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Leadership Approaches in the UAE Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 4th, 2020


The literature review explores both national and international research as well as other documentary evidence in relation to leadership and governance in the past years. According to Neider & Schriesheim (2002), leadership is a central component of good governance, which is a core determinant of development. Interestingly, the issue of improving governance in the UAE and Dubai has been a major objective as stated in the Pacific Plan and in the Australia’s overseas aid program. Neider & Schriesheim (2002) noted that leadership in the pacific is framed within the context of either chiefly leadership model or in the model of the big man leadership. In this case, big men acquire their status by demonstrating certain skills like bravery or oratorical prowess as well as through the distribution of wealth.

This chapter gives the overview of the findings on leadership in the UAE and a further examination on the ways in which cultural understandings of leadership and theories of leadership cut across the contemporary institutions as well as consider how they intersect between the leadership practices and the requirements of good governance.

Leadership theories

The trait approach in leadership theories looks at the attributes of an individual such as skills, personality, values and motives. Underlying this assumption, leaders like HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed are natural leaders who are endowed with unique traits that are not common in other leaders (Uhl-Bien, 2006). Behavioral approach, on the other hand, focuses on the achievements of the leaders as opposed to the personal traits. According to Winkler (2010), this approach deviates from the hypothesis that leaders are born, as opposed to the notion that leaders are made. Interestingly, Hofstede (2010) points out that consideration behavior is one of the behaviors in which the leader shows concern for the people he leads by respecting their ideas and feelings. On the other hand, initiating structure involves a leader who engages his followers in the tasks performed by assigning them or implicating them in decision making processes.

In this case, Mohammed bin Rhashed is one of the leaders who have embraced the behavioral approach of leadership, since he has not been seen as a leader who is made. Mohammed bin Rashed AlMaktoum approached leadership with one major massage: to embrace democracy, unity, and accept that the world belongs to the human race, where everyone is equal despite color, origin or power. His aim was to create a diverse market to serve the whole world (Metha, Dubinsky & Anderson, 2003).

Cultural differences theory of leadership argues that people perceive leadership from different dimensions across the cultures and that authority is an aspect of culture in relation to power distance and verticality. Power distance is perceived as a cultural dimension with managerial implications by applying the concept of leadership in different cultures (Walumbwa & Lawler, 2003). Neider & Schriesheim (2002) describe power distance as a situation where those in less power institutions accept that power is fairly distributed. In this form of leadership, those in higher ranks feel superior to their juniors and leaders are forced to rely on formal rules, since they are the people who direct their juniors on what is supposed to be done.

However research proves that a leader has to be guided by the current situation, as Uhl-Bien (2006) notes that situational approach has proved to be successful when leading people of different cultures, since it takes into consideration the situational factors of an area, nation or organization. This kind of theory explains the effectiveness of leadership in relation to situational moderator variables, which are also considered as the contingency theory of leadership.

The contingency theory holds the view that leaders should adapt to new styles of leadership or come up with their own styles and behaviors to achieve their desired goals, since there is no formula of leadership, which is regarded as the best. This approach dictates that leaders should be flexible and able to adapt to the situational requirements in question (House, Javidan, Hanges, & Dorfman, 2002).

Since Sheikh entered into presidency, Dubai has turned to be the best market and customer center all over water bodied countries, for instance, in Africa, Asia, West and in the Middle East. During his reign, Sheikh has turned Dubai from a country in the desert to a country of the water falls, a place with no stress but full of recreation (Avolio & Yammarino, 2013).

House’s path-goal theory is another significant theory developed from the behavioral approach. The approach holds that there are leadership qualities such as participative, directive, achievement-oriented and supportive qualities which leaders possess. Isaksen & Tidd (2006) states that leaders with directive behaviors tend to give precise and unambiguous directions to their followers on what is expected to be done. He adds that supportive leaders are those leaders who offer any required support to those they lead in a friendly manner for their targets to be accomplished. Achievement-oriented leaders, on the contrary, are more concerned with the issue of setting challenging goals for their followers, since they always believe that their followers have the ability to attain the set goals.


Avolio, B., & Yammarino, F. (2013). Transformational and Charismatic Leadership: The Road Ahead. NY, USA: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Web.

Hofstede, G. (2010). Motivation, leadership and organizations: Do American theories apply abroad? Organizational Dynamics, 9(1), 42-63. Web.

House, R., Javidan, M., Hanges, P., & Dorfman, P. (2002). Understanding cultures and implicit leadership theories across the globe: an introduction to project GLOBE. Human resource development quarterly, 37(1), 1-10. Web.

Isaksen, S. & Tidd, J. (2006). Meeting the Innovation Challenge: Leadership for Transformation and Growth. Chichester, UK: Wiley. Web.

Mehta, R., Dubinsky A. J., & Anderson, E. R. (2003). Leadership style, motivation and performance in international marketing channels: An empirical investigation of the USA, Finland and Poland. International marketing channels, 37(1/2), 50 – 85. Web.

Neider, L. & Schriesheim, C. (2002). Leadership. Greenwich, Conn: Information Age Pub. Web.

Uhl-Bien, M. (2006). Relational Leadership Theory: Exploring the Social Processes of Leadership and Organizing. Leadership Quarterly, 17(6), 654-676. Web.

Walumbwa, O., & Lawler, J. (2003). Building effective organizations: Transformational leadership, collectivist orientation, work-related attitudes and withdrawal behaviors in three emerging economies. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 14(7), 1083-1101. Web.

Winkler, I. (2010). Contemporary Leadership Theories: Enhancing the Understanding of the Complexity, Subjectivity and Dynamic of Leadership. Heidelberg : Physica-Verlag. Web.

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