Complex Made Simple

UAE can and must lead world in leadership, Oxford report

Large percentage of leaders needed in UAE represents both a major challenge, a major opportunity

The UAE is one of only two countries in the world, the other being Qatar, where over 60 per cent of employed nationals need to be leaders if nationals are to run the country, according to recent report by Oxford Strategic Consulting (Oxford).

For this reason, Oxford research has determined that the key strategic capability for the UAE is leadership.

Executives and strategic leaders across all sectors make up about 8per cent of any country’s workforce. Since the UAE has a workforce of approximately eight million workers, this means that about 640,000 Emiratis will be needed to fill executive and strategic leadership posts.

There are only about one million Emiratis in UAE and if all of the UAE’s leaders, by the above definition, were Emirati, then about 64 per cent of all Emiratis would be needed to fill these crucial roles.

The large percentage of leaders needed in the UAE represents both a major challenge and a major opportunity. Countries with large national populations like the UK need less than 10 per cent of their nationals to assume leadership positions – a much less complicated task than the one facing the UAE. Given the need to develop leaders fast, Oxford Strategic Consulting and Henley Business School have produced key recommendations for leadership development, to be discussed at a top-level workshop on May 11th in Dubai.

First: capitalise on pre-existing UAE strengths. Young Emiratis are most motivated by ‘helping the country’, found Oxford’s ‘Maximising Emirati Talent’ report. In order to connect this key motivator with leadership development, government figures must stress that leadership is a strategic country goal. Moreover, Oxford has identified that a distinctive Emirati Leadership Style does exist and possesses particular advantages because of its focus on loyalty and family-based relationships.

Second: ensure global accreditation for all UAE leaders. Ideally, all leadership development programmes should adhere to global accreditation standards. It is well known that poorly designed training is worse than no training at all, and UAE nationals deserve the best training on the market. For this reason, Oxford and Henley recommend that all Emirati leaders should be qualified to a globally recognised standard.

Third: grow leaders from a very early age. Oxford’s research shows that the best way to learn to become a leader is to be a leader – early. According to an Oxford survey, most young nationals view Sheikh Khalifa and Sheikh Mohammed as excellent role models. These highly respected leadership role models can help young Emiratis to learn critical leadership traits.

Fourth: offer simple, practical help to first line leaders. Oxford research indicates that first line leaders only spend 20 per cent of their time leading, and these leaders tend to carry out fairly simple leadership activities, such as ‘organise a team meeting’. Here, practical technology-based help such as Oxford Strategic Consulting’s new App can really make a difference.

While some may view the UAE’s need for leaders as a challenge, Oxford and Henley believe it represents an opportunity for the UAE to lead the world in leadership. The UAE already possesses unique cultural advantages with respect to leadership development, and the country deserves top-tier leadership training and accreditation programmes.

These programmes can help nurture national leaders from a very young age, and the latest technology can ensure that national leaders acquire the skills needed to serve at the forefront of leadership development.