Leadership in Saudi Arabia: A Multifaceted Phenomenon

Khalil M. Dirani, Christine Silva Hamie, and Hayfaa Tlaiss

Introduction: A Traditional Kingdom in the Age of Change

Making sense of leadership development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is very important for a number of reasons. The kingdom is considered the heart of Islam; it is one of the closest Arab allies to the United States, and the largest producer of oil in the world.

Nowadays, KSA is going through unprecedented times of uncertainty. Its aged leadership is ceding power to a new generation, and its society, which is dominated by young people, is restive. The country is involved in different wars directly or indirectly (e.g., Yemen, Syria, and Iraq), facing tensions with its Western ally, USA, dealing with growing power of neighboring Iran, challenged with plummeting oil prices, and facing internal

K.M. Dirani (*)

Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA C.S. Hamie

Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA H. Tlaiss

University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB, Canada © The Author(s) 2017

A. Ardichvili, K. Dirani (eds.), Leadership Development in Emerging Market Economies, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-58003-0_14

social pressure for change and reform. All these external factors are having a toll on Saudi society and organizations. Saudi organizations face the additional complications created by diverse operating environments, fast growth in all industries, and the great influence of Saudi Arabian culture. Therefore, the risk of not having the appropriate organizational capability, especially in leadership, is high. That being said, the purpose of this chapter is to present factors affecting leadership practices and leadership development in the kingdom. The chapter starts with highlights about contextual factors affecting leadership practices and development in the kingdom such as religion, authority, and tradition, followed by a synthesis of how such factors influence leadership practices in public and private organizations, with special attention to women’s perspectives. The chapter ends with a discussion of three leadership styles widely accepted and practiced in KSA, namely autocratic, paternalistic, and consultative leadership.

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