Qualities of Leadership by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

(Last Updated On: June 25, 2018)

According to Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the qualities leaders at all levels should possess include the following:

  1. The ability to lead from the front, to take the initiative and tell those following him, “This is our target, so follow me to it,” instead of saying, “I am right behind you.”
  2. To give his people’s interests top priority, embody their aspirations, meet their needs and formulate equations that can achieve these goals, through one or more visions with specific objectives and implementation stages.
  3. To adopt decisions which fulfill the aims of his visions, and to be ready to battle the odds, even though not all members of his team might agree with him.
  4. To shoulder his responsibilities and discharge them as best he can. True leaders should take the blame for wrong decisions. They should be prepared to say, “I am the leader and I am the one who made these mistakes,” and on the other hand, credit success to his team. A true leader does not evade the consequences, no matter how harsh they might be. He actually enjoys bearing responsibility and even looks for it.
  5. To meet any crisis head-on, face the difficulties preventing him from reaching his targets and remove any obstacles impeding the way to success. A leader must meet the expectations of his team and always set an example for his followers. This does not mean that he should be involved in solving all the problems, big and small, as he should always respect the chain of command, while all members of the team should understand and follow this chain.
  6. To empower others, which is easier said than done, because, after all, we are all human and many people tend to be egoistical and lack the power and humility of a true leader, giving themselves precedence over everybody else.
  7. To consult with others and engage in dialogue. Some leaders turn their noses up at consultation and consider it a sign of weakness, but I believe it promotes the leader’s power and the respect of his followers. Leaders always try to gain knowledge from their acquaintances, because no one really knows where the next bright idea or suggestion may come from. They are perceptive and realize that they cannot judge people solely by their appearance and position. Consultation has other benefits too, such as being a sure way to promote better knowledge and decisions. It can also broaden your horizons and assist leaders in their decisions. If those consulted provide advice in good faith and are sincere, courageous and frank, then consultation can be a process of accountability. This does not weaken a leader’s position but on the contrary, strengthens it, because his final goal is to serve public interest and not personal ones.
  8. A leader should set clear goals for himself and his team so that he can interact with them and unequivocally commit himself to his goals. If he lost this commitment and interaction, he would lose his ability to see clearly and both he and his followers could lose track of the right course.
  9. A leader draws his power from his faith in God, his country and his determination – not from the strength of his guards and escort.
  10. A leader is self-confident by nature. If he was not, he would not be able to trust anyone. A true leader must therefore trust his team, his country and his people, and link this trust to his determination to implement his vision and plans under all circumstances.
  11. Knowledge is essential in making the right decisions. A leader must know how to execute his job and have the mental and physical qualifications that enable him to carry out his duties. A leader does not follow working hours and has no weekends or holidays. He must always be alert and ready to take the necessary decisions anytime, day or night. We cannot expect leaders to be impeccable orators and writers, but they must be fluent enough to express themselves clearly. A leader must know how to deliver his instructions to his team in a way that guarantees they clearly understand them before implementing them, leaving no chance for misunderstanding and errors. The use of complex ideas, vague images and difficult-to-understand language using ‘big’ words is a waste of time and raises more questions than answers. Some of those who hear these types of instructions do not actually listen to them, while others may interpret them incorrectly. This leaves ample space for different interpretations and courses of action. A leader must use simple, everyday speech, explain himself clearly without too much detail, and avoid detours and repetitions.
  12. A leader should also clearly define the message he wants to convey and carefully select the words he uses with his audience. Since speech is not the only means of communication between people, a leader must always monitor the reaction and behavior of his audience. He must choose the right words for the right occasion and deliver well-articulated ideas in a clear voice, using harmonious gestures and a presentation technique representative of the leadership’s status and prominence, in order to promote confidence in his subordinates and his image among them. Stuttering, hesitation, mediocre performances and too much repetition don not reflect a good leader.
  13. It is the duty of any leader to persuade his people to accept his visions and goals, in order to enlist their full cooperation in implementing them. In addition, he must always be ready to defend his decisions and visions, using his power of persuasion, sound reasoning and accurate data.
  14. Although the allegiance of subordinates to their leader is important, his devotion to them is even more crucial. The same goes for trust and respect. These are interconnected relationships and links of the same chain; the moment one of them breaks, for whatever reason, confidence will break down and will be extremely difficult to restore. It is therefore very important that no party to this kind of relationship pushes the other party into losing his/their confidence.
  15. It almost goes without saying that when a leader motivates and encourages the members of his team, they will enjoy their work and be inspired to greater achievements.
  16. A leader should be the symbol of a society and a living example to the younger generation. A successful leader must set a good example for his team – how can he expect their commitment if he himself is not completely committed? How does a leader expect his team to earn the respect of the public and provide it with good services if he himself does not respect them, solve their problems or interact with them sufficiently? An Arab proverb says, “be their example and you will secure their proficiency.” A leader therefore needs to set the example through his humbleness, personal character, shouldering of responsibilities, fairness and objectivity.
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