Abu Dhabi: Leadership Lessons from the Founder of “UAE Inc.”


Reading Time: 
3 min
Brief: 
  • Leadership has been described as "a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task"
  • The rapid buildup is happening within a culture where hardly anything happened quickly in the past. Commitment and follow-through are the most vital aspects of business in the gulf now
  • Sheikh Zayed's leadership has led to a more open society because he was more open to change
"One measure of leadership is the caliber of people who choose to follow you". ~Dennis A. Peer

Leadership has been described as "a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task". So what does it take to be an effective leader? Of course we can surmise that leading by example is the old standard, and it certainly always works. But there are more overt examples. 

 

The Paradigm

There was once a man whose vision led to one of the greatest countries in the gulf—or even the history of mankind, in my opinion. This man was a humble man; he came from very humble beginnings and maintained this posture throughout his life. His inspiration is what fuels the pride of the people in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). That great leader was His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates. 

 

Sheikh Zayed said the following about being a leader, "Those in the position of leadership should deal with their subjects with compassion and understanding, because this is the duty enjoined upon them by Allah, who enjoins upon us to treat all living creatures with dignity".

 

Setting out on a course that was once thought of as being overly ambitious, the dream is now coming to fruition. Sheikh Zayed's legacy continues in the hands of His Highness, the President of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa, the Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed, and others in Abu Dhabi. Record setting construction and growth is commonplace now in the UAE and the Gulf. The rapid buildup is happening within a culture where hardly anything happened quickly in the past. The effort spent trying to find that delicate balance between the old and the new; between the necessary and the useless, continues on no matter who is leading the charge. Whether they are leaders of a nation, heads of large multi-national corporations, or simply career-minded people, achieving the right balance is not an easy task to accomplish. Commitment and follow-through are the most vital aspects of business in the gulf now. People want to see that their leaders are capable of taking them in the right direction and have the ability to sustain that momentum. They also want to feel like they are participating in helping to bring about change rather than just being spectators.

 

I believe that what Sheikh Zayed accomplished redefines the word “leader”.  In fact some call him the “Father of the UAE” due to his care and nurturing of the peoples across the country. Sheikh Zayed dealt with some very delicate situations in the transitions leading up to the formation of the United Arab Emirates. Arab culture provides for social interactions with their leaders through Majlis, etc.

 

These occasions—even today—provide the people with that personal connection where they can be seen and heard by their leaders about issues, grievances, etc. Sheikh Zayed remained open and available to the people. This society he helped to nurture along is a leader as well now, and carries some of the same burdens that he carried on his shoulders as he planned step by step what needed to be done for the future of “UAE Inc.” Other leaders—and prospective leaders—should take note if they want to become true leaders of their people.

 

A leader is often thought of—or imagined—as an individual who has overcome obstacles to make it to the top. Great leaders know that they possess certain qualities to lead, but they also realize that a good team is vital to success. Collaboration and teamwork can foster great leaders as they teach you how to work with others. For men this is a common way to learn, but now for many women as well; the concept of “team” was rarely impressed upon them as being beneficial.  Today women are learning some of these same skills as their male counterparts, but in the business world, not on a field or pitch. 

 

In conclusion, the UAE under Sheikh Zayed's leadership has led to a more open society  because  he  was  more  open  to  change.  Consequently, this has created  a  positive atmosphere for growth in the future for the UAE. That is leadership.

 

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