Analysis of Jack Ma’s Leadership Style


Jack Ma founded Alibaba in 1999 and has managed to steer it to one of the largest enterprises all over the globe. His story is an inspiration which informed on the decision to carry out an analysis of his leadership styles. He has proved to be a resilient leader who faced numerous rejection in many attempts to get jobs and even join Harvard University. Despite being a teacher and with no experience in computer science and coding, Jack Ma succeed in forming one of the largest online shopping companies.

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Alibaba is an online company that changed the concept of business from the traditional mortar and brick to online stores.  The business model of Alibaba is unique in that its online stores did not aim at selling products but rather offering a marketplace bringing together the buyers and sellers and facilitating the process of trade. The company’s main website has been found to be among the most visited sited and with high records of sales (Tham & Yazdanifard, 2015). The culture at Alibaba has been on that aims at championing small enterprises. This is achieved through putting in place an ecosystem where all players including the consumers, traders, service providers, have a chance to prosper. Within Alibaba Company, transparency is highly regarded and enhanced through the use of Aliway, which is the internal communication platform. In Alibaba, a lot of openness is promoted across the hierarchy, which is achieved by encouraging employees to create their own nicknames which are used to refer to them. Alibaba also maintains a family culture offering family-like support (Shao, 2014).

Leadership Style

Jack Ma’s has had to adjust his leadership numerous to get the perfect fit for Alibaba company. This helped him overcome a common challenge to most managers caused by the inability to adjust when things are not working thereby indicating his flexibility in leadership style. Jack Ma initially used autocratic leadership style at the early stage of the company where he was solely responsible for the major decisions affecting the company. The growth of the company made him shift his leadership style to conductive leadership that opened the path for people to work with him and not just working for him. This leadership has a paternalistic form but the executive decisions reached at are in the best interest of both the employees and the business. He has also been known to make use of persuasive leadership especially when dealing with investors where an emphasis is laid on making understand why the decisions made are beneficial. He has also perfected the art of having a democratic leadership style where the opinions of others are included in making of decisions. It is clear that Jack Ma has maintained a lot of dynamism in his leadership styles and adjusting as the situation requires. It his dynamism in the leadership model that made him resign as the CEO of the company thereby giving other people with different ideologies a chance to steer the company (Tham & Yazdanifard, 2015).

Inspiring a shared vision

Jack Ma is known to inspire others into a shared vision by adhering to Goleman’s Social Awareness. This is achieved through the leader practicing empathy, organizational awareness, and service orientation. Ma used empathy in his activism act of promoting gender equality in the workplaces where he shared his vision that all women have more impact on thoughtfulness and friendliness as compared to men. Alibaba has proved to be a visionary leader especially in the globalization of e-commerce trade. This vision has been effectively shared through putting in place communication mechanisms (Johnson, 2016). This has ensured that he has created networks, and inspires a spirit of teamwork and collaboration. Jack worked to ensure that there was open communication especially with new team members, senior management, and staff thereby providing a way of articulating the vision to other.

Search for New Opportunities

Jack Ma used a service-oriented approach that focused on the customer first. Through this approach, Jack Ma has been to steer a team of employees who have launched other companies under the umbrella of the Alibaba Group. These include Taobao; a customer-to-customer trading platform and Alipay; an electronic payment system. These enterprises were established in response to identified opportunities in consumers’ expectations and urge to increase the consumer base. Of late, he has the taken an approach of holding bilateral talks to in different countries all over the world. During these meeting, he engages with the political leaders as well as businesspeople in attempt to attain new business. This implies that his approach to acquiring new opportunities is remolding himself to a global leader (Lashinsky, 2017). This is spread in his philosophy that opportunities exist in places where others complain about.

Empowering others

Jack Ma through his visionary leadership style has been able to empower others thereby helping them understand what was required to attain his vision. Through this style, he has managed to let other understand how to always seek well in bad settings. He has also learned the style of coaching that deals with individual development. Through this leadership style, Jack is able to point out to people on how they can transform their dreams into reality. He is best known for his point of view in best investment is an investment to the youth (Chiemelie, 2017). He has taken an approach to moving around the world offering inspiration to aspiring and budding entrepreneurs.

Recognizing the Contribution of Others

Jack Ma use of democratic style, provides an opportunity for identifying the contribution of others within the organization. The communication process that is advocated by Jack Ma is the two-way communication. This implies that the top management is in direct contact with the employees and can therefore easily recognize and reward efforts of others.

Personal Involvement

Jack Ma was personally involved in the affairs of his company. He used a management technique referred to Management by Walking Around. Jack Ma was at the forefront of the company and interacted well with the personnel. Using this management style made Jack Ma a proactive listen enabling him to acquire a lot of real-time information on policies and processes and using it to tackle the issue before they became full-blown.

Challenges faced by Jack Ma

Jack Ma acknowledged that the company faced a few challenges related to the government. The challenge mainly related to the governing of the internet that causes a conflict. The nature of this challenge calls for the need of engaging the government in talks and working to create a partnership. He notes that as a leader and the company at large, they lacked an approach to working with the government is a business-like environment.


Chiemelie, B. (2017). Leadership: A Case of Jack Ma, the Chairman and Founder of Alibaba Group.

Johnson, C. (2016). Jack Ma: A Leadership Insight .

Lashinsky, A. (2017). How Alibaba’s Jack Ma is Bulding a Truly Global Retail Empire. Retrieved from

Shao, H. (2014). A Peek Inside Alibaba;s Corporate Culture. Forbes.

Tham, C., & Yazdanifard, R. (2015). The Review of Alibaba’s Operation Management Details that have Navigated them to Success. GLobal Journal of Management and Business Research.

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