Firms in the UAE must lose the ‘tribal at­ti­tude’

Top ex­ec­u­tive says one leader pol­icy is ma­jor is­sue

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Ma­hak Man­nan @Ma­hakLFC

Many com­pa­nies trad­ing in the UAE are still too “tribal” in the way they op­er­ate and rely on a sin­gle in­di­vid­ual to lead and make de­ci­sions, a con­fer­ence has told.

The INSEAD Global Busi­ness Lead­ers Con­fer­ence, held at the St Regis Saadiyat Is­land Re­sort in Abu Dhabi, heard how cor­po­rate gov­er­nance and pro­cesses re­main weak and how too many or­gan­i­sa­tions and firms “still fol­low the one leader rule”.

Mishal Hamed Kanoo, Chair­man of the Kanoo Group, said many firms need to mod­ernise. He also said too many se­nior staff in com­pa­nies fear be­ing hon­est with their bosses.

He said: “Cor­po­rate prac­tices in busi­nesses in the UAE are still tribal, if I may... we still fol­low the ‘one leader’ or de­ci­sion-maker rule, which is where the fear fac­tor comes in. Take into ac­count a board of di­rec­tors.

“Ev­ery­one wants to know what the boss wants and want to give him ex­actly that, which sort of de­feats the pur­pose of hav­ing gov­er­nance in your com­pany or even a board of di­rec­tors.

“The board is think­ing ‘I am here to say what is wrong and right but if I don’t give them what they want, I will be off the board or lose my job’.

“If the leader, owner, or boss is not able to make a free en­vi­ron­ment, open con­ver­sa­tion and tell their em­ploy­ees that they can talk to the man­age­ment without cost­ing them their job, that is the sort of en­vi­ron­ment ev­ery suc­cess­ful coun­try needs among their busi­ness peo­ple.”

Dr Ali Rashid Al Noaimi, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of Abu Dhabi Ed­u­ca­tion Coun­cil, also said staff in pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors con­tin­u­ally take short cuts.

He said: “The big­gest chal­lenge we face is im­ple­ment­ing good gov­er­nance within a cul­ture that al­ready needs a lot of work to un­der­stand the true value of gov­er­nance. Sys­tems, reg­u­la­tions, pro­ce­dures, by­laws – they are still new to a lot of us.

“Most peo­ple in our coun­try want to do get things done in a short way – not by fol­low­ing pro­ce­dure.”

Ludo Van der Hey­den, Aca­demic Di­rec­tor of the INSEAD Cor­po­rate Gov­er­nance Ini­tia­tive, said the pub­lic sec­tor has its own chal­lenges.

He said: “Peo­ple in the pub­lic sec­tor are very com­pli­ant and do not speak up enough, be­cause they fear the govern­ment. This means cor­po­rate gov­er­nance in the pub­lic sec­tor is weaker than in the pri­vate sec­tor.”

‘We still fol­low the one leader or de­ci­sion-maker rule, which is where the fear fac­tor comes in.’ – Mishal Hamed Kanoo

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