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This is a discussion on “the leadership and culture in the Arab world” that will focus on practices and value attributes that are generally shared in the Arabian countries.
Leadership behavior in Arab countries is especially influenced by western methods and tribal traditions. According to Taleghani, et al., (2010), many Arab managers have the same behavior like their fathers. This is the same behavior that is compliant with the known authoritative style of leadership found especially in large organizations. Whether in the private sector or the public sector, many organizations in the Arab world are managed in a centralized form with mighty styles irrespective of their strategy and technology. There is dominance of tribal relations and this has the effect of limiting managers’ prospect of working with people out of family and/or relatives. The use of innovative and creative styles is not common to solving problems or in breaking organizational norms, rather organizational troubles are solved by cultural and tribal values.
The major specifications of the leadership behavior in Arabian countries include:
- Hierarchical power,
- Priority of relation on order
- Paternalism system in leadership
- Open door policies,
- Compliance of regulations and laws with personalities
- High nepotism cases in organizational level
- Instability and hesitance to making decisions
The Arab societies almost unanimously endorse collective vales and practices like personalized relationships or a limited cooperation with other groups. It is worth noting that tribal traditions and their culture control the Arab managerial style. This means that Arab managers will tend to play the role of Sheiks (leaders). These tribal leaders generally bear responsibilities and have intense loyalty thus making them (or they consider themselves) to be caregiers, protectors and fathers of their employees. They will tend to consult with their kin and will be more authoritarian with members of the other tribes (those not of their kin). These managers have had great influence over work methods and the managerial style making the present managerial style both tribal and bureaucratic. Teamwork skills and values are not well developed and people will tend to subordinate in-groups making nepotism and favoritism popular. Newly promoted managers will be keen to replace existing staff with their kin. Therefore, it is common to find in a certain ministry a good number of people who come from the same tribe as the senior administrator (Taleghani, et al, 2010).
A study by the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Project (GLOBE) revealed that scholars in the Arab world pay little attention to the study of leadership or organizational practices in the respective countries (Arab countries). This has been said is due to the difficulties of studying cultural values and how they link organizational behaviors. That is why, say Arab scientists can be classified into three groups: Arabised, westernized and Islamized. It was noted that the westernized were successful in identifying personal and organizational factors that influences managerial and organizational behavior but did not have necessary assumptions to build sound management. For the Arabised, they attempt to advance the critical analysis of managerial practices and concepts within the Arab world. The group was however criticized for not being innovative or critical enough to sensitize managers to their deficiencies. The Islamized, which has gained recent wide popularity, especially due to dissatisfaction with the westernized style of management (that is accused of propagating such evils like abuse of power, corruption, being too materialistic and weakening of family ties) (Abdalla and Al-Homoud, 2001).
Arab societies are saaid to be power stratified and thus by and large work through hierarchical relations. Power to the lower cadre flows smoothly if the subordinates defer to their superior’s orders by seeking guidance and thus the superiors will in return protect and give support to the respecting subordinates. Such behaviors are seen to be consistent to the Quran that some of the autocratic managers use to justify their actions. One of such verses says, “Obey God, and obey the apostle and those charged with authority among you” (p. 511). The subordinates are not known to strongly oppose their superiors and they usually withdraw if the situation may result into a confrontation. Therefore, the relationship between Arab superiors and juniors is seen to be based on admiration or fear. It should however be noted that not all those who are willing to submit to the leaders have the opportunity to benefit. In general, it’s the boss who chooses rather than the subordinate’s willingness for their cooperation. But it has been found that this kind of environment is suffocating to most of the subordinates especially the educated group. This type of environment has negative effects on job involvement as it discourages immigration by Arab intellectuals who could like to work in other courtiers (Abdalla and Al-Homoud, 2001).
The leaders here do not like using consultative leadership style. Consultation is seen as a counterpoise to the autocratic rule and is supported by the Quran. When consultation is used in Arab countries, more often than not it is to satisfy egos of those involved rather than improving quality of decisions. On the other hand, the dominance of the west type of leadership styles by some Arab managers leading to duality type of management. This has resulted to two types of leadership; Arab managers interested in forming legal and formulated associations but also interested in their own traditional methods of leadership styles (Taleghani, et al, 2010).