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Good leadership is central to the success of change management in an organization or a country. A good leader inspires his followers and provides the vision and the resources that facilitate the achievement of the desired change (Bass & Riggio, 2012, p. 47).
This paper discusses the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is the current Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. The discussion will focus on Sheikh Mohammed’s early life and education; tasks and position; political and business career; and his vision and people’s opinion about him.
Early Life and Education
Sheikh Mohamed “was born in 1949 in Shandagha, Dubai” (Government of Dubai). He is the third son of “His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum and Sheikha Latifa” (Government of Dubai). Sheikh Mohammed was an outgoing and energetic child. His favorite childhood games included Luol, Hawaii, and football (Government of Dubai). As a brilliant child, Sheikh Mohammed was very adventurous and inquisitive.
Consequently, he learned hunting at an early age. As a young hunter, Sheikh Mohammed was a great enthusiast of falconry. Moreover, he was taught horsemanship, which later became one of his most important hobbies.
Sheikh Mohammed began his studies at the age of four years. Initially, he attended private tutorials, which focused on Arabic and Islamic Studies. He later joined Al Ahmadiya School in Deira where he received his primary education (Government of Dubai).
At the primary level, Sheikh Mohammed learned a variety of subjects, which included “Classic Arabia, English, Mathematics, Geography, and History” (IBP USA, 2013, p. 69). Sheikh Mohammed completed his primary education at Al-Shaab School. This paved the way for his secondary education, which he received at Dubai Secondary School.
Sheikh Mohammed completed his secondary education in 1965, and his father, Sheikh Rashid, felt that he had the leadership characteristics that were required to manage the security challenges that faced Dubai.
Consequently, Sheikh Mohammed was sent to Bell Language School in Cambridge to improve his knowledge of English (IBP USA, 2013, p. 81). At the Bell Language School, Sheikh Mohammed interacted with students from various regions such as China, North America, and Africa. He also excelled in poetry and various sports such as rowing and horseracing.
Sheikh Mohammed later attended Mons Officer Cadet School in England to acquire military skills (Government of Dubai). After training at the school for six months, he attained the position of Senior Under Officer of Kohima. Additionally, he received the Sword of Honor for his high achievements at the school.
Tasks and Positions
Sheikh Mohammed began his career as a public officer immediately after returning from London. He was appointed Head of Dubai Police and Public Security in the 1960s. In 1968, he helped his father, Sheikh Rashid, “to negotiate for the formation of a federal government between Dubai and Abu Dhabi” (Government of Dubai). These negotiations culminated in the formation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971.
Despite having little experience, Sheikh Mohammed managed to establish the UAE military. The force successfully accomplished its first international peacekeeping mission in 1976 in Lebanon (Government of Dubai).
In 1977, Sheikh Mohammed was appointed ahead of a committee that was responsible for the transformation of Dubai Airport into an international aviation hub (IBP USA, 2013, p. 93). In this regard, Sheikh Mohammed introduced the open skies policy to encourage international airlines to operate from Dubai Airport. He also implemented several policies to boost the tourism and oil sectors in Dubai.
Currently, Sheikh Mohammed is the Ruler of Dubai and the Prime Minister of the UAE. Consequently, his main responsibility is to provide political leadership in the Emirate of Dubai and the UAE. His main tasks include overseeing the functions of the government by influencing the formulation and implementation of public policies (Government of Dubai). He is also responsible for economic and social development in Dubai.
In this regard, he has focused on promoting foreign direct investments by eliminating barriers to international trade. Additionally, he has focused on developing infrastructure such as roads, as well as promoting macroeconomic stability in Dubai. Finally, Sheikh Mohammed has focused on promoting peace and security within Dubai, the UAE, and the Middle East by participating in peace mediation in the region.
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Political and Business Career
Sheikh Mohammed’s business and political career began in 1995 when he became the Crown Prince of Dubai. He began his business career with a mission to transform Dubai into the main tourism destination in the Middle East. To achieve this mission, he launched the Dubai Shopping Festival in 1995 (Al Maktoum, 2006, p. 56).
The festival is held annually to promote tourism and investments in Dubai. Sheikh Mohammed also successfully supervised the expansion of Dubai Airport. By 1998, the first phase of the expansion plan had been implemented.
By 2001, Sheikh Mohammed had introduced two major projects, namely the Burj Al Arab Hotel and the Palm Island Resort (Al Maktoum, 2006, p. 89). Additionally, he expanded the Emirates Airline’s fleet by ordering 60 new wide-body aircraft (Government of Dubai).
These initiatives were meant to boost tourism in Dubai. In 1999, he launched a plan that led to the establishment of Dubai Internet City, which currently hosts hundreds of information technology (IT) companies. He also launched and implemented the digitalization of registries and communication procedures of Dubai’s government.
In 2006, Sheikh Mohammed became the Ruler of Dubai after his father died. He was also appointed the Vice president and the Prime Minister of the UAE (Government of Dubai). He began his political leadership by launching various development projects. In 2007, he launched the Dubai Strategic plan in 2015. The plan aims to transform Dubai into a global center for trade and financial services by 2015.
He also launched the UAE Government Strategic Plan that focuses on promoting social and economic development in the country. Moreover, he launched the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation to promote education, scientific research, cultural development, and effective leadership (Government of Dubai).
Since 2008, Sheikh Mohammed has focused on promoting social and economic development, especially in the health and education sectors.
Personal Vision as a Leader
Sheikh Mohammed’s vision can be illustrated by the sentence, “Dubai will never settle for anything less than first place” (Al Maktoum, 2006, p. 36). Sheikh Mohammed envisions, a first world country in the Arab world. In particular, his vision is to transform Dubai and the UAE into a developed country where the citizens have access to improved social and economic welfare.
In this regard, Sheikh Mohammed intends to transform the UAE and Dubai from a regional economic block to a global financial and trade center. He intends to establish an economy whose main growth pillars include tourism, international trade, and professional services (Al Maktoum, 2006, p. 73). He is also focusing on establishing a knowledge economy where science and technology play a vital role in economic growth and development.
To achieve his vision, Sheikh Mohammed believes that Dubai and the UAE must have excellent leadership. He states that good leadership focuses on serving the country as a whole rather than a specific group.
According to Sheikh Mohammed, the credibility of a leader is determined through his actions rather than words. Moreover, he believes in a bottom-up approach to leadership to avoid alienating any group of citizens from participating in the development process of the country.
Sheikh Mohammed focuses on fulfilling his promises to the citizens and consulting widely before making decisions that affect the lives of many citizens. Apart from good leadership, Sheikh Mohammed believes that maintaining peace is central to the achievement of the county’s vision (Al Maktoum, 2006, p. 102).
Unlike, most Arab leaders, Sheikh Mohammed has chosen to maintain internal peace, as well as to corporate with the western countries in political and economic development.
Sheikh Mohammed is one of the most respected leaders in the Middle East. In the UAE and the rest of the Arab world, his peers view him as an energetic and successful leader. The citizens view him as a transformational leader who keeps his promises and accepts nothing but excellence (IBP USA, 2013, p. 92). A transformational leader is energetic, enthusiastic, passionate, and inspires change among his followers (Hacker & Roberts, 2003, p. 34).
Sheikh Mohammed has managed to win the trust of the citizens because of his excellent development record. Since his appointment as the Ruler of Dubai in 2006, Sheikh Mohammed has completed most of the development projects that he initiated such as the construction of the Burj Khalifa Building.
Sheikh Mohammed is also viewed as a philanthropist because of his generous contributions to charity. For instance, he established several charitable organizations such as Dubai Cares, which provide funds that are used to alleviate poverty in poor countries such as Afghanistan.
Despite his exemplary leadership skills, Sheikh Mohammed was accused of promoting the abduction and enslavement of young boys on several occasions in 2006 (IBP USA, 2013, p. 106). The young boys were abducted from countries such as Sudan and Pakistan and brought to the UAE where they worked as jockeys during camel races. However, the UAE has since repatriated and compensated the affected boys.
The discussions in the preceding paragraphs show that Sheikh Mohammed is a transformational leader who is capable of leading the change process that is required in Dubai and the UAE. Sheikh Mohammed owes his success in leadership to his education, personality, and socialization. As a young student, he acquired literature, military, and political skills, which prepared him for his role as a leader in Dubai.
Additionally, he was born in a ruling family and gained experience in leadership in his father’s government. Sheikh Mohammed’s leadership is guided by a clear vision for the future. This has enabled him to achieve rapid social and economic development since his appointment in 2006.
Al Maktoum, M. (2006). My vision: Challenges in the race for excellence. Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Motivate Publishing.
Bass, B., & Riggio, R. (2012). Transformational leadership. New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Government of Dubai. (2013). Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Retrieved from http://www.sheikhmohammed.com.
Hacker, S., & Roberts, T. (2003). Transformational leadership. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
IBP USA. (2013). United Arab Emirates Country study guide. Washington, DC: International Business Publications.