dubai // A generation of young Emiratis can be trained to be the leaders of the future, a leading strategic consultant has said.
The results of a new study suggest that Emirati school and university students are already highly motivated to serve the country, want the country to succeed and have good role models.
Only about 30 per cent of the attributes needed for leadership come naturally and the rest can be built through experiences that reinforce leadership qualities, said Prof William Scott-Jackson, chairman of Oxford Strategic Consulting, a human resource consultancy.
“Most of it should be about providing the right experiences rather than training,” he said.
Participating in competitive activities and in situations where people are asked to take charge, as well as being comfortable in the face of challenges and risks, can all foster good leadership skills and improve human potential, he said.
The need to train young leaders is crucial in the UAE because of the demographic imbalance.
In most countries about 8 per cent of the workforce is in executive and strategic leadership positions. In the UAE expatriates comprise the bulk of the population, skewing the ratio.
If all leadership posts in government and the private sector were to go to Emiratis, that would take up 64 per cent of the national population, Prof Scott-Jackson said.
“It is a calculation based on the number of leaders a country might need. Because of the demographics of the UAE, which has a larger number of expatriates than Emiratis, a much larger population of Emiratis will have to be leaders.”
Prof Scott-Jackson led a team of researchers in the two-month project to poll the attitudes of young Emiratis and Omanis. Commissioned by the oil company BP, the report surveyed 100 young Emiratis. Half were school pupils, the other half in higher education. An equal number of young people from Oman also participated in the survey.
The study relied on “semi-structured interviews” in which participants had to provide unique answers to a number of questions, rather than choose from a number of predefined options.
The results suggest that when young people’s motivation comes into play, Emiratis have a solid foundation to become leaders, Prof Scott-Jackson said.
The researchers are now continuing with interviews of employers and academics, and the team is also writing a five-step plan to develop outstanding leadership skills in a number of young Emiratis.
Asli Berberoglu, an HR manager with a sports goods manufacturer in Dubai, said 64 per cent was a large number but people could be trained in leadership skills.
“Everyone is a leader, they just have to realise it,” said Ms Berberoglu, who recently attended leadership training herself.
“A leader is someone with a vision, someone who is able to influence people. It does not mean you have to be a manager.”
Ms Berberoglu said it was important to have more UAE nationals in the private sector, but companies should look for other factors too.
“We need to see all nationalities in leadership teams, we should see women as well,” she said.