Surely, the global pandemic has turned our already turbulent, ever-changing world upside down, and we are not out of the woods yet. But I remain optimistic and pragmatic, and have been reflecting a bit.
“Full Sail Ahead!” That was the theme of one of the eight annual Forbes Global CEO Conferences to which I was privileged to be invited and that I attended before Forbes Media was acquired. This one was a decade ago.
The unique, high-powered gathering focused on the determination of billionaires, UHNWIs, and other global business leaders, including those who own or run corporations, family enterprises, family offices, and foundations, to go “full sail ahead” in search of new growth opportunities in volatile times. The panels examined the ways in which CEOs thrive on adversity and identify opportunities. The sessions also featured in-depth discussions on leadership, human capital, social responsibility, and philanthropy.
Parallel to what I can envision is ahead of us today, back then we foresaw a major economic recovery in the coming years. Growth opportunities across various economic sectors, both vertical and horizontal, in the G20 economies and the developing world are abundant for real leaders and entrepreneurs. As what I do includes profoundly mentoring, guiding, and developing next-generation leaders, I would like to highlight this passage from the Forbes event team:
“When the sea is calm, anyone can hold the helm. In volatile times, world business leaders take on the role of master mariners. They know how to set a course through the aftermath of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, outwit the forces of nature, keep their ship on an even keel, and head towards safer ports that promise more growth. The journey of the master mariners is riddled with aftershocks from the crisis, but glory awaits those who surmount them with determination and help create a better future.”
Leadership starts with a strong value system. Paul Tagliabue, then Chairman of the Board at Georgetown University (now my elder Gen Z daughter’s alma mater) and former Commissioner of the National Football League (NFL) in the United States, advised: “What matters are value systems, skills, supply and demand, and rewards. Service to others is core. Passion is a must.” Rich Karlgaard, Publisher of Forbes Magazine, quoted a very successful CEO in Silicon Valley: “I optimized for values before I optimized for business.”
In my own family (playfully called the “MAfia”), I value unconditional love, humor, and high standards in what matters. In business, I integrate my family values with the following principles:
- Integrity and authenticity
- A client-first approach—their success is our success
- Compassionate leadership and connection
- Strategic and pragmatic contributions
- Creative, open-minded, and deep thinking
- Lifelong learning and growth
“Smart people aren’t leaders. Smart and wise people are. Focus on the wisdom part,” commented Shaukat Aziz, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, reflecting on his years of vacationless challenges leading a country in turmoil. Leaders show character, communicate well, demonstrate compassion, dislike overly political “yes people,” listen well, and get the best collaborative effort. A leader finds and works with the right people. Leadership today is about influence, not titles. A leader is passionate about the whys and vision of an idea and knows how to get there.
Leadership can start as early as the teenage years. Thirteen years ago, as a loving father, observant globetrotter, and education technology (edtech) CEO, I saw that most young people, including my own two daughters, felt angsty or lost. High achievers were often stressed out or anxiety-ridden, and almost all students hadn’t unleashed their full potential. Wasted or “undertapped” potential, I thought. What if I help them really shine, win, grow, and be happier—with greater impact and long-term gains?
I also noticed a dearth of truly high-quality, next-generation leaders around the world. Thus, I decided to dedicate my second career to transforming young achievers, preparing them for admission to great universities, mentoring them to develop powerful mindsets and soft skills, and guiding them to enter and thrive in high-end careers as rising, impactful leaders. Looking back, I can see that I added mentoring and education, in addition to business “rainmaking” and speaking, to my own skill set acquired through my 36 years of experience in technology, education, real estate, and other industries around the world.
Privileged to be known these days as the Chief Mentor of Next-Gen Leaders in family office and high-level circles, I find it important to hone into my students high-quality, pragmatic “3EQ” (emotional, social, and leadership intelligence), key soft skills, strategies (in global business, school, and personal success), and execution effectiveness. My students range from high-achieving Gen Zers to Millennials to Gen X C-suite leaders, and I often “partner” with Gen X, Boomer, and even elder matriarchs and patriarchs for their collective success.
I love it when my students meaningfully learn, contribute, achieve, grow, connect, and succeed, given their life stages and the goals and milestones most important to them.
So, my friends, imagine being master mariners in business, in family, and in lifelong learning starting today and continuing into the future. Work, give, forgive, learn, connect, play, and live with passion. These actions will carry you toward your next-level success with well-being.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
As Founder, CEO, and Chief Mentor of ThreeEQ, a family-owned, premier education and global business advisory firm, Jason Ma is passionate about guiding and producing impactful, compassionate, next-generation leaders, as well as rainmaking for and advising select (tech) companies, family businesses, and family offices for next-level success. Jason is also an internationally sought-after speaker and masterclass leader. He is the critically acclaimed author of Young Leaders 3.0: Stories, Insights, and Tips for Next-Generation Achievers, and is the former Forbes contributor on Mentoring Young Leaders for elite college admissions, innovative higher education, next-gen leadership, and entrepreneurship success (1.5M+ views).
Jason was a delegate to the Forbes Global CEO Conference (attended by mainly billionaires and UHNWIs) for 8 years before Forbes Media was acquired. Since 2014, Jason has served as a leading member of the B20, the G20’s official dialogue with the business community across all G20 economies and all economic sectors. He sits on the B20 Future of Work and Education Taskforce. Jason is recognized as the “Chief/Preeminent Mentor of Next-Gen Leaders” at Family Office Association, NxtGen Nexus, and in Silicon Valley Insider, Black Tie Magazine, and Impact Wealth Magazine.