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Alibaba’s Jack Ma on spotting the ideal talent and being successful

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On an Indonesian resort island of Bali, Alibaba’s co-founder Jack Ma recalled the hiring mistake he made in the early days of his entrepreneur career and laid out the groundwork for aspiring success-driven leaders.

Before Alibaba became today’s e-commence giant, getting experts and the most outstanding “the best” people on board was on the top of his recruitment agenda. As his heart desired, he successfully snagged multiple vice-presidents from multinational corporations.

Shortly after that, a business presentation by a former vice-president of a big company gave Ma an insight: these seemingly sought-after people didn’t fit his company, which was still an underdog at that time. What happened was a person presented a proposal with unrealistically high costs and later revealed he had no prior experience to come up with or undergo a campaign with a budget.

From that day on, he avoided hiring the so-called elites in society, in his words “the experts of yesterday”. In an ever-changing world, being agile, adaptable and persistent when facing challenges triumphs over straight As. The universal phenomenon of cherry-picking and pinpointing a small portion of people as the best is overrated to him, because a leader holds the key to mould anyone to be the best in a company.

While IQ should continue to be a factor to examine candidates, EQ should also be heightened because a person with a good emotional quotient tends to be a better leader and team player.

The eccentric tycoon is also seemingly a strong believer of self-realisation as he states optimism should be accented in employees. Being optimistic often helps people turn the tables in challenging situations.

Ma proposes three questions everyone should ask themselves frequently:

“What do you have? What do you want? What will you give up?”

Ma, the co-founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba group, recently topped the Hurun China Rich List with $39 billion of wealth. The self-made billionaire will step down as a chairman in September 2019 and focus on philanthropy.

Founded in 1999, the Alibaba group runs online shopping platforms Taobao and Tmall, and online payment platforms Alipay and Ant Financial.

Photo/The Wall Street Journal

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