Written by
Karam Filfilan

Published
16 Dec 2015

What makes a great leader?

16 Dec 2015 • by Karam Filfilan

Managing a global business requires a combination of industry expertise, technical knowledge and sensitivity around cultural differences. So how do Middle Eastern CEOs match up to their global counterparts? Psychologist Gurnek Bains and his team at YSC surveyed senior executives from around the world, analysing their strengths and weaknesses.

He found Middle Eastern leaders are the strongest in the world when it comes to thinking commercially, which could be related to their structured and hierarchical approach to business. Middle Eastern CEOs also score highly for drive, ambition and self-improvement compared with international counterparts.

However, there are areas requiring improvement. The GCC’s focus on commerciality means many leaders are less skilful at building teams, with self-awareness, inclusive leadership and long-term strategic thinking all areas in need of growth.

YSC surveyed approximately 200 leaders from the Middle East and more than 1,500 worldwide to determine their strengths and weaknesses. How do you compare?

Strengths of Middle East leaders

Exactly 50% of Middle Eastern leaders showed strength in commercial thinking, the highest figure globally. Meanwhile, 45% of US leaders, 41% of European leaders and 34% of Chinese leaders have a strong commercial drive. The global average is 35%.

Figures show 43% of Middle Eastern leaders are strong at ambition and achievement drive, the third-highest figure globally after Latin America and India. The global average is 42%, with just 20% of European leaders having strength in this area.

Just under 40% of Middle Eastern leaders score highly for organised and structured approaches, the highest figure across cultures. This compares with a global average of 21%. Only 14% of US leaders are strong in this area.

Exactly 32% of Middle Eastern executives have strength in self-improvement and growth orientation, a figure that was significantly above the global average of 18% and the highest figure of all the regions we assessed.

Areas requiring attention

Having an inclusive, two-way leadership style is the top weakness for Middle Eastern executives. As many as 45% of them are weak in this, compared with 36% of European leaders and 29% of both US and Chinese leaders.

Some 31% of Middle Eastern leaders demonstrate a weakness in terms of developing their teams, which represents the highest figure in global terms. The average is 29%.

Our research demonstrates that 43% of Middle Eastern leaders have a weakness in their strategic thinking capabilities compared with the global average of 35%.

Our data suggests that a lack of self-awareness and insight is a key weakness that global executives from all seven regions have. Exactly 31% of Middle Eastern executives show a weakness in this area, the third-highest figure globally.