As a participant in Duke University's Global Executive MBA program I have been exposed to a variety of leadership styles. Part of our program is to travel to different regions of the world and experience the business environment and culture of the locale. I can readily recognize that the practice and implementation of leadership is quite different throughout the world especially in the Middle East. Having spent 10 days in Dubai, United Arab Emirates has given me a perspective that I've never had. Dubai is anomaly of the Middle East because of its acceptance of western business, culture and people in their country. Dubai's growth in the early part of the century provided for tremendous wealth and opulence. However, the financial crisis of 2008 has had a serious effect on the economics of the Emirate and its future.
During my time there I was keen on observing the people, culture and leadership style. I have always been very curious about the Middle East and Arab-Muslims especially. My father worked as a personal bodyguard for Sheik Mohammed al Fassi of Saudi Arabia in the 1970's. Hearing his stories about how the Sheik lived and his respect for African-Americans always intrigued me and provided the desire to visit the region.
Dubai has a mesh of leadership styles. Its foundation is quintessentially Arab, but because there are expats from all over the world you can see innovation and individuality in the leadership style. It is far from a "western" style but it works in Dubai. Leaders are established through relationships first and work product second. As I work on developing my own leadership capacity I had to ask myself could I function in an environment like Dubai. The answer is yes. First, because I understand that there are numerous leadership styles and as long as the individual understands how to navigate through the layers of the leadership process they can find success. Second I hold the utmost respect and appreciation for cultures that are thousands of years old. I believe that they must know something in order to last as long as the have. That includes, the Chinese, Hebrews, and African tribes.
In closing, remember that as a leader you are obligated to stretch yourself and learn from other leaders and cultures. That understanding alone will help to fashion your leadership style and widen capacity.