Leadership, Management Style and Organizational Performance

Abstract

The focus on globalization and multiculturalism has emphasised the importance of understanding Organizational productivity and team effectiveness. However, Organizational productivity and team effectiveness largely depend on the effectiveness of leadership styles and their effect on Organizational success. Leadership styles are however subject to different personal, Organizational, and cultural factors that need further investigations. An understanding of the business context is an effective approach for doing so. This paper focuses on the UAE business context by evaluating and comparing leadership styles in the UAE and their effect on the competitiveness of the country. Mainly, this paper evaluates the UAE leadership styles, from the private sector and public sector perspectives, through an analysis of two case studies and an assessment of the views of employees and managers in the UAE. Broadly, this paper establishes that most UAE Organizations are government and family-owned. The main leadership styles that prevail in these Organizations are the authoritative and consultative leadership styles. Evidence shows that although these leadership styles are uncompetitive in today’s global business environment, they reflect the UAE cultural practices. To improve the country’s competitiveness, this paper recommends the adoption of the participative and transformational leadership styles. This recommendation stems from the realisation that all leaders and managers in the UAE should appreciate the importance of structural flexibility in their leadership approaches to maximise employee output and Organizational productivity.

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Glossary of Abbreviations

  • CEO – Chief Executive Officer
  • FDI – Foreign Direct Investments
  • GDP – Gross Domestic Product
  • NHS – National Health Service
  • TQM -Total quality management
  • UAE – United Arab Emirates
  • UK – United Kingdom

Introduction

Many people have different interpretations of leadership. These differences come from the varied understanding of the concept. Fatokun & Salaam (2010) say leadership involves several factors including employee motivation, inclusion of employee opinions in decision-making, and the encouragement of people to achieve their personal and Organizational goals. Broadly, a leader is someone who has the power and influence to affect Organizational behaviour. Recent interpretations of leadership and its effects on Organizational performance show that leadership is a personal attempt to influence employee behaviour and Organizational performance (Timothy & Andy 2011). Since most people participate in Organizational activities to pursue personal goals, their commitment to participate in the Organization largely depends on how they believe the Organization will help them to achieve their personal goals (Fatokun & Salaam 2010). Conversely, many people will be committed to work in an Organization that will help them to meet their personal goals and objectives. The failure to realise this outcome may negatively affect employees’ commitment to an Organization.

Leadership styles often play an instrumental role in easing, or inhibiting, the willingness of employees to contribute to Organizational activities (Lieberson & O’Connor 1972). Thus, managers search for leadership styles that resonate with the ambitions of their employees.

The importance of leadership styles on Organizational productivity does not however end on influencing employee commitment alone; an employee’s ability to harness Organizational resources also largely depends on leadership management styles. Relative to this view, Timothy & Andy (2011) say, “Efficiency in resource mobilisation, allocation, utilisation, and enhancement of Organizational performance depends, to a large extent, on leadership style, among other factors” (p. 100).

Many Organizations lag behind in adapting to the demands of today’s economic times. More specifically, most leadership styles fail to augur well with the current demands of a competitive global environment. As such, many businesses do not operate to their full potential. Firms operating in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are not exempt from this flaw. Indeed, Syed & Özbilgin (2010) say most UAE firms face a leadership challenge that inhibits their competitive advantages and ability to stay afloat in a fiercely competitive global economy. Through this understanding, this paper brings to the fore, the importance of flexible leadership, as a strategy for businesses to cope with today’s demanding global environment. To achieve this objective, this paper evaluates the influence of leadership and management styles in influencing the Organizational performance of UAE firms.

Rationale

Many countries have experienced the effects of a rapidly changing globalised world. The UAE is a part of it. Internally, the UAE faces several social and political challenges that affect the public and private spheres of the country’s existence. Some public sector challenges include social and political imbalances that stem from social and economic problems (such as unemployment, skewed income distribution, and fractures in the federal framework) (Facts on File Incorporated 2008). Besides, as an offshoot of these public sector problems, the UAE still faces several environmental challenges that threaten the country’s water resources, marine life, and the quality of atmospheric conditions (these environmental factors support the country’s growing population and the vibrant tourism sector) (World Economic Forum 2007).

Private sector challenges in the UAE mainly mirror attempts by new enterprises to seek relevance in the largely government-dominated UAE business environment. Since the government cannot effectively meet all of UAE’s social and economic needs, or solve the country’s complex economic problems, it has been imperative to include private sector participation in propelling the country’s growth. However, private enterprises face several challenges associated with differing national cultures, succession politics, lack of adequate capital, nepotism, difficulties in securing government contracts, strict laws and regulations, lack of employee coherence among other factors (Humby & Hunt 2008).

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This paper realises the role of leadership and management styles in solving most of these national problems. In detail, this paper relies on the fact that effective management and leadership styles may possibly solve the environmental, social, economic, and political challenges facing the country. A key motivator for adopting this approach is the instrumental role that private-public partnerships have contributed to solving some of these challenges. It is therefore unsurprising that the research questions for this paper largely take a “private” and “public” approach. Stated differently, the research questions intend to explore how the government and private sector Organizations aim to improve their productivity and efficiencies through the adoption of sound leadership and management styles. The focus on private and public sector Organizations arises from the fact that both groups of Organizations usually have a different set of work ethos and Organizational objectives (although their contributions are essential for the sustenance of growth in a growing economy such as UAE’s). Therefore, by understanding the differences in the leadership and management styles of government and private Organizations in the UAE, it would be easy to understand how local enterprises in the UAE can improve their efficiency and competitiveness in the wake of global competition.

Research Aim

To explore how UAE Organizations cope with the demanding global environment through the adoption of effective leadership styles.Hypothesis

UAE Organizations cope with the demanding global business environment by adopting a mix of culturally acceptable leadership styles.

Research objectives

  • To identify the best working practices of leadership in the UAE
  • To find out if there is a need for different leadership styles in the UAE public and private sectors
  • To recommend appropriate leadership styles for government and private Organizations in the UAE
  • To establish the importance of individual awareness to higher management levels

Outline Methodology

As explained above, this dissertation is a product of the adoption of a mixed research approach. The collection of data occurred through structured questionnaires, surveys, and case studies. In sum, the interviewees and respondents included experts in the field of leadership and management and public and private sector managers in the UAE. The case studies included a representative analysis of UAE Organizations in the private and private sectors.

Literature Review

Introduction

This chapter reviews the works of previous researchers who have investigated the correlation between leadership and management styles. Through a multifaceted approach of investigating the predominant leadership style in UAE’s public and private sectors, this chapter investigates the best working practices informing sound leadership styles, the distinction between leadership styles in the private and public sectors, the appropriate leadership styles for the private and public sector, and the importance of individual awareness to leadership styles.

Best Working Practices of Leadership Management Style in the UAE

Depending on the Organizational context, many observers have often questioned the best type of leadership style that would be appropriate for an Organization (Derel 2003; Winkler 2010; Northouse 2010). This debate especially surfaces from the existence of different leadership styles and Organizational goals in the UAE. At the centre of this analysis lies the need to understand the theoretical underpinnings of leadership. Winkler (2010) says leadership is a complex concept that has birthed many theories, models, and operational paradigms. Early theoretical constructs tried to establish if leadership was an innate trait, or an acquired trait (Arnold 2011). The trait theory is one approach that developed from this debate because it suggested that leadership was an innate phenomenon (inborn) (USA International Business Publications 2007).

This view prevailed in most parts of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, until new evidence showed the strength of behavioural theories in understanding leadership styles (NHS 2013). These theories mainly suggested that leadership styles were products of personal behaviours. The contingency approach is one model that developed from this ideological shift because it proposed that effective leaders adapted best to their Organizational situations (Bennis 1994). Max Weber introduced a new wave of theoretical evidence that emphasised on the role of vision and charisma in understanding leadership styles (Winkler 2010). Through this ideology, a new group of researchers emerged with the goal of investigating the potential of leaders heading groups of people without any “sanctioned” office (later, the concepts of transactional and transformational leadership also emerged from this analysis) (Derel 2003).

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Although the above studies portray a universal attempt to understand the best working practices that support leadership styles, there have been localised attempts to investigate the same phenomenon in the UAE. Indeed, based on the different influences of national ethos on leadership styles, many researchers have focused on investigating dominant leadership styles in the UAE. Most of these researchers have focused on analysing the UAE leadership styles by concentrating on the UAE construction sector (Peck & Dickinson 2008; Syed & Özbilgin 2010).

The construction industry is a significant part of the UAE economy. A survey of three companies in the UAE showed that the consultative and consensus leadership styles were more predominant in this sector (Randeree & Chaudhry 2007). While many researchers caution against generalising western and eastern leadership styles (Syed & Özbilgin 2010), more than 50% of respondents in a study conducted by Baumüller (2007) to evaluate the impact of leadership styles in the UAE construction sector argued that the choice of leadership style significantly affected their levels of job satisfaction. Through the strong influence of leadership styles on Organizational performance, Davies (2007) also established that the choice of leadership style in the construction sector affected employee commitment. These findings also hinted at a strong preference for participative and democratic leadership styles in the UAE construction industry.

Based on the above findings, Syed & Özbilgin (2010) say the adoption of consensus as a key tenet of UAE’s leadership style stem from the fact that the UAE is a culturally diverse country and leaders would ordinarily want to achieve consensus when making decisions. Moreover, since expatriate labour contributes to the development of the UAE economy, Syed & Özbilgin 2010) say the leaders believe the participative and democratic leadership style would improve employee productivity. Despite the focus on improving Organizational productivity, many researchers who have investigated leadership styles in the UAE say the best leadership and management styles are those that seek to build and influence lasting relationships (Baumüller 2007). Northouse (2010) says most Arab leaders strive to build and maintain these lasting relationships because if they are broken, it is very difficult to mend them

Many researchers have said that although the participative and democratic leadership styles appear to be the best leadership styles, the choice of leadership is mainly subject to the UAE Organizational context. A different group of researchers believes UAE leaders should not abandon their leadership styles for western-styled leadership styles. Instead, they suggest that UAE leaders should adopt multifaceted leadership styles, depending on their Organizational contexts. This view contradicts the commonly held belief that most UAE leaders adopt one leadership style. According to Nwagbara (2010), it is often rare to find managers relying on only one leadership style.

Since studies to investigate factors that affect leadership styles are dynamic, it is not surprising to see leaders adopt different styles. The diversity of leadership styles mainly stems from the different circumstances that force leaders to adopt different styles of leadership. Tannenbaum & Schmidt (1958) say the three common factors that prompt leaders to adopt different leadership styles include the characteristics of the leader, attitudes of the subordinates, and the attitudes of Organizational stakeholders in the UAE. Through the same scope of analysis, Randeree & Chaudhry (2007) say UAE leaders adopt different leadership styles because of their “level in the authority hierarchy, function of the Organizational unit, the size of the Organizational unit, task characteristics and technology, lateral interdependence, crisis situation, stages in the Organization lifecycle and, finally, subordinates’ competence and performance” (p. 222). Relative to the above views, Herbert (1981) believes that the choice of leadership is a function of several factors including the need to participate, level of commitment, and the importance of supervision in affecting the outcome of Organizational tasks.

Comprehensively, varied factors affect the best working practices of leadership in the UAE. Here, it is crucial to say several factors including, “the context of the Organization, the characteristics of the Organization, the nature of the decisions and the attributes and preferences of the decision makers” (Randeree & Chaudhry 2007, p. 222) affect leadership styles in UAE Organizations. The nature of Organizational objectives also significantly affects the choice of leadership in the Organization because the relative sense of difficulty, or ease, of completing Organizational tasks also affects the choice of leadership style in an Organization. Indeed, UAE leaders do not operate in a vacuum; they have to consider their cultural and Organizational contexts while choosing the best leadership style that they are comfortable with, and that fits the context of their decision-making environments. This analysis shows that the spheres of influence of UAE leaders within the private and public sectors therefore dictate their leadership styles because they denote different Organizational contexts of operation.

Management Styles Adopted By UAE Government Leaders and Private Organizations

Organizational contexts have a profound impact on the leadership styles adopted by UAE leaders. The private and public sectors offer unique characteristics that define the appropriateness of the leadership styles that the leaders should adopt. A high power distance, high uncertainty avoidance, and individualism are only a few characteristics of the UAE public sector that define the appropriateness of leadership styles in this sector.

Public Sector

High Power Distance Models

Syed & Özbilgin (2010) says one unique dimension of public sector leaders in the UAE is their selective application of high power distance models of leadership and management. The high power distance presents a situation where there is a limited upward mobility of personnel because of the existence of a caste or tribal system of association. In part, the existence of such a system creates a situation where there are very high inequalities of power and wealth within the UAE public sector. Most leaders in the UAE public sector therefore have a very profound presence of power within the Organization and their decisions are often unquestioned by their subordinates. This leadership structure creates a situation where leaders and their subordinates are incoherent (Management Paradise 2011).

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High Uncertainty Avoidance

Another unique aspect of leadership and management styles in the UAE public sector is the presence of high uncertainty avoidance levels among most UAE leaders. The high uncertainty avoidance informs why there is a relatively strong presence of bureaucracy within the UAE public sector (McAdam & Keogh 2013). Strict rules, policies, and procedures are partly responsible for these bureaucracies. Public sector managers also exhibit a very low tolerance to uncertainty within the Organization (Crawford 2004). The high uncertainty avoidance level has very significant limitations for the competitiveness of the public sector because it limits innovation and creativity. Similarly, the high uncertainty avoidance in the Organization limits new learning within the public sector.

Randeree & Chaudhry (2007) posit that a close leadership dynamic that describes the attitude of most public sector managers in the UAE is a high depiction of masculinity in their leadership and managerial styles. In line with the high uncertainty avoidance trait, most UAE public sector managers rely on traditional power structures to govern because they give them a lot of freedom to be assertive in the Organization. Unfortunately, through the exercise of these traditional power structures, most public sector managers in the UAE tend to be insensitive and uncaring (Crawford 2004).

Individualism

The leadership styles adopted by public sector managers in the UAE also show a low level of individualism. This is because most managers and leaders within this sector pledge their allegiance to the ruling family and therefore show no willingness to exercise personal preferences in their leadership styles (McAdam & Keogh 2013). Through the influence of Arab cultural norms in their leadership and management styles, it is inevitable to say that most Arab cultural practices do not fit well with key tenets of western-styled leadership practices. For example, McAdam & Keogh (2013) says open communication and employee inclusivity (in the decision-making process) does not augur well with the Arab culture.

Private Sector

Unlike the UAE public sector, the private sector adopts many leadership styles. Peterson & Seligman (2004) say it is difficult to isolate one leadership style that prevails in the UAE private sector. Indeed, because powerful families mainly lead most UAE private sector firms, the choice of leadership styles remains a preserve of family members. However, based on a general assessment of most private sector firms, many private sector managers adopt the consultative leadership approach (Varadarajan & Majumdar 2012). Some private sector managers also adopt the democratic leadership styles. An even smaller percentage of managers adopt the participative leadership style (Index-Mundi 2013). Through the adoption of these leadership styles, consultation, and democracy emerge as the main characteristics of the UAE private sector leadership styles.

Consultative

Since most UAE private sector managers adopt the consultative leadership style, Naciri (2008) says it is a common business practice for many managers in the UAE to consult with their peers. Indeed, in a country where multimillion-dollar deals occur in coffee shops and private meetings, many UAE managers prefer to adopt leadership and management styles that emerge from consultations with family members and other people of influence (Naciri 2008). From this assessment, it is common to see many private sector leaders engaging with a close circle of people when they have to make strategic business decisions in the Organization. This leadership structure closely resembles the top-down management structure where selected groups of employees have the privilege of interacting with top-level managers to formulate strategic decisions for their Organizations (Wang & Chich-Jen 2010). In this context, the role of lower-level employees is to receive the direction from top-level managers on how to implement the decisions that have emerged from such meetings.

Democracy

Although the consultative leadership style is prevalent in most private sector Organizations, some private companies in the UAE prefer to adopt western-styled leadership styles where leaders and managers make decisions democratically (Arabian Business 2013). In such Organizations, lower-level employees have a wider space (compared to public sector Organizations) of contributing to the decision-making process of the Organization. Companies that have firmly embraced such leadership styles prefer to seek the services of management professionals and consultancy firms in making their decisions. The number of firms that adopt this management style is however small.

Comprehensively, it is inevitable to point out that private sector Organizations and public sector Organizations have different characteristics that affect their leadership styles. However, these unique characteristics introduce the need for understanding the appropriate leadership styles that would work in both sectors.

Appropriate Leadership Styles for Government and Private Organizations in the UAE

As described in this paper, the UAE public and private sectors are distinct from each other in terms of their leadership and managerial approaches. Both sectors of the UAE economy abide by different Organizational performance standards and management acumen. However, perhaps, the most significant distinction between both types of Organizations is their difference in purpose. Stated differently, public sector Organizations strive to improve the welfare of the public through the provision of goods and services, but the private sector aims to improve the welfare of its shareholders (owners). There has been a bold attempt by researchers to associate UAE leadership styles as part of the wider leadership practice adopted in the Middle East.

For example, Derel (2003) conducted a review to evaluate the leadership styles adopted by private and public institutions in the Middle East by focusing on evaluating the leadership styles for school principals from public and private schools in Turkey. He evaluated the leadership styles of its principals after visiting 117 public and private schools and evaluating the views of a similar number of respondents (teachers) from the same schools (one criterion for choosing the respondents was their work experience with their leaders) (Derel 2003). After the teachers completed a leadership behaviour description questionnaire (LBDQ), the researcher found out that the differences in leadership styles for both public and private institutions were insignificant. However, the researcher also found out that private school principals had a strong tendency of initiating structure dimension in their leadership styles (Derel 2003). He also found insignificant differences in mean consideration dimensions between the private and public school leaders.

Iqbal (2011) disagrees with the view that there are insignificant differences between public and private leadership styles in the UAE. He especially emphasises the differences in leadership styles between the UAE private and public sectors by saying that although the public sector is reforming, leaders in the private sector are more receptive to change, as opposed to leaders in the public sector. This finding mirrors other studies done in Jordan, where Iqbal (2011) found out that, private sector leaders showed a strong inclination to adopting the initiating structure, while public sector managers showed a strong inclination to the consideration leadership structure. The study also showed that most private sector employees had a good working relationship with their leaders because they spent more time with them (Derel 2003).

A different study conducted by McAdam & Keogh (2013) to establish the perception of public sector employees towards the leadership styles of their leaders showed that there was a direct relationship between the supervisory skills of the leaders and the level of expectations of the employees. The researchers also affirmed the same relationship with the leaders’ leadership skills (McAdam & Keogh 2013). In both analyses, the researchers found out that the expectation levels of the employees were higher than their perception levels (to come up with these findings, the researchers used the cluster sampling technique). (McAdam & Keogh 2013).

The above studies show that the leadership styles adopted by private sector managers cultivate a positive relationship with employees, while public sector managers experience unreceptive attention of their employees because they exercise rigid leadership styles. The adoption of the initiating structure in most UAE private sector Organizations largely explains this situation. Based on the similarities between UAE leadership styles and Middle Eastern leadership styles, it is important to point out that UAE leadership styles largely mirror Middle East leadership styles. However, a deeper analysis of these intrigues highlights the importance of individual awareness to higher management levels because it explains employee perceptions and attitudes towards leadership styles. The effect also happens in the opposite way because individual awareness of leadership styles also affects a leader’s attitude about governance.

Importance of Individual Awareness of Higher Management Levels

Many researchers have written about the effect of leadership and management styles on Organizational performance (Iqbal 2011; Varadarajan & Majumdar 2012). Regardless of the contents of their narratives, there is a consensus among many analysts that depicts the existence of trade-offs in the adoption of leadership and management styles. Through this analogy, it is correct to say that the choice of leadership styles and managerial approach is a critical component for the success of most Organizations (Halldorsson 2007). Leadership styles, by virtue of their contribution to Organizational success, symbolise a special component of leadership as a discipline. However, the understanding of leadership as a discipline hinges on the understanding of individual awareness to higher management levels. This section of the paper explores past studies that explain the concept of individual awareness to higher management levels. The contributions of the vertical dyad exchange model and the path-goal theory emerge here to identifying how individual awareness affects leadership and management approaches.

The vertical dyad exchange model suggests that leadership is inconsistent (Lee 2005). It also proposes that individual awareness affects the leadership styles, based on the characteristics of the subjects. For example, Lee (2005) says, while a leader may be sympathetic towards one employee, he may be aggressive and inconsiderate towards another employee. Therefore, the vertical dyad exchange model proposes the importance of understanding if an employee is “in” or “out” with a leader (Watkins 2008). An employee’s competency level has a huge role to play in determining his/her chances of gaining favour with the leader. Usually, most employees who are “in” with the leaders share the same beliefs, values, and attitudes of the leader, while those that are “out” do not share similar characteristics with the leader. Therefore, employees who are “in’ with a leader have a high likelihood of forming a good team with the leader, while those that are “out” have a very low likelihood of joining this team (Derel 2003).

The acceptability of a leader’s management style mainly stems from the principles of path-goal theory. This theory stipulates that leadership and management styles are only acceptable when they promote employee satisfaction. The same theory also stipulates that leadership and management styles are motivational (only) when they eliminate all the barriers to goal accomplishment (Fairholm & Fairholm 2009). The founder of the path-goal theory says leaders have to adhere to the right leadership strategies if they want to accomplish challenging Organizational tasks (Lee 2005). Unlike researchers who believe leaders exhibit one leadership style, only, the path-goal theory suggests that most leaders may exhibit different leadership styles, at the same time.

Researchers from the University of Michigan have redefined the concept of leadership by saying it is not a mechanical approach to running Organizations, but rather, a humanistic approach of the same (Hesselbein 2004). This humanistic appeal of leadership underscores the importance of individual awareness in leadership. Researchers who hold this opinion also say task direction and socioeconomic supports are among key tenets that define the relationship between leaders and their followers (Lussier & Achua 2009). The same researchers show the existence of two types of leadership – production-oriented leadership and employee-oriented leadership (Fagenson-Eland & Baugh 2005; Randeree & Chaudhry 2007).

The main difference between these types of leadership approaches is the focus on the leaders. Leaders who value the technical aspects of a job ordinarily pursue production-oriented leadership styles, while leaders who are motivated to include employees in their decision-making processes, and provide a supportive environment for employees to work, pursue employee-oriented leadership (Elenkov 2002). Lussier (2009) says leaders who demonstrate an individual awareness in leadership are those that develop primary and secondary relationships within the Organization. Primary relationships are distinct from secondary relationships because they are personal (face-to-face), while secondary interactions refer to work-oriented relationships (such as the merger between different operating departments). This analysis means the most effective leaders are those demonstrate individual awareness by merging Organizational and personal needs. Crawford (2004) says leaders should realise this balance as an enhancement of Organizational functions. Fagenson-Eland & Baugh (2005) add that most managers should promote it by cultivating employee loyalty and caring for people within the Organization.

Summary

A comprehensive evaluation of this literature review shows that different people not only have different perceptions of leadership, but also exhibit different behaviours that show their differing perceptions. The differing perceptions may undermine the universality of some leadership theories, models, and researches outlined in this paper. For example, the transactional and transformational leadership theories, as outlined by Weislowski (2010), have shown some degree of universality, but cultural and perceptual differences may limit their applicability across different countries (as demonstrated in the UAE). Broadly, the influence of national culture on leadership style is profound on individual behaviours (especially in the Middle East). This is the main reason why individual awareness surfaces as an important component for understanding leadership styles in the UAE. The differences between the East and the west are also similarly profound in the process of understanding the most appropriate leadership styles in the UAE. Therefore, an understanding of individual awareness emerges as an important consideration of the cultural contexts of leadership in the UAE.

Methodology

Scope of Chapter

This chapter explores how this research investigated the research problem. In detail, this chapter explores the research design, data collection method, participants, data analysis methods, and the ethical considerations of the study.

Statement of Research Aim

To explore how UAE Organizations cope with the demanding global environment through the adoption of effective leadership styles

Research Design

The main research approach of this paper is the mixed approach (quantitative and qualitative approaches). The mixed methodological approach is appropriate for this paper because leadership styles are multifaceted, as they stem from ideological views (quantitative) and Organizational performance (quantitative). Therefore, the mixed research approach provided an opportunity to measure different ends of one relationship – leadership style and Organizational performance. Different benefits emerged from the use of this research approach. One advantage was the presentation of a holistic analysis of the research question.

Andres (2012) says researches that adopt a mixed research approach present a more holistic view of social studies because they approach one issue from different perspectives. Indeed, several levels of social research explain leadership styles (Brannen 2005; Alkhafaji 2001). The cognitive and social levels are among the most common levels in understanding leadership styles. Although different methodologies may have specific strengths in explaining these different levels of leadership styles, the mixed research approach helped to paint a clearer picture of the social world (workplace environment). This methodology therefore provided the platform for more adequate explanations of the research question. Thus, as opposed to other approaches, which use insufficiently theorised methodologies, the multi-methodological approach is theorised and fits well with the postmodern era that this study addresses (D’Amico 1969; Burns 1978).

Rationale of the Research Questionnaire

The main data collection processes for this paper were online questionnaires (surveys), personal interviews, and case studies. This three-thronged approach aimed to provide a comprehensive and balanced approach of the study. The views of managers and employees mainly formed the motivation for using online surveys and personal interviews. Personal interviews gathered the views of managers, while the surveys gathered the views of employees. The study used independent case studies as a control experiment to compare the views of the employees and managers.

Surveys

Online surveys sampled the views of company employees from both the private and public sectors. To gather views regarding the main leadership and management styles in the UAE, the study intended to sample the views of 50 employees from the public sector and 50 employees from the private sector. However, the study sampled 69 respondents because 31 participants failed to cooperate. The respondents received the questionnaires as survey questions.

The study used online questionnaires because it was easy to reach the large sample of respondents this way, as opposed to physically carrying out the research. The online questionnaires were also relatively cheap and easy to administer, especially to a large sample population of the intended 100 respondents. Besides, since the questionnaires were structured, there was little room for the respondents to provide inaccurate or incomprehensible information (Bauer & Law 2008). Moreover, it was difficult to capture erroneous data because Bauer & Law (2008) also say the programming system of online questionnaires would exclude it. These advantages improved the quality of the responses obtained through the survey.

Interviews

The second data collection method (interviews) sampled the views of ten managers from the private and public sectors. The study used structured interviews (that were arranged at the convenience of the participants) to gather the views of the managers. Considering the difficulty of getting adequate time to interview company managers, I sought the views of private company managers that I shared a close relationship with. Public sector managers were even more difficult to interview, but through personal networks, I managed to interview five respondents who held different managerial positions in UAE public sector Organizations.

There was a deliberate attempt to provide a balanced mix between public sector managers and private sector managers, to have a more comprehensive understanding of the research questions (the scope of the research questions spanned across the private sector and public sector enterprises). The structured interviews provided some benefits to the research process because it gave the researcher an opportunity to evaluate a respondent’s level of understanding regarding the research topic. This way, it was easy to get a greater depth of information regarding the research questions. The possibility of asking the same questions in structured interviews also provided the researcher with an opportunity to gather standardised responses for easy comparability. One motivation for using personal interviews was the convenience it offered to the researcher to probe the views given by the respondents. One potential drawback to the use of the structured interview is the high dependability on the quality of questions asked. Moreover, preparing for the session took a lot of time.

Case Studies

Lastly, this study also used case studies to explore the validity of the responses obtained through the interviews and the survey. In sum, there were two case studies sampled in this paper. To have a broader understanding of the differences in the public sector and private sector leadership styles, this paper adopted a balanced approach of sampling the case studies by investigating two cases from the UAE – Emirates Airlines and Al Masaood and Sons Company (Emirates Airline is a public company and Al Masaood and Sons is a private company). Similar to the interviews and surveys, the case studies provided a balanced approach as well.

The Research Sample

The survey participants were employees from UAE private and public companies. Employees from three public companies and two private companies participated in the study. Their mean age was 35 years. There was no gender criterion used to select the employees, although the purposeful sampling technique provided a convenient sample of respondents from the public and private sectors. The managers sampled also came from the same companies discussed above (although the paper sought more managerial responses from other companies as well). Five managers came from the private sector, while another sample of five respondents came from the public sector. The managers had worked in their companies for more than 10 years. All the respondents met this criterion. Their mean age was 50 years. Coincidentally, all were male managers.

Method of Analysis

Theories and models of leadership and management provided the correct framework of analysis for the research findings. Notable theories and models that provided the analytical frameworks include contingency theory, charismatic theory, and transformational theory. In detail, the researcher analysed the findings of the paper to see how they conformed or differed with existing leadership and management theories (with an emphasis on how such Organizations could improve their leadership effectiveness). On a larger scale, this analysis fit in the research objectives of the study. Lastly, this paper also relied on constructivist ontology and an interpretive epistemology to comprehend the views of different respondents sampled in this study.

Findings

This chapter explores the findings of this study. These findings categorize into the findings gathered from surveys, interviews, and case studies.

Survey Findings

The responses gathered in this paper split into two groups – responses from employees in the public sector and responses from employees in the private sector. The surveys gathered the responses from employees in both sectors, while personal interviews gathered the responses for managers in both sectors as well. Since the survey design aimed to gather respondents’ views in four sections, parts A, B, C, and D (see appendix one), this chapter also presents the same findings in the same order. Following this guideline, the following section first explores the views of public sector employees.

Public Sector Responses

Best Working Practices

In sum, 39 respondents from the public sector took part in the survey. Their responses did not differ much from one another, except for their degree of responses. The first set of responses aimed to investigate the views of public sector employees regarding the best working practices in the public sector. Close to 80% of the respondents said that the public sector was ineffective in achieving its goals. Most of the respondents also said leadership styles played a big role in the failure of the public sector to achieve its goals. It was therefore unsurprising for most of the respondents to say the effectiveness of leadership practices was poor. However, in the defence of public sector leaders, most of the respondents said public sector leaders did not have independence when exercising their leadership styles. Organizational culture and employee attitudes also emerged as important tenets of public sector leadership styles. This view underscores the overwhelming response that public sector employees attributed to both factors in shaping the predominant leadership styles in their Organizations. The consultative leadership style also emerged as the most preferred leadership style among the employees sampled. The democratic leadership style emerged as the second most preferred leadership style for the public sector.

Appropriateness of Leadership Style

When the respondents expressed their views regarding their level of satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, with their predominant leadership styles, 70% of the respondents said they were dissatisfied with leadership practices in the public sector. All the respondents who held this view also claimed the predominant leadership styles in their Organizations did not align well with their Organizational goals. Compared to the sample of respondents expressing dissatisfaction with the predominant leadership style, a greater sample of respondents felt this way. The percentage of respondents who expressed dissatisfaction with the predominant leadership style also expressed the same sentiment when they said they would rather change the predominant leadership style in their Organizations, as opposed to improving it. About 78% of the respondents felt this way. Interestingly, when the respondents had to state how they would change the leadership styles, 60% of them hinted at changing the leaders. The rest of the responses spread across introducing younger employees, increasing the independence of public companies, and the adoption of western-styled leadership practices. Lastly, most of the respondents said collective responsibility was important in formulating future and present leadership practices.

Need for Different Leadership Style

The above responses set the stage for an overwhelming support by public sector employees to advocate for a different leadership style. When the responses had to state if only top managers should change, more than half the respondents said top leaders were the main problem. Only 20% of the respondents said employees should change as well, while the rest advocated for a change of both employees and leaders alike. The respondents said upper-level management should champion the leadership change. Only a small sample of participants believed employees should spearhead this process. The sample population, which held this view, also believed Organizational productivity would not change with a change in leadership. However, most of the respondents believed there would be a positive Organizational change from a change in leadership style. Based on such a response, it was unsurprising for most of the respondents to say the need for a change of leadership style was very important.

Individual Awareness

When the respondents had to state the importance of leadership styles to their position as employees, most of the respondents said leadership was “very important” to their positions. The same response also mirrored their views regarding the importance of leadership styles to their careers. Interestingly, few employees said they understood how they contributed to the company’s bottom-line. Most of the respondents also said they did not feel valued or respected by their leaders. These sentiments also explained why most of the public sector employees expressed pessimism regarding future leadership practices.

Private Sector Responses

Best Working Practices

In sum, 30 respondents from the private sector participated in the survey. The employees had a better response for the leadership styles practiced in their Organizations because most of the respondents said their leadership styles were effective in achieving their Organizational goals. In addition, unlike the responses from public sector employees, all the employees sampled said private sector employees were independent in implementing their leadership styles. However, like their public sector counterparts, the sampled participants also said employee attitudes and Organizational culture had a significant influence in the leadership practices of the private sector. Lastly, when the respondents stated their views regarding the preferred leadership style in the private sector, most of the respondents said the transformational leadership style would be appropriate in changing the private sector.

Appropriateness of Leadership Style

When the respondents had to state their views regarding the efficacy of the leadership styles practiced in their Organizations, there was an almost even split of the responses because 47% of the respondents said they were unsatisfied with the predominant leadership styles in their Organizations, while 53% said they were satisfied with the same. This split also mirrored their responses regarding the alignment of leadership styles with Organizational goals. When the respondents had to state if they would change or improve the leadership style, interestingly, few respondents remarked that they would change the leadership styles in their Organizations. Instead, many respondents rooted for an improvement of the same. Few respondents were committal to explain how they would improve the leadership style, although most of them said there should be more inclusive of all stakeholders in the formulation of leadership practices. Lastly, all the respondents said collective responsibility was highly important in the formulation of leadership styles.

Need for Different Leadership Style

Unlike public sector employees, few respondents from the private sector believed there was a strong need to change the leadership styles of their Organizations. Indeed, as described above, most of the respondents believed in improving, as opposed to changing, the dominant leadership style in their Organizations. Most of the respondents also believed that both employees and managers should be involved in changing the leadership style. However, like their public sector counterparts, most of the employees felt top-level leadership should champion the process of change. Again, similar to their public sector counterparts, most of the respondents believed Organizational productivity would change with a change in the leadership practices. The respondents however believed the need for a change in leadership was only “averagely important.”

Individual Awareness

When the respondents had to state the importance of leadership to their careers, 40% believed leadership was important to their careers. The rest differed with this opinion. However, all the respondents said leadership was important to the success of their Organizations. The responses regarding respect and value largely mirrored one another because most of the respondents who felt valued said their leaders respected them. About 68% of the responses felt valued and respected. The same employees who felt respected and valued expressed optimism regarding future leadership practices in their Organization. The rest were pessimistic about the same.

Interview Findings

The interviews sought to gather the views of private and public sector managers. In sum, ten managers from both sectors participated in the study. Five managers came from the private sector, while another group of five respondents came from the public sector. The interview sought the managers’ views regarding the dominant leadership styles (in both sectors), the choice of leadership style, how to improve leadership styles, and the challenges in their leadership practices.

Private Sector Managers

Dominant Leadership Style

The first question probed the manager’s views regarding the main leadership styles practiced in their Organization. Most of the respondents said they adopted the participative leadership style. To explore the views of the respondents regarding the importance of participative leadership and its implications for their businesses, 90% of the respondents rated the influence of the participative leadership style as “very important.” The rest said that the influence of the participative leadership style, in affecting the performance of their business, was “facilitative.”

Choice for leadership Style

When asked to explain their choice of leadership style, most of the respondents said their Organizational tasks and management expectations largely defined their leadership choice. Two respondents said their Organizations did not give them much flexibility and so they conformed to the predominant leadership style (that they found).

Challenges in the Private Sector

Albeit most of the respondents believed public sector Organizations were less attractive, compared to private Organizations, one respondent said private sector Organizations were uncompetitive to foreign firms because their leadership styles still exemplified traditional values. In detail, one respondent said,

I do not believe private sector Organizations in the UAE are effectively prepared to compete with foreign Organizations because even though they try to show the rest of the world that they adopt international leadership and management standards, they remain rooted in traditional models of governance. There is little employee contribution and respect within such Organizations and people often feel inclined to please their masters, as opposed to being innovative and pursuing personal thoughts. In fact, in some Organizations, doing more than is required could be regarded as disobedience and lack of respect.”

How to Improve Leadership Styles

When the interviewees needed to suggest the more desirable working practices for UAE private Organizations, two of the respondents said, UAE leaders should show more empathy in their leadership styles. They elaborated that the managers should relate more (emotionally) with their employees and try to let them know that they care for their employees as well. One respondent admitted that UAE leaders do not listen to their subjects as much as they should. He further reiterated that,

By failing to listen to our employees, I believe we, the business leaders of this region miss the opportunity to influence our people. You see…many at times, business leaders here believe that by exerting absolute control over our employees, we have a more positive impact on the Organization. I believe this is a wrong approach. In my view, I see these attempts as a way of nurturing defiance in the Organization”

Another respondent said that most UAE leaders lack the ability to communicate effectively with everybody in the Organization.

Lastly, one respondent said that UAE leaders should learn to live by example and not expect other employees to do what they want, if they fail to provide the right example for doing the same. He said,

Indeed, it is unsurprising that many employees usually learn by example and follow the verbal and non-verbal indications that their leaders show. In this regard, leaders have the duty of creating a positive environment for learning in the Organization and inculcate the same attitude in their behaviours.”

Lastly, when the managers had to state their expectations of future leadership practices in the private sector, most of the respondents said they would like to see better responsiveness to the changing global business environment.

Public Sector Managers

Choice of Leadership

Across all the respondents surveyed as public sector managers, there was a consensus that most UAE public Organizations adopted the authoritative leadership style. Through this leadership style, many respondents felt they were inadequately prepared to compete with other global enterprises. This belief also informs why all the respondents said they did not think local enterprises were equipped to manage global competition. Indeed, all the respondents surveyed in the study said that UAE public sector Organizations were ill equipped to compete with foreign companies in the provision of goods and services. When the respondents needed to explain why they believed local enterprises could not compete with foreign enterprises, their responses varied across three reasons – poor leadership, poor management, and the failure to include employees in the decision-making process. Stated differently, three respondents believed that poor leadership was responsible for the relatively weak performance of public sector enterprises in the provision of services.

Reasons for Adopting Leadership Style

When the respondents needed to explain why public sector managers adopted the authoritative leadership style, most of the respondents said they were conforming to the national culture. In fact, four managers said national culture was important in defining the leadership styles of UAE public companies. They said the influence of national culture was “very important” in defining their leadership styles.

Challenges in the Public Sector

A request to explain the challenges facing leaders in the public sector drove the respondents to say the failure to link employee performance to Organizational performance was the greatest problem facing public sector firms. Two managers admitted that the closeness to the ruling class, or the ruling family, informed employee promotions and ascension to power. Largely, such influences shaped leadership practices in the public sector. Most of the respondents therefore believed that this leadership practice compromised the effectiveness of such Organizations because employees work to please their masters, as opposed to making the Organization succeed.

Effectiveness of Leadership

When asked to rate the effectiveness of leadership styles for public Organizations, 60% of the respondents said their leadership styles were “averagely effective” in meeting their Organizational strategies. The rest of the respondents said that the effectiveness of leadership styles in the public sector was “good.” Interestingly, no respondent believed that the effectiveness of leadership styles in the public sector was “bad” or “very bad.”

Changes and Improvements in Leadership Styles

When the respondents needed to suggest changes they would like to see in the public sector, three managers proposed that UAE leaders should align their Organizational strategies to adapt to changes in the business environment, as opposed to maintaining leadership styles that resist change. Two respondents proposed that UAE Organizations should promote staff effectiveness as a strategy for coping with Organizational changes. These respondents believed that a company’s employees were the main drivers of Organizational competence and therefore managers should pay close attention to the adaptation to change. They believed that if leaders were more adaptive to change, the Organizations would equally adapt to changes more effectively.

Comparison to Western-Styled Leadership

When the respondents needed to explain the extent that UAE leadership standards should emulate western-styled models of leadership, there was a consensus among all the respondents that it was unwise for UAE leaders to adopt (holistically) western styled leadership styles. The respondents believed that the UAE posed unique political and social dynamics that influence the effectiveness of leadership styles. The differences in culture especially surfaced as the first reason why UAE leaders should not blindly adopt western-styled leadership styles. To support this view, one respondent said,

A copy and paste system would not work in the UAE. The Arab culture is very dominant in the UAE leadership sphere. Western-styled leaders tend to rely on a different philosophical understanding that does not resemble our local approach to management or leadership. Therefore, adopting western-styled leadership approaches should be done with a lot of care.”

Comprehensively, the interviewees believed there was a big difference between eastern and western perceptions of leadership. They therefore suggested that a contextual approach to the adoption of western-styled management and leadership styles should prevail as UAE enterprises strive to modernise their leadership styles. Lastly, the managers said they would like to see more inclusiveness in future leadership practices of the UAE.

Case Study Findings

Case study findings sought an independent view of the main leadership practices in the UAE public and private spheres. As a result, this study investigated Emirates Airline as a public Organization and Al Masaood and Sons as a private Organization. The findings outline below.

Emirates Airlines

Since 1985, Emirates Airline has been a dominant airline company in the gulf region (Murray 2013). The airline company has earned the reputation of being the largest airline company in the gulf region and possibly the fastest growing airline company in the world (Murray 2013). Around the world, Emirates Airline serves close to 170 destinations that span over six continents around the globe (using a fleet of about 130 aircrafts) (Grand 2013). For all the years, since the inception of the company, Rehbein & Fierlings (2006) explain that Emirate Airline has never recorded growth rates of less than 20%. In addition, since two years after its inception, the company has always posted annual profits. Even though many of the Emirate’s managers and leaders have worked for the company since it started business, they have not used their positions, or experience, to dominate other employees in the Organization (Murray 2013).

The leadership strategy adopted by Emirates Airline is mainly democratic (Rehbein & Fierlings 2006). This leadership style has helped the company to overcome some of the most pressing challenges that the company has faced (especially stiff competition from other established airline companies). Through the democratic leadership style, managers of Emirates Airlines have found it easy to motivate their employees and make them more customer-focused (this approach closely resembles the dominant leadership approach of Tesco’s managers). This leadership style explains why the company treats every employee equally, although most Organizations in the UAE do not do so. Therefore, unlike many UAE Organizations that do not promote equal opportunities for progression and career development, Emirates Airline strives to treat all employees equally and fairly. Furthermore, unlike many public sector Organizations that discriminate on employees, based on the gender of their employees (in the recruitment and selection process), Emirates Airline provides an equal opportunity for all employees to work for the company (Leadership Academy 2013).

A key component of Emirates’ management approach is the adoption to change, as a strategy of adapting to the unpredictable dynamics of the aviation industry. Part of the company’s change strategy has been the development of its information technology platform to improve the airline’s services to its customers. The development of the company’s information technology platform has also helped the Organization to increase the diversity of its workforce by employing people from different cultures. Today, Emirates airline boasts of having a highly diverse employee pool of about 160 nationalities (Rehbein & Fierlings 2006). This approach has helped the Organization to improve its service record by having a diverse workforce that better responds to customer needs. According to Jones (2012), the company’s steadfast management adaptation to the modern business environment has helped Emirates Airline to build a highly diverse workforce that has bagged more than 190 awards globally and made a name in the aviation industry for offering the best services in the sector (Jones 2012).

Even though the Emirate’s management approach and leadership styles seem not differ from the western-styled approaches on the same, it is pertinent to say that the airline has managed to attract Arab customers from around the world. Indeed, albeit the airline company adopts western-styled leadership styles, it still appreciates the fact that it is an Arab Airline Company and subscribes to the Middle Eastern culture. One unique appreciation of its culture is the availability of Middle Eastern food in the airline’s menu (Rehbein & Fierlings 2006). Although Arabic culture seems dominant in its service offing, the Emirates have attracted customers from different religions, and ethnic groups.

Abdulla Al Masaood & Sons

Abdulla Al Masaood & Sons Company is a family-owned business in the UAE. The diagram below is a depiction of the company’s logo.

Abdulla Al Masaood & Sons Company Logo.
Figure Two: Abdulla Al Masaood & Sons Company Logo (Source: AMS Group 2013).

Abdulla Al Masaood & Sons Company is among the oldest family-enterprises in the UAE with a successful record in trade investments (AMS Group 2013). Beginning from the ancient pearl trade, Abdulla Al Masaood Company has rapidly diversified in the last 150 years and now boasts of having more than 20 associated companies (AMS Group 2013). At the helm of the company’s leadership is His Excellency Abdulla Bin Mohammed Al Masaood who receives assistance from several family members, among them being the sons of The Late Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Masaood (AMS Group 2013).

The leadership of Abdulla Al Masaood & Sons Company has largely been dependent on command and control leadership structures. Indeed, at Abdulla Al Masaood & Sons, the employees always experience directing and paternalistic leadership styles where leaders and managers give directions on how the employees should undertake their duties (Reagan 2011). In turn, the employees are supposed to carry out the directives as issued by the management, without fail. Here, people perceive the lack of a clear directional guide to the Organization’s activities as a sign of weakness on the part of the managers (Reagan 2011). At best, people will see the lack of leadership as a sign of confusion within the Organization. Since this leadership style is the most prevalent, many outsiders may see leaders of Abdulla Al Masaood & Sons Company as rude or overly abrupt.

Nonetheless, when evaluating the leadership style of family-owned businesses like Abdulla Al Masaood & Sons, it is important to understand the role of leaders as “fathers” and the employees as “children.” Usually, in this type of leadership structure, the father tells the children what they should do and the children need to follow what the “father” says (Naciri 2008). Even though the leadership of the family is directional, they also take good care of the “children.” This relationship is usually a two-way traffic where the employees show respect to the leaders and they benefit in the same regard, through leadership and promotions.

While this leadership style has proved to be largely successful for Abdulla Al Masaood & Sons, its leadership now expresses reservations regarding its ability to guide future company operations. The company says, “The model has been working very well but we believe the next few years are going to be very competitive” (Reagan 2011, p. 2). Because of the potential increased competitiveness in the business environment, the company’s chief executive says, “So if we do not have our act together, we are going to miss new global opportunities” (Reagan 2011, p. 3).

Data Analysis

Based on the findings of this paper and the differences in the leadership styles between public and private sector Organizations in the UAE, it is pertinent to say the aims of public and private sector Organizations are different. While the push to make a profit motivates the private sector, the provision to provide public goods and services motivates the public sector. This objective informs some of the main goals of the UAE public sector Organizations because they are required to provide goods and services to citizens who pay taxes and fund their activities. Based on the leadership approaches of the public and private sectors, it is also correct to say private Organizations are mainly answerable to shareholders or equity holders, while public Organizations are answerable to the taxpayers. This level of responsibility largely explains the extent that most leaders in both sectors can exercise the freedom of their leadership styles.

Leadership Styles of the Private and Public Sector

Based on the responses from employees and managers of public sector Organization, this paper establishes that the UAE public sector mainly adopt a top-down leadership approach. It is very difficult to establish how such a leadership style complements the achievement of public sector goals (the provision of goods and services), but it largely mirrors the public ethos of the Middle East. This leadership management style sharply contrasts with the transformational leadership style, which largely seems to dominate the private sector. It is therefore unsurprising to see most of private sector employees say their Organizations are more adaptive to global completion than public Organizations do.

Unlike public sector Organizations, public sector Organizations also exercise more flexibility and freedom. This situation especially manifests in the inclusion of employees in the decision-making processes of both Organizations because private sector Organizations tend to have a higher level of employee inclusion than public sector firms do. The difference in the leadership styles of public sector and private sector Organizations disputes the findings of previous researchers who report insignificant differences between public and private sector leadership styles in the Middle East. Partly, because of this reason, most private sector Organizations have a better attitude about their jobs. Moreover, the same reason explains why private sector Organizations have a better performance record than private sector Organizations.

Many researchers affirm this view by saying that including employees in the decision-making process of an Organization improves employee participation and Organizational performance (McAdam & Keogh 2013). For example, by including employees in the decision-making process, managers in both the private and public sectors may ease the adaptive community change and improve Organizational effectiveness in the same regard. Through the same process, employees will also feel respected and important in the Organization. Therefore, employees are likely to improve their Organizational commitment and productivity in the Organization. This way, Organizations may enjoy improved collective productivity. The same philosophy that explains the benefits of employee inclusivity also explains the philosophy behind collective responsibility and its role in improving Organizational productivity and effectiveness. In fact, both employees from the private and public sectors said collective responsibility was instrumental in supporting the leadership styles of their Organizations.

The concept of collective responsibility does not explain the efforts that every member of the Organization contributes to the Organization’s success, but the shared level of responsibility that all members of the Organization experience because of the successes, or failures, of the Organization as well. The concept of collective responsibility also largely explains how Organizations could increase their competitiveness because it improves the quality of human resource in the Organization (Crawford 2004). Al Farra (2007) says in an environment where employees share the failures of an Organization, all the employees would be willing to support one another to ensure the Organization succeeds. This collective sense of success and failure appeared to lack most among most public UAE enterprises. This situation gave a better rating for the private sector.

Flexibility

The positive rating of the private sector, viz a viz the public sector, stems from previous research which shows that the private sector is more flexible and dynamic in adopting flexible leadership styles, as opposed to the public sector (Bass & Riggio 2012). Relative to the purpose of adapting to today’s competitive pressures, many of the respondents said private sector Organizations had a more flexible leadership structure that accommodates change and adapts to modern Organizational pressures. Therefore, unlike public Organizations, private sector Organizations were more receptive to the notion of flexible leadership. Therefore, the respondents believed that public sector Organizations were less equipped to manage modern Organizational pressures. This view does not however mean that the public sector is completely unresponsive to modern changes. The level of adaptation is the only difference that informs why the public sector gets a more positive rating concerning leadership styles, compared to the public sector.

However, a deeper analysis of this view shows that public sector leaders lack a clear framework for communicating with their followers. This way, they fail to inspire their employees to perform. Yuen (2005) supports this view by saying that most managers who fail to adopt the best communication strategies miss the opportunity for creating trust and nurturing a sense of openness in the Organization. Insights into Abdullah and Sons company show that private sector Organizations can lead the way in promoting trust and openness within the Organization because the company’s leaders have shown that they can take care of their employees, thereby creating trust and loyalty. Some public sector Organizations like Emirates Airlines have also shown that the willingness to be flexible and adaptive to employee needs also has potential benefits for the Organization. Organizations that do not follow the same approach suffer from a lack of trust, thereby leading to ineffective communication in the workplace. Relative to this assertion is the fact that most leaders who fail to adopt the right communication strategies in the Organization equally suffer a high probability of failing to motivate their employees because the employees would not understand what they want.

Alternative Leadership

Although this paper acknowledges the cultural differences between the UAE and western-styled leadership styles, it also suggests that there would be little cultural conflicts in the adoption of the participative leadership style in UAE. This is because, regardless of culture, employees are often bound to respond positively to managers and leaders if they feel valued and appreciated in the Organization. Evidence to this fact stems from the success of Emirates Airline (a UAE Organization), which has successfully adopted this leadership style with a lot of success. In fact, the success of Emirates airline, through the adoption of the participative leadership style shows that UAE Organizations can still enjoy increased Organizational competitiveness through the adoption of this leadership style. The success of the airline therefore disapproves critics who believe that most western-styled leadership styles cannot work in a different cultural context, such as UAE’s.

Even though the differences between the UAE public and the private sectors are vivid, this paper disapproves the notion that all public sector companies fail to realise their goals because of redundant leadership styles. An evaluation of the differences between the UAE private sector Organizations and public sector Organizations show that the operational management plans for public sector Organizations may equally be progressive and in tandem with the goals of the public sector (as private sector Organizations are). The success of the 100% government-owned Emirates Airline supports this view. In fact, this paper shows that this public sector Organization commands a leadership position not only within the UAE, but also across the gulf region.

Interestingly, while it may be true that private sector Organizations are more adaptive to change than public sector Organizations, the analysis of Al Masaood and Sons show that private Organizations may still be slow in adapting to change, compared to other public sector Organizations. Therefore, a comparison of the performance of public sector firms and private sector firms shows that the leadership styles and managerial approaches of some public sector firms align with their strategic goals and visions (as witnessed in the Emirates Airline case). Similarly, this paper also shows that some private sector firms (like Al Masaood & Sons Company) do not have a leadership style or managerial approach that aligns with their strategic goals and vision.

This study also presents a very interesting scenario that shows many UAE private and public sector Organizations in the UAE are either government or family-owned. These ownership models show that the authoritarian leadership style is more prevalent in such Organizations, as opposed to the shareholder ownership structure that is common in most private companies. This paper also shows that unlike most UAE Organizations, shareholders own most western Organizations and therefore prefer to seek the services of trusts, or professional bodies, to run such institutions. An Organization like Al Masaood and Sons Company shows that private sector Organizations in the UAE may equally be slow to adapt to change because rewards link with loyalty to the family members, as opposed to employee performance (Schroevers & Bruijn 2010). An evaluation of Emirates Airline and Al Masaood and Sons Company therefore shows that the operational management plans for Emirates Airline match with its operational goals. Family-owned enterprises like Al Masaood and Sons are still playing “catch-up” in the adoption of flexible leadership.

Besides the adoption of the best leadership styles in the UAE Organizations, the potential clash between western and eastern leadership styles cautions against the “one size fit all” approach when introducing the adoption of best work practices in the UAE. Although this study cautions against blindly adopting western-styled management and leadership styles, it is pertinent to mention that valuing employees is a virtue that transcends all cultures. Therefore, it would be appropriate for leaders of all cultures to value their employees.

Uniquely, this paper appreciates the role of the contingency theory in providing a flexible environment where UAE managers can adopt flexible leadership styles that appeal to the current dynamics and situations of the environment. Managers should therefore adapt to change through a very dynamic approach that appreciates change characteristics, Organizational attributes, and impacted groups. The appreciation of these dynamics shows that the UAE Organizations should factor the importance of situational awareness in the adoption of new leadership styles. This standard of introducing new leadership styles shows that flexibility should be a priority for UAE leaders. Indeed, according to Varadarajan & Majumdar (2012), the best type of leadership is one that shows flexibility in approach so that Organizational productivity may be maximised. Regardless of the type of leadership style adopted by the leaders, it is vital for UAE companies to understand how to interact with other cultures to improve their Organizational competitiveness (mostly from the private sector). Lastly, based on the findings of this paper, the hypothesis for this study emerges to be true because human factors (cultural, personality, societal factors) appeared to be highly influential in choosing the choice of leadership styles and Organizational performance in the same regard.

Conclusion and Recommendations

After weighing the findings of this study, it is important to say the need for businesses to remain competitive in a rapidly changing and dynamic world piles the pressure for modern leaders to adopt positive leadership styles that would improve Organizational competitiveness. According to this paper, there is little contention that many UAE Organizations experience a rapid influx of change factors that affect Organizational performance. Indeed, considering the positive outlook of the UAE economy and the high influx of international investments in the region, globalization poses serious ramifications for local enterprises. The successes of several global businesses in the UAE show that local businesses have to manage increased competition from global brands, which are starting to dominate most local markets. Consequently, many of these local firms have to change their strategies to survive in the harsh and competitive business environment. Based on these market dynamics, there is little hope for private and public firms, which do not intend to adapt to these new circumstances. Indeed, most international investors who come to the UAE introduce global standards of operations and compete with local businesses using the same standards. The change and implementation of these standards largely depend on the willingness of local leaders to adopt evolutionary leadership styles that will transform local enterprises into globally competitive enterprises.

Based on the analysis of UAE private and public sector Organizations, this paper shows that even though the leadership styles of both Organizations may vary, most of UAE leaders adopt a command and control leadership style. This leadership style stands out as the most pervasive weakness for UAE Organizations in improving Organizational effectiveness and promoting Organizational growth. Through the above understanding, it is pertinent to say that most UAE managers are consistently underutilising their employees by not allowing them to be innovative and creative in their Organizational activities. Consequently, most UAE Organizations are not operating to their maximum efficiency. Therefore, although many UAE Organizations (in both the private and public sectors) have made significant strides in improving their levels of performance, many leaders are missing the opportunity of effectively using their greatest resource – employees (through ineffective leadership styles). UAE managers therefore need to stop creating an unfavourable climate where Organizations do not succeed; instead, they should focus on providing a nurturing environment where they can unlock employee potential. This paper proposes the adoption of the transformational leadership style to achieve this objective.

Unlike the top-down management style and the authoritarian leadership style that most public Organizations in the UAE Organizations seem to adopt, the transformative leadership style seeks to motivate employees and encourage them to be part of the process of Organizational success. Since this leadership model seems to lack in most UAE Organizations, it is correct to say transformational leadership is the best strategy for UAE managers to transition with the times and become more effective. Indeed, many UAE managers fail to guide their employees to Organizational success because they believe, by virtue of being at the helm of an Organization, they will automatically command respect from all employees. Even though some employees may pretend to do so, their position only denotes “title” and does not give them the moral authority of being leaders.

Since most employees and managers in the UAE have experienced a relatively peaceful period of success, guided by traditional models of governance, transformational leadership will help them to change with the times and become more useful in today’s demanding business environment. Contrary to the adoption of authoritative leadership (mostly practiced in the public sector), which only works to cement self-interests and promote submissiveness to power, transformational leadership would help UAE managers to transform these self-interests into the achievement of goals and objectives. Therefore, the adoption of the transformational leadership approach would be a departure from past leadership approaches, characterised by leaders rewarding, or punishing, employees for their commitment (or lack of it), to a situation where employee commitment to shared goals become of utmost importance to the leaders. Based on the advantages that transformative leadership poses to different Organizations around the world, this paper also recommends that UAE managers should think about embracing this leadership style to promote a collectivist approach of achieving Organizational goals. This leadership approach would eventually lead to the disappearance of authority as a tool of command for most Organizations in the UAE. Indeed, in the face of global competition, it is unsustainable to use authority as the yardstick of command in UAE Organizations because it negates the spirit of collective responsibility. Transformational leadership should therefore be the direction that most UAE managers (in both the private and public sectors) follow.

In an unrelated context, due to the emergence of global competition and the influx of foreign expatriates in the UAE, this paper also recommends that there should be a greater collaboration between private and public sectors in the UAE. Even though both sectors promote different leadership styles, the country would enjoy more economic benefits if both sectors collaborate to promote the competitiveness of the country in attracting foreign investments and leading other Gulf nations in becoming globally competitive enterprises. However, because global standards of practice promote western-styled ideals of leadership, there is a need for both private and public enterprises in the UAE to embrace the participative leadership style alongside the transformation leadership style) to standardise local leadership standards with international standards. The participative leadership style can easily blend with the participative management style to create a platform where both UAE managers and leaders could improve Organizational competencies. Through these leadership styles, both leaders and managers should be comfortable to include their subordinates in their decision-making processes.

The adoption of participative decision-making may offer immense benefits to Organizations in the UAE because it will improve the quality of their decisions, and increase Organizational competence through improved employee motivation. Through the participative decision-making system, the UAE Organizations can also utilise the potential of their employees well because employees will enjoy an opportunity of being innovative and creative, as they seek to find better ways of improving the Organization’s success. The participative decision-making style may also provide an opportunity for UAE Organizations to employ the contribution of experts in the formulation of their strategic decisions. This way, UAE employees would achieve a higher level of psychological satisfaction with their work. This satisfaction will help to improve their commitment to the Organization and boost their morale in the same regard.

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Appendix One: Survey Questionnaire for Employees

Public Sector Employees

Best Working Practices

  • Do you believe your Organization is effective in achieving its goals?
    • Yes
    • No
  • To what extent do you believe leadership styles explain your answer above?
  • How would you rate the effectiveness of leadership practices in your Organization?
    • Very good
    • Good
    • Average
    • Bad
    • Very bad
  • Do you believe your Organizational leader has enough independence to exercise his leadership style?
  • Do you believe government influence hinders effective leadership in your Organization?
  • Of what importance is Organizational culture to the leadership practices in your Organization?
  • Of what significance do employee attitudes and opinions shape leadership practices in your Organization?
  • What leadership style do you believe would best suit the public sector?

Appropriateness of leadership Style

  • Are you contented with the current leadership style in your Organization?
  • Do you think the predominant leadership style in your Organization aligns with its Organizational goals?
  • Would you rather change or improve the current leadership style in your Organization?
  • How would you do that?
  • Of what importance is collective responsibility to improving leadership practices in your Organization?
    • Very important
    • Important
    • Averagely important
    • Not so important
    • Not important at all

Need for Different Leadership Style

  • If your Organization adopted a new leadership style, do you believe only the top leadership need to change or other groups need to do so, as well?
  • Should managers or employees lead the change of leadership?
  • Would the Organizational productivity improve with a leadership change?
  • Do you think there would be a leadership clash if western-styled leadership styles were adopted instead of Arab styled leadership approaches?
  • How important do you feel is the need for a change in leadership style in your Organization?

Individual Awareness

  • How important is leadership to you as an employee?
  • How involved are you in the decision-making process of your Organization?
  • Do you understand how you contribute to your company’s bottom-line?
  • Do you feel valued by your leader?
  • Do you feel respected by your leader?
  • Of what significance is leadership to your career growth?
  • Are you optimistic about future leadership practices in your Organization?

Private Sector Employees

Best Working Practices

  • Do you believe your Organization is effective in achieving its goals?
    • Yes
    • No
  • To what extent do you believe leadership styles explain your answer above?
  • How would you rate the effectiveness of leadership practices in your Organization?
    • Very good
    • Good
    • Average
    • Bad
    • Very bad
  • Do you believe your Organizational leader has enough independence to exercise his leadership style?
  • Do you believe stakeholder influence hinders effective leadership in your Organization?
  • Of what importance is Organizational culture to the leadership practices in your Organization?
  • Of what significance do employee attitudes and opinions shape leadership practices in your Organization?
  • What leadership style do you believe would best suit the private sector?

Appropriateness of leadership Style

  • Are you contented with the current leadership style in your Organization
  • Do you think the predominant leadership style in your Organization aligns with the Organizational goals?
  • Would you rather change or improve the current leadership style in your Organization?
  • How would you do that?
  • Of what importance is collective responsibility to improving leadership practices in the UAE private sector?
    • Very important
    • Important
    • Averagely important
    • Not so important
    • Not important at all

Need for Different Leadership Style

  • If your Organization adopted a new leadership style, do you believe only the top leadership need to change or other stakeholders need to do so as well?
  • Should managers or employees lead the change of leadership?
  • Would the Organizational productivity improve with a leadership change?
  • Do you think there would be a leadership clash if western-styled leadership styles were adopted instead of Arab styled leadership approaches?
  • How important do you feel is the need for a change in leadership style in your Organization?

Individual Awareness

  • How important is leadership to you as an employee?
  • How involved are you in the decision-making process of your Organization?
  • Do you understand how you contribute to your company’s bottom-line?
  • Do you feel valued by your leader?
  • Do you feel respected by your leader?
  • Of what significance is leadership to your career growth?
  • Are you optimistic about future leadership practices in your Organization?

Appendix Two

Structured Interviews for Managers

Public Sector Managers

  1. What dominant leadership style exists in your Organization?
  2. Why do you apply this leadership style?
  3. Do you feel this leadership style needs to change or improve?
  4. What groups of stakeholders do you consider when applying this leadership style?
  5. How do you feel the leadership styles in your Organizations compare to western-styled leadership practices?
  6. What sort of change or improvement would you like to see in your Organization’s leadership style?
  7. What are some of the leadership challenges you experience as business leaders in the public sector?
  8. What are your sentiments regarding the appropriateness of the leadership styles practiced in your Organization and the need to adapt to global competitive pressures?
  9. How do your employees respond to your leadership style?
  10. What do you see as the future of leadership in the private sector?

Private Sector Managers

  1. What dominant leadership style exists in your Organization?
  2. Why do you apply this leadership style?
  3. Do you feel this leadership style needs to change or improve?
  4. What groups of stakeholders do you consider when applying this leadership style?
  5. How do you feel the leadership styles in your Organizations compare to western-styled leadership practices?
  6. What sort of change or improvement would you like to see in your Organization’s leadership style?
  7. What are some of the leadership challenges you experience as business leaders in the private sector?
  8. What are your sentiments regarding the appropriateness of the leadership styles practiced in your Organization and the need to adapt to global competitive pressures?
  9. How do your employees respond to your leadership style?
  10. What do you see as the future of leadership in the private sector?
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