable around him. He has created a fun working environment, which promotes creativity (Hooker, 2014). These leaders transfer their enthusiasm and vision to their subordinates. Jack Ma has been preparing his departure from the Alibaba Company and mentoring his subordinates to take his position (BBC News, 2019). These leaders also make employees more willing to explore their visions and goals while at the same time meeting the demands of the company.
This leadership style focuses on ensuring the desired goals of organizations are achieved while creating a deeper internal desire for motivation that is sustained through transformation of the state of the organization, interaction among employees or people, and achievement of the desired goal (Orabi, 2016). As a leader, Jack Ma managed to the company’s goals and values based on the Kung Fu culture in China. His values for the company include placing the needs of the customer first, fostering trust among the employees, promoting change, promoting productivity to ensure that the future of the company would be successful, living seriously, and working happily. He believed that the digital era would bring profound changes to the history of humanity. Jack Ma also practices Tai Chi, which is Chinese martial art, which helps him maintain his focus in his work and implement the Kung Fu values that he uses to govern his leadership (He, 2019). This leadership style is characterized by intellectual stimulation as the leader support the followers in solving the problems affecting them (Sanner-Stiehr & Kueny, 2017). Transformational leaders are also emotionally intelligent. This leadership style is effective in both formal and informal settings.
The strengths of transformational leadership include creating and managing change by improving existing processes and encouraging others to make changes. Transformational leaders share their vision about the changes they wish to implement with their employees and those around them (Surash & Rajini, 2013). This reduces resistance from employees and ensures that employees share the dreams of their leaders. It also encourages collaboration and is likely to make employees more willing to offer innovative solutions to problems that they may notice within the company. Jack Ma inspires his employees to work hard and apply the changes that could promote productivity and profitability in different sectors. His leadership approaches are directed towards ensuring that his customers are satisfied with the services and products they get from the company and his staff work in a healthy environment. This kind of leadership encourages the development of creative visions, enthusiasm, and ongoing learning (Surash & Rajini, 2013; Vatankhah, et al., 2017). Jack Ma promotes continued learning in his organization by exposing his employees to workshops, training programs, and challenges that help them to develop their skills. Treating employees well generates trust and good relationships in the workplace.
This leadership style promotes excellent communication and employee morale by ensuring that employees are treated as people and not merely as staff. It also helps employees to act as active listeners and not passive participants within the organization. Involving the employees in activities and decisions within the organization makes them feel important and creates a humanistic perspective in the environment. Jack Ma applies this concept by promoting teamwork within his company, which brings employees together. Working in teams promotes communication among his employees as all the people within a department are involved in decision-making and none of his employees feels left out. Jack Ma also promotes teamwork through annual activities such as the Alifest event, which he holds for his employees to show their talents (He, 2019; Hooker, 2014). These events help his employees to relax and enjoy themselves while at the same time meeting one of his organizational values that advocate for working happily.
Transformational leadership creates a positive atmosphere for partnerships. They usually avoid using the power related to their leadership position unless they are required to do or in cases where they are dealing with stubborn employees (Lee, 2014). Jack Ma portrays these skills through his connections to his employees and his willingness to assist them in achieving their individual goals. Instead of acting as an authoritative leader, he works collaboratively with his employees and interacts with them at their level. This makes his employees feel valued and improves their confidence in the organization and their work (Hooker, 2014). Jack Ma has a special connection with people as he is always trying to inspire others to achieve their dreams despite the challenges that they might face in life (He, 2019). His charisma also promotes his ability to be a good transformational leader.
Some of the weaknesses associated with this leadership style include challenges like employees’ resistance to change and other barriers to change that might discourage the leaders and the likelihood for followers to abuse the leader’s humility. Aside from that, this leadership style has the potential to be abused as the employees in the organization can easily challenge the leader’s purpose. It also lacks conceptual clarity because the dimension is not clearly outlined and the leadership style is only based on qualitative research. There is limited evidence of its background, effectiveness, and usability. It cannot be taught to other leaders as it often relies on people’s personalities (Surash & Rajini, 2013). For instance, the difficulties that Jack Ma went through in his early life while looking for a job, the personal character traits that he developed due to the process, and his other experiences cannot be taught to a person and have the same effect they had on him.
Transformational leadership is also anti-democratic, as the decisions of the organization are made based on the perception of the leaders and their vision. This might make employees feel left out in structuring the vision and goals of the company. Unlike other forms of leaders, transformational leadership has often been associated with heroic bias (Surash & Rajini, 2013). For instance, Jack Ma’s uses his past failures to inspire his employees. His heroism is based on his ability to perform well and develop a multi-million business after going through numerous failures. Some of the lessons that he learned through his experience cannot be taught because they were based on how he perceived his failures and his emotional status while he was going through the challenges. As such, it might be difficult for some leaders to adopt transformational leadership approaches unless they went through a background that pushed them to wish to implement changes in their lives or leadership methods.
Transformational leadership is an effective form of leadership that promotes change, incorporates creativity and innovation in decision-making, and creates an atmosphere where the employees feel free to express their thoughts and ideas. Although a transformational leader may lean towards the employees’ well-being, this does not mean that they are not concerned about the well-being of their businesses. Jack Ma is an incredible leader, who focuses on the needs of his employees, promotes change, incorporates fun activities in his organization that bring together his employees, and inspires his workers. He prioritizes the needs of his employees. Jack Ma’s use of Kung Fu values grounds his employees and promotes the success of his business. He also emphasized the importance of teamwork. As a transformation leader, Jack Ma has changed people’s perception of e-commerce and the opportunities that exist in this industry. His success has opened people’s eyes and influenced people to follow their dreams.
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