I have been enormously privileged in the last three months to have delivered five different types of leadership session to corporate groups in three different countries in the Middle East.
I have two observations from these experiences:
1 – Unsurprisingly the western propaganda myths of the negative characteristics of muslims/arabs are well and truly busted. All societies will have their extremists, but if the 250 or so people that I worked with over these sessions are even slightly representative of the normal population, they are utterly charming, extremely hospitable and far, far more friendly than the average European. We are now well beyond the point where we need to push back against the stereotypes and embrace our eastern neighbours.
2 – What, possibly, set the people I was working with apart was their level of education. In all cases the people I met were highly educated, representing the educational elite of their countries (as they typically do when I work in Europe as well). One of the countries I was in is effectively a dictatorship, the other two are new democracies, one of them a very new democracy – at least nominally.
What is fascinating is that we are delivering very advanced inclusive and authentic leadership training in societies more used to highly authoritarian and hierarchical leadership. It is no surprise to me that one of the leaders of the Egyptian revolution Wael Ghonim worked for Google.
It is a curious turn of events that these corporations which were righty reviled (I was one of those doing the reviling), for their disconnection from society are now spearheading a global revolution in leadership, both in the west and in the east.
I doubt any sector is doing more for the advancement of leadership thinking and practice at the moment that corporations. Not all of them of course, but a significant number are spreading the meme of authentic leadership around the world. There is self interest in there, these corporations know that the most effective and therefore profitable form of leadership for their future is authentic, ethical, inclusive and values based, but the side effects are significant. Once you open the Pandora’s box of empowerment and leadership, it is not easy to close it again.
The imperialism of the 18th and 19th century was very different, while there might have been a relatively more advanced form of leadership at home. The leadership that was exported was almost exclusively authoritarian and repressive of the locals.
In the first wave of corporate imperialism the executives were typically exported to where they were needed and managed the local workers. In this recent evolution of globalisation the model has changed very significantly and with some irony, it is because of the countries themselves.
Partly it is the cost of ex-pat execs, who are far more expensive than locals, the other driving force is that the countries themselves set high quotas for local staff, driving the recruitment and training of locals and local leaders.
The irony is in the possibility that a new generation of leaders is developing in some of these relatively repressive places, in part because the government, that may be doing the repressing, is insisting on a high percentage of local hires.
I don’t know what the long term implications of this are, but it is exciting to speculate that over time the nature of these societies could be positively affected by this new breed of leadership being trained in global corporations.
Please also visit the blog to comment
You can subscribe for free at www.neilcrofts.com