x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Back to school for business leaders

Bosses will be picked for 18-month training courses at some of the world's top learning centres to raise standards back home.

ABU DHABI // The emirate's top business leaders are "not equipped" to deal with the challenges of a rapidly modernising and developing Abu Dhabi, says a top academic. Some will be selected for specialist training to raise standards across private and government sectors, and bring industries in line with other world leaders.

The Abu Dhabi International Centre for Operational Excellence (Adicoe) is co-ordinating with six of the world's most prominent business schools to offer 18-month programmes to fill what has been called "a gap" in Abu Dhabi's development. "The major problems in our organisations are at the top," said Prof Hadi el Tigani, the chief executive of Adicoe. He said this had been a concern for 10 years. "We decided there was no local solution to this, which is why we have formed this partnership, the Excellence Alliance," said Prof el Tigani. "Leaders control everything - resources, budgets, recruitment. But they are not equipped. They are not equipped for leadership. People are controlling people, not leading them."

Adicoe, an executive education subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, works with organisations in the UAE such as the Abu Dhabi Police, the Western Region Development Council and many ministries, as well as companies around the region such as the National Pension Fund in Sudan. The partnership involves the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge; Said Business School at Oxford University; the London Business School; Britain's National School of Government; Cambridge Leadership Associates of Harvard University; and the Civil Service College in Singapore.

To start, 25 companies that volunteer to be involved in the non-compulsory programme will each select one employee for additional training. Three levels of executives will be targeted, the first of which will be young leaders, called the Young Falcons. Next will be "established leaders" such as section or divisional heads, and then the "visionaries", the general managers or chief executives. Unlike the Abu Dhabi Government's similar leadership programme run with Insead, an international business school, and a part of its Emiratisation drive, the programmes would target "the people of the UAE", said Prof el Tigani.

"It includes everyone - expatriates, locals, everyone. We have to develop everyone together." The course, which starts in April, will see participants having a mixture of local and foreign training to run alongside their jobs, although details of the curriculum have not been finalised. In time, the scheme, like others run by Adicoe, will not only cover the UAE, but will become regional. It will include sectors such as construction, finance, tourism and the oil and gas industry.

"Primarily, we will focus on private business such as those selected in the Sheikh Khalifa Excellence Award," said Prof el Tigani. The first candidates will receive diagnostic assessment during which they will undergo emotional-intelligence assessment, tests and goal assessment. Chris Cooper, the principal international consultant at the National School of Government, said: "Worldwide, public services have been slow to wake up to the potential that leadership development can open up."

Mark Malcolmson, the director of custom programmes for the Centre for Management Development at the London Business School, said the move showed "leadership being taken seriously in Abu Dhabi". The school's regional director, Rahul Dhadphale, said the scheme would take at least two years to see results but it was a "continual and long-term programme" which would benefit Abu Dhabi's businesses. "In the UAE, education isn't the issue, it's embedding that into the workplace," he said. "There are many educational institutions here but the learning can't be left in the classroom."

Neil Selby, the international director of Said Business School, said the initiative would be "about inspiring more than empowering" Abu Dhabi's business leaders. "Leadership energises other people to make good decisions and do good things, realising the positive energy that exists in all of us."