Here's what leaders can do to feel secure in the automation age

Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group. Photo: Adam Jeffery/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Alibaba founder Jack Ma believes one fundamental difference between people and machines is the key to managing the age of automation effectively.

If executives want their employees to have fulfilling jobs in the future, they need to stop making them feel like they are competing with machines, he says.

Ma, founder and executive chairman of the Chinese e-commerce giant, believes a key skill is significantly more important than IQ or even EQ, and that is “LQ”, or what he calls “the love quotient”.

“If you want to be respected, you need LQ,” Ma said at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum late last year.

As automation and artificial intelligence begin to encroach on routine jobs, Ma – a former teacher – says we need to be looking at how employees are being trained, and ensuring that their innate humanity and creativity is being encouraged.


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“A machine does not have a heart, [a] machine does not have soul, and [a] machine does not have a belief,” he said.

“Human being have the souls, have the belief, have the value; we are creative, we are showing that we can control the machines.”

One of the biggest issues in the transition to more automation in industries, is that the message that machines will replace humans because they’re smarter, rather than reinforcing the importance of the tasks that only people are capable of doing.

“We have to teach our [people] to be very, very innovative, very creative,” Ma said.

Michelle Richmond, a Global Success Coach who specialises in helping high performers that have hit a wall in their lives or careers, agrees with Ma.

“[Ma] had no university degree and no background [in technology], the whole success of his business was because of love intelligence… Ma equates the LQ factor as a big factor in what made him the richest man in China,” Richmond told Business Insider.

Richmond also noted that Ma tries to hire 34% more women than men in his leadership teams, because he believes they have “a greater capacity for love intelligence, for compassion, for empathy.”

“They think about the team and the end result of every choice that they make, both for the team and for the client,” Richmond says.

Richmond works with her clients to unleash their inner creativity and follow their passions, and believes Ma’s approach to leadership, entrepreneurship and business is an excellent example of how successful this can be.

“Ma is a perfect example of what happens when you completely live life from love, not from fear.”

While IQ and EQ are important, Richmond believes that no one will truly get the most out of their potential if this isn’t also aligned to their capacity for LQ.

“When you’re present and asking what’s your truth and what is your passion, you move out of what you perceive you should do and open up to a wealth of opportunity – because you’re starting to align your intellect and your intuition.

“People don’t do what we say, they do what we do – and if we are operating out of fear rather than love it’s impossible to be a successful leader.”

Over the past 20 years Richmond has worked with countless individuals that have found success in their careers, but still wound up stressed and disengaged from their own creativity. She says this trend towards a disengaged workforce is exacerbated by the increasing use of AI and automation.

“Most people will have something innately that they’ve always wanted to create or contribute to,” Richmond says.

“They’ve never given themselves permission to go there, or known how to bring that to life, or what that would look like because it just seems unfathomable, or out of reach.”

Richmond says executives need to have “compassion for themselves, before they can have compassion for others” in order to engage fully with their careers.

“It means giving up self-judgement, blame and beating yourself up.

“For the ultimate business success, employ and partner with people not only based on their experience and knowledge, but on their propensity for love intelligence, or LQ.”

One of the first things Richmond does with clients is to rebuild their confidence.

“There are certain very simple techniques that you can use for a person to release their subconscious beliefs about who they are, about their value, their worth, about their ability to speak their truth and have a voice, to be seen and to show up, and to be valued.”

It is this approach that Ma believes we should be prioritising for our children’s education – regardless of the machine-dominated future they will grow up in.

“Human beings should have the self-confidence,” Ma says. “Human being[s] have the wisdom. Machine[s do] not have the wisdom.”


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