Impact of Effective Leadership in the Public Sector in the United Arab Emirates

Subject: Politics & Government
Pages: 16
Words: 4445
Reading time:
16 min
Study level: PhD


Leadership in the public sector is a sensitive topic in the United Arab Emirates that is yet to be effectively explored by local scholars. The government is heavily involved in numerous developmental projects as a way of spurring economic growth and reducing overreliance on the oil and gas sector. The important role that the government is playing in various sectors of the economy means that the leadership role in public institutions is now a critical issue that requires the attention of scholars. It is necessary to investigate how the performance of public institutions can be improved through effective leadership. Top managers in government offices should understand what is expected of them as leaders when managing employees. This project will rely on both primary and secondary data to respond to the research questions. Analysis of primary data will take a quantitative approach. It means that after collecting the data, the researcher will use mathematical methods to conduct the analysis.

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Leadership is one of the most explored topics because of its increasing relevance in modern society. Urbancová (2013) states that although several scholars have conducted research on the field of leadership, new issues keep emerging that necessitate further research. Public leadership is an area that has been gaining popularity among researchers. Campbell and Go¨ritz (2014) argue that individuals trusted with leadership in the public sector have an important role to play in serving the masses. Effective leadership in the public sector has a significant impact on its productivity. When leaders provide guidance and the right motivation to the employees, their performance will improve and society will receive better service from public offices. In the United Arab Emirates, public officials have critical roles to play in all sectors of the economy. The top government officials and heads of departments have the responsibility of ensuring that the UAE Vision 2021 and other strategic plans meant to promote the economy and improve living standards are realized. In this paper, the researcher seeks to determine the benefits of effective leadership in the public sector in the United Arab Emirates.

Statement of the Problem

The United Arab Emirates is emerging as a regional economic powerhouse. The city of Dubai is currently one of the leading global tourists’ destinations and a top business hub. The country has been attracting expatriates keen on working in various sectors of the economy. Mousavi (2015) reports that the country is making impressive progress in its efforts to diversify the economy and reduce overreliance on oil and gas. However, the issue of leadership is still a major concern in the country despite the impressive performance of the government over the recent past. Urbancová (2013) observes that coercive form of leadership is still very popular in the country’s public sector. Most leaders prefer embracing the authoritarian leadership approach when handling workers. The concept of carrot and stick is also common in the country. Those with unique skills and capable of meeting the demands of leaders in this country are handsomely rewarded by getting impressive salaries in the public sector. Gomes, Machado, and Alegre (2015) argue that this approach of leadership may be attributed to the cultural forces in the country.

It is necessary to note that authoritarian leadership has no place in the 21st century. The events seen during the Arab Spring were a clear indication that people are keen on having a leadership approach where they are actively involved. They want to be led by individuals who understand their concerns and are able to work on them. That kind of leadership should not only be seen at the top levels of leadership but also at the level of government departments. Mousavi (2015) believes that people are often more productive in the workplace if they feel involved in making the policies that run their organization. They need to be motivated and respected by the leaders instead of being forced to receive and act upon instructions given by the leaders without question. These are the reasons that make it necessary for the local leadership in the country to be redefined to reflect the emerging needs and environmental forces.

Research Questions

Leadership is a very wide topic and it is necessary for a researcher to be specific on which area is of interest in this broad field. Developing research questions makes it possible to specify the focus of the study. It also guides the entire process of data collection, as Urbancová (2013) observes. The following are the research questions that should be answered through collection and analysis of both primary and secondary data:

  • What is the impact of effective leadership on the performance of the public sector organizations in the United Arab Emirates?
  • What are the strategies of leadership popularly used in the United Arab Emirates’ public offices?
  • How effective are the strategies commonly used in the countries public offices?
  • What are the leadership challenges in these public institutions and what can be done to address them?

The researcher will use secondary data obtained from the literature review and primary data that will be collected from sampled respondents to answer the above questions.

Literature Review

Leadership in the public sector is becoming a popular research topic, especially in the Middle East where governments are increasingly playing crucial roles to promote growth in various sectors of the economy. It is necessary to review findings that have been made by other scholars on this topic because of various reasons. Mousavi (2015) notes that a review of the literature helps in eliminating duplicating the existing information. A researcher is able to investigate and understand already existing information. It also helps in identifying the existing knowledge gap. The existence of conflicting ideas on a given topic is a sign that there is an issue that requires further research. A review of the literature also provides background information about a topic. The information collected from these sources offers insight into the topic before one can set forth to collect data from the respondents. It is important to analyze the popular forms of leadership and their relevance to the leadership of the United Arab Emirates’ public sector.

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Transformational Leadership

According to Campbell and Go¨ritz (2014), transformational leadership is one of the most desirable forms of leadership in the current society. Transformational leaders rely on the power of communication and constant motivation to push their junior officers towards greater success. This form of leadership requires a deep understanding of the capabilities of the employees. After understanding the weaknesses and strengths, a leader will encourage employees to use their strengths to overcome their weaknesses. This model encourages employees to constantly challenge their capabilities. Once a milestone has been achieved, one must set a new one that is more demanding but within a reasonable scope. A transformational leader must know how to motivate employees to achieve greater success. In the UAE’s public sector, transformational leadership is one of the most relevant models that should be encouraged as a way of promoting employees to achieve greater performance in their areas of work. Instead of using coercion, leaders should consider positively challenging the current capabilities of the employees and giving them the right support to improve their level of success. Urbancová (2013) believes that transformational leadership also encourages the concept of demonstration when introducing a new practice. Instead of simply instructing employees to undertake a given task, a manager should make an effort to demonstrate how it should be done.

Transactional Leadership

This new model of leadership focuses on establishing a clear chain of command to ensure that specific activities are completed within a given period. This form of leadership is often used when undertaking short-term tasks. Urbancová (2013) says that it offers a clear relationship between managers and junior officers and emphasizes the need to follow instructions from the top. It uses the carrot-and-stick management approach to ensure that instructions are followed appropriately. It means that those who register impressive performance as instructed and desired by the top managers are rewarded while the underperformers and those who disobey the instructions are punished. According to Mousavi (2015), the principles of transactional leadership cannot be sustainable in long-term management strategies. This is so because it fails to exploit the full potential of employees. Instead, it creates fear among them. They work knowing that any mistakes can result in punishment. The approach of leadership limited creativity among employees. Creativity can only thrive in an environment where reasonable mistakes are tolerated (Wang & Rafiq, 2014). In the UAE’s public sector, this form of leadership may be necessary when implementing short-term projects. Employees assigned to such projects must understand that they have to work under a tight budget and schedule. They should know that making any mistakes in such projects can be costly and as such, they have to always stick to the plan instead of trying new things that can be disruptive to the entire project outcome. This model should not be encouraged in long-term management policies within a government department because it kills innovation.

Servant Leadership

The servant leadership model emphasizes power-sharing and a collective approach to handling issues that may affect the normal operations of a given organization. Instead of exercising absolute power, a servant leader delegates some responsibilities to junior officers (Huhtala, Tolvanen, Mauno, & Feldt, 2015). This approach makes it possible to have an environment where everyone develops a sense of responsibility. The leader involves junior officers in the process of decision-making. After decisions are made, every officer is assigned a specific role based on the agreements made. The top leaders may work alongside junior officers, but they are reminded of the need to take responsibility in every implementation approach that is embraced. The model requires followers to be capable of working under minimal supervision and control. The model may be relevant in UAE’s government departments. Urbancová (2013) says that some public officials are used to working under the very strict supervision of the top managers. When they realize that these top managers have shifted their attention from them, they engage relax. This problem can be solved by making them fully responsible for the outcome of their departments. They will be reminded that their work will not be under the constant supervision of the top managers. However, there will be a periodic audit of their work to determine if they are delivering the expected outcome. When using this model, Mousavi (2015) advises that employees should be reminded that their actions have consequences. The fact that the power is decentralized means that they are offered the opportunity to make decisions relevant to their areas of jurisdiction to improve their department’s performance.

Autocratic Leadership

According to Urbancová (2013), many government officials in the United Arab Emirates embrace autocratic leadership as the best approach to managing employees. Unlike servant leadership, this model concentrates power on the leader. The person at the top of management is empowered to make decisions and issue instructions to junior officers as may be necessary. Although these leaders may consult, they can do so at their discretion. The form of leadership is common in the military and other government departments where assignments are routine (Zyphur, Zammuto, & Zhang, 2016). It eliminates time wastage in the decision-making process, especially when the leader is certain about the relevance and superiority of their decisions over other alternatives. However, it is not a popular form of leadership. In many cases, employees feel trapped. They feel that they are constantly subjected to punitive measures at the slightest of mistakes (Mousavi, 2015). In modern society, a pure autocratic form of leadership may not last long. Although some of its elements are critical in managing employees, they should not be used in their purest form within the public sector. It limits creativity among workers and promotes employee-turnover rates.

Laissez-Faire Leadership

Laissez-faire is a French word that means ‘let them do’ (O’Reilly, Caldwell, Chatman, & Doerr, 2014). It is a model of leadership that emphasizes the hands-off approach of managing employees. When using this model, leaders are required to allow junior officers to make decisions and act upon them in the way they consider most appropriate. It means that employees are fully empowered to analyze the tasks assigned to them and determine the approach that should be used to complete them. Urbancová (2013) observes that this is a popular approach of leadership when dealing with highly skilled and experienced employees. It is common to find cases where some employees are more experienced in a given field than the top managers. In such cases, the leader is encouraged to offer these talented employees to make informed judgments on the actions they take. The model is also very popular in an environment where creativity is needed. Hartmann and Vachon (2017) argue that when using this approach of leadership, it is advisable for the leader to conduct a routine check to ensure that goals and objectives set for the employees are being realized. In UAE’s public sector, this model of leadership can be used to promote creativity in government departments.

Situational Leadership

The situational leadership model is a complex management approach that requires an understanding of the prevailing forces within an organization and employing an appropriate model of people management. The model encourages the use of different leadership styles based on the emerging forces that an organization faces. For instance, when a leader needs to discuss a legal situation of a given commercial decision with business executives, he may employ a democratic leadership model to allow the participants to give their honest expert opinion on the issue. On the other hand, when introducing a new factory protocol to junior workers, elements of autocratic leadership may be needed (Mousavi, 2015). The model holds that there is no perfect universal leadership style that an organization should embrace. Instead, a leader should know when to use a given leadership approach based on the prevailing circumstances. Of importance is to embrace a model that would be most appropriate based on the complexity of the issue at hand, skills, and experiences of the workers, the need for creativity, and the ability of the employees to work efficiently under minimal supervision. Top leaders in the UAE’s public sector should embrace this model of leadership as a way of improving the performance of their departments. These departmental heads should know how to switch from one leadership style to another based on the prevailing situations. As a leader, one must understand that being loved by everyone may never be a reality in a highly diversified environment (Azanzaa, Morianob, & Molerob, 2013). If one is able to win the love of a section of the workforce, it should be considered a blessing. However, a leader must be respected by everyone at all costs. Once the authority of a leader is compromised for the sake of love, then it is impossible to offer the right guidance.


It is necessary to discuss the practical and theoretical implications of the preliminary findings obtained from the review of the literature. From a practical point of view, the preliminary findings show that leaders need to understand their positions as heads of departments or specific government units who must make the right decisions to ensure that the desired goals are realized. The information obtained from these sources reminds leaders that leadership is not about issuing instructions and commands and expecting everyone to follow them blindly. They should know when to engage the employees in fruitful discussions to find the best solutions to various issues. They should also know when it is appropriate to employ elements of autocratic leadership. Theoretically, the finding shows that a leader should embrace both McGregor’s Theory X and Y when handling various issues within an organization. Theory Y is largely seen as being superior to Theory X because it makes it easy for the top managers to trust junior employees to complete specific tasks without tight supervision. It makes it easy for the leaders to delegate responsibilities and engage employees in critical decision-making processes. However, Theory X is also crucial because it reminds the top leaders of the importance to supervise employees. The managers are reminded that although one may want to trust employees, some of them will always abuse the trust and fail to deliver as expected. To avoid cases of massive departmental failure, a leader must exercise caution and monitor the performance of the employees regularly to ensure that goals and objectives can be realized.

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Research Model, Variables, and Measurement

In this section, the researcher will discuss the methodology that will be used to collect relevant data and analyze them as appropriate. As Urbancová (2013) notes, a researcher should always come up with an appropriate research method that would facilitate the collection and analysis of data. It was considered appropriate to use both primary and secondary data. This section will focus on how primary data will be collected and analyzed.

Research Model

The researcher intends to use a quantitative research model in the analysis of primary data. This model is appropriate because of the nature of the study. The primary goal is to determine the impact of effective leadership on the performance of the UAE’s public sector. It will be necessary to determine the magnitude of the relationship of the variables. The information gathered from the respondents will be coded and analyzed mathematically to determine if there is a significant relationship. The analysis will involve the use of the Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS). The outcome of the analysis will be presented in graphs and charts.

Variables and Measurements

The mathematical analysis of primary data will help in determining the relationship between various variables. The researcher will be analyzing the impact of independent variables on the dependent variables. The independent variables in the study include the following:

  • Application of the right leadership model in the UAE’s public sector.
  • Poor approaches to the governance of various departments in the public sector.
  • Limited understanding of the emerging leadership models when managing people.

The above independent variables have a direct impact on the dependent variables. The following are the dependent variables affected by the factors listed above:

  • The performance of the public sector organizations in the United Arab Emirates.
  • Team spirit and commitment of the public sector employees towards realizing the vision of their organizations.
  • Creativity and innovativeness of the public sector employees when handling their regular assignments.

Data Collection

Primary data will be collected from the sampled respondents for the purpose of analysis. It is critical to discuss the population, sampling and sample size, the unit of analysis, and the instrument that was used to collect data from them.

Population, Sampling, and Sample Size

The population of the desired respondents is large because it includes all the employees (both in the management and non-management positions) in the United Arab Emirates’ public sector. Their population can be in excess of 200,000 people. In this study, only a fraction of the entire population will be needed because of the limited time. As such, sampling was necessary. The researcher will use a stratified sampling method to select participants for the study. This approach will be used to select employees in managerial and non-managerial positions. A total of 100 respondents will be selected with the goal of having at least 50 participants respond to the questions within the set time.

Data Collection Instrument and Unit of Analysis

Primary data will be collected from the sampled participants using a questionnaire. This instrument of data collection is effective, especially when collecting data to be analyzed statistically. It makes it possible to standardize the response and assign specific values when using structured questions. The analysis will involve determining the number of people who agree or disagree with specific claims about the relationship between independent and dependent variables. The research questions will be designed in a way that makes it possible for the respondents to express their views by simply ticking the answers that suit their views. It means that the unit of analysis will be people who agree or disagree with the statements given.

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Ethical Considerations

When conducting research, it is often necessary to observe all the relevant ethical considerations. One of the most important ethical considerations that the researcher will observe is the protection of the identity of the respondents. Leadership as a topic is currently one of the most controversial topics in the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region following the events of the Arab Spring. Some of the ideas that a section of the respondents may have might be controversial. It might relate to the push for alternative forms of government in the region as a way of restructuring leadership in the public sector. The researcher will assign all the respondents numerical identifications to be used instead of their names. Campbell and Go¨ritz (2014) believe that protecting the identity of the respondents is crucial, especially when handling a controversial topic, to ensure that they are not subjected to any form of victimization because of their conflicting views with the rest of the population.

Getting the right permission was also necessary before starting the process of data collection. The researcher will make a formal request to the top management unit of the targeted public offices before identifying the participants. A letter will be written that explains the purpose of the study and the need to collect data from participants in the institution. The researcher will physically deliver the leaders to get approval from the relevant officers. The respondents will only be contacted if approval is obtained. The researcher will explain to the respondents the nature of the study and their role in it. Any questions or concerns that they may have about the study will be addressed before they can participate in the study. They will be reminded that their participation is on a voluntary basis. It means that if they decide to withdraw from the study, they can do so without any consequence. They do not have to justify their withdrawal to the researcher. The questions will be structured respectfully and in a way that observes the socio-cultural practices in the country.

The school has its set of rules and regulations that students must observe when conducting research. The researcher will observe all of them. First, the study will avoid any form of plagiarism. The report will be as original as possible, with all the information taken from other sources correctly referenced using American Psychological Association (APA) format. Secondary sources will be obtained from reliable scholarly sources. Any form of speculation will be avoided in this project. The report will be completed within the right time and delivered as directed by the lecturer.

Benefits to Management Practice and Academia and Potential Limitations

The initial review of the literature indicates the significance of leadership in any organizational setting. People need to be given a sense of direction whenever they are working as a team. They need a person who will constantly remind them of their purpose within the organization and the importance of realizing the set goals. It is the responsibility of a leader to make junior officers understand the vision and goals within a given unit. The findings of this study will be beneficial to public institutions within the United Arab Emirates because it will redefine leadership in this country. It will remind managers that issuing instructions and using threats is not the best form of leadership in the country. They need to understand the capabilities of the employees and guide them appropriately to ensure that they can achieve the desired goals. A good leader must understand the strengths and weaknesses of his employees, their interests, and the best ways in which they can be motivated. This study will provide a comprehensive guide to the managers on the best leadership approaches to embrace in different circumstances. They will know when they need to motivate their employees using various benefits and when to be open to them about their dismal performance within the department. The findings of the study will be beneficial to the academicians in the region. This document will provide insight into the issue of leadership in the region. Future scholars will find the document informative because it will address the current literature gap in the field of leadership within the region.

The study will face potential limitations which are worth noting at this initial stage of proposal development. One of the limitations that will be faced in this project is the unavailability of the relevant literature. According to Alexander, Cleland, and Nicholson, (2017), although leadership is one of the most explored topics, most of the books and journal articles were published in the context of the European and North American socio-political and economic sphere. Most of these scholars base their assumptions on the political and social environment of western countries. However, Urbancová (2013) notes that the socio-political and economic assumptions relevant in western countries may not hold true in the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates has a significantly different socio-cultural and political atmosphere from that of the United States. Leadership principles and practices common in the United Arab Emirates are based upon the teachings of the Quran. That is not the case in the United States where the overwhelming majority identifies as Christians. Another potential limitation in the study will be the lack of sincerity among a section of the respondents. Even after assuring respondents that their identity will remain anonymous, it is expected that some will feel uncomfortable answering questions in a way that can be viewed as challenging the current leadership of the country.

Summary and Conclusion

The United Arab Emirates is one of the fastest developing regional economies in the Middle East and North Africa. The government has made a heavy investment into various sectors of the economy to boost its growth. However, the desired level of success in the public sector can only be realized if there is proper leadership. People trusted with leadership positions in government offices must understand the emerging principles of leadership that can enable them to work with a team of motivated individuals. Although the socio-cultural and economic forces in the country may be different from that of the west, there are basic principles that do not change when handling people. Respect, love, motivation, relevant assistance, and guidance are basic needs when leading people irrespective of their socio-cultural beliefs. This study focuses on how these leaders can ensure that they manage junior officers in public institutions to improve their productivity, reduce dissatisfaction, and any other form of rebellion. Through this study, a list of recommendations will be provided for the local leaders in the United Arab Emirates to enable them to realize the strategic goals set by these departments.


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