INsight/ Big Or Small?

     Philippine entrepreneur Aisa Mijeno and Alibaba CEO Jack Ma discuss sustainability leadership issues with President Obama at APEC 2015.

     Philippine entrepreneur Aisa Mijeno and Alibaba CEO Jack Ma discuss sustainability leadership issues with President Obama at APEC 2015.

Manila, 24 November 2015 — Watch young Philippine entrepreneur Aisa Mijeno take center stage with Alibaba's iconic leader Jack Ma in a conversation on sustainability leadership moderated by President Obama at the APEC CEO Summit 2015 in Manila. What can we learn from their discussion?

Aisa and her brother Raphael started, a social enterprise about sustainable alternative lighting, to promote a lamp they invented that runs on salt water! Aisa talked about her passion to see this lamp being distributed widely to island and mountain communities that are not connected to electricity grids.

During the conversation, she clarified that the lamp gives light for 8 hours at a time, and can be recharged by replacing the salt water inside. It can also charge a mobile phone battery, which can make a big difference during times of natural disasters. It costs around $20 equivalent, plus $6 per year to replace a consumable part inside. 

Aisa explained that her small enterprise has already received much interest, and that she is now looking to build up a support system "to mentor and guide us to scale up our projects."

In response, Jack Ma and President Obama commented that innovation mostly takes place outside large companies, and that it is important to support small start-ups like Aisa's. Larger businesses can help by funding and promotion, and governments can help by lowering taxes and by funding basic research, according to President Obama.

Jack Ma added that Alibaba promotes small and innovative companies on their platform if they are environmentally friendly.

Moving on to talk about tackling climate change and Asia's environmental problems, like China's air pollution in cities, Jack Ma said that a positive mindset is needed, with action.

"It is too late to worry and complain whose fault it is. Your fault or my fault. We should solve it together. We have to make action, jointly together." 

In the conversation, Aisa showed how small start-ups can make a big difference when it comes to innovation, not only for commercial business, but also to work for sustainability and to bring power to remote communities where people still live without electricity.

Taking center stage in front of a large audience of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, she illustrated the meaning of the APEC 2015 theme “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World.” 

Jack Ma modeled a successful leader's positive attitude of bringing people together for action. And, true to his words, he offered Aisa and her brother support through training after the conversation had ended.

President Obama showed how a leader in a position of high authority can sometimes choose to take an enabling leadership role by hosting a conversation. In his role as moderator, his humanity and sincerity were evident, and the audience appreciated that. 

Watch the conversation here.

Tip: Non-executive leadership roles can include serving as a champion leader, enabling leader, cross-boundary team leader, thought leader, strategic leader, or trusted advisor. Which of these roles did the three speakers embody in the conversation? And which of these roles are you interested to learn? Take our survey here