Very recently, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba, Jack Ma, announced his retirement and passing of the baton to his successor Daniel Zhang, current CEO of Alibaba. Though the company was founded some 20 years ago, and Daniel Zhang has been a part of the Alibaba family for the past 11 years, becoming CEO in 2015, his grooming to take over the position of executive chairman has been for about a decade.
Granted, in businesses, there isn’t really a big deal in the CEO becoming the next executive chairman, it is something that often occurs but for the transition to be ten years, now that is news.
One would naturally wonder – why so much time in making a transition? Why did Jack Ma put in so much time and energy in preparing Zhang for the position?
The secret to long-lasting companies is the ability to think 10 steps ahead of the present. While some businesses may only for the next 10 years, others are planning for the next 100 years. So whatever they have to do is not only bearing the “now” in mind but they put into consideration how it would affect the next 100 years.
This was the reasoning of Jack Ma. It is his intention for his company to last, hence, the fact he would no longer be in active service doesn’t mean the company should crumble. Therefore, the need to hand over to extremely capable hands and this called for intense grooming over a long period of time. There should be many more transitions after this.
For this reason, Ma made a huge investment in the leadership transition in his company. In this light, Jack Ma can be seen not only as a leader but also as a mentor.
Every CEO, business owner, entrepreneur or whatever big title you want to call it, ought to be teachers to their employees. You can say as a boss, you have two job roles: to run/grow the business successfully and to train others to be just as good bosses/leaders tomorrow.
Every entrepreneur should be an effective coach and mentor to his team so that the business can continue even long after he retires. No business should have its owner for a life support. Such businesses are only guaranteed a short lifespan. As soon as the owner retires, the life of the business is threatened and before long, it hits rock bottom.
Erase the mentality that you are not a teacher. For the singular fact that you can learn, you should be able to pass your knowledge to others in an understanding and loving manner. Do not get caught in the mentality that your employees would know more than you if you teach them. Good teachers encourage their students to exceed even their own capabilities.
How can this be done?

  • Let your concentration not be on yourself but on your mentee(s)
  • Work with the strengths, weaknesses, fears, hopes, aspirations of your mentees. In summary, build an understanding relationship with them
  • Don’t assume your mentee knows it. Start at his/her level and together, work the way up the ladder of success.

PHOTO CREDIT: Being Single Magazine

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