Culture fit and leadership success in Saudi Arabia

Culture fit and leadership success in Saudi Arabia
April 12, 2020
Author: Amir Baddour
Source: Rasd

What is unique about Leadership in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Middle East, and it is witnessing major changes and evolving as a nation.

As a result its private and public institutions are also transforming in the way they transact with one another and the public.

The success of this transformation is in a large part attributable to the effectiveness of the leaders at the helm of these various institutions. Leaders’ ability to consciously drive changes in organizational culture and facilitate interface with the various everchanging stakeholders is paramount.

Within this context, the distinctions of transactional and transformational leadership ought to be highlighted.

Transactional & Transformational Leadership

Foundations of Transformational Leadership:

  • Building trust, acting with integrity
  • Encouraging others
  • Encouraging innovative thinking
  • Coaching and developing people.

Foundations of Transactional Leadership:

  • Rewarding achievement
  • Monitoring deviations and mistakes.

Governmental entities ought to focus on applying transformational leadership. With that being said, the existing structure of transactional orientation remains high with a relative tendency to default to hierarchy and processes.

This poses challenges for leaders whose approaches are only focused on change and transformation. They may not be able to deliver on strategic goals since their leadership approach is rooted purely in transformation and not compatible or familiar with the prevailing transactional culture.

The private sector, as a result of its profit driven approach – which has a natural predisposition to facilitating efficiency – seems to be portraying higher capabilities in terms of agility.

Entrepreneurial approaches where change and innovation are encouraged, sometimes result in short term setbacks, which in turn are capitalized on as learning opportunities contributing towards future success.

Within this context, transactional leaders who place focus on total adherence to organizational rules, abiding by strict and rigid organizational culture, and attaching a high price to while penalizing mistakes will most likely not be able to deliver the changes at par with the competitive environment.

Therefore, a leader’s success in the GCC and Middle East, and specifically in Saudi Arabia is likely dependent on his/her strengths in terms of cultural adaptability, and the specific organization’s appetite and propensity for change, which in itself is a factor of shareholder willingness to embrace transformation.

The above highlights the complexities of identifying suitable leadership. What is clear is that careful attention ought to be applied to understanding the sensitivities of prevailing organizational cultures.

Leadership selection is anchored in the assurance that those selected are conscious and able to account for the prevailing cultures in order to bring meaningful value-driven change.

Learn more about Rasd Leadership Consulting, we provide clarity on the concept of cultural adaptability and advocate that it is a key indicator of leadership success. It is an essential factor for sustainable, long term, and effective leadership tenure which in turn enables favorable leadership and corporate outcomes.