Exploring Leadership Development in Turkey: Implications for Technology and Innovation

Ahmet Co$kun and Mesut Akdere Introduction

Leadership development has become an important phenomenon in Turkey, since the fast expansion of country’s economy requires growing attention to developing its human resources. Despite the regional and national political and humanitarian challenges recently faced, Turkey aims to become one of the top ten largest economies of the world. Both government and corporate world are focusing their efforts on becoming more competitive globally, and one of the most important elements of this strategy is the expansion of technological innovation. Leadership is at the forefront of these efforts. This chapter examines the concept of leadership development in the Turkish business context broadly through the lenses of national culture and educational system and illustrates specific examples of leadership development practices.

A. Coskun

Erciyes University, Melikgazi/Kayseri, Turkey M. Akdere (*)

Purdue University-West Lafayette, West Lafayette, IN, USA © The Author(s) 2017

A. Ardichvili, K. Dirani (eds.), Leadership Development in Emerging Market Economies, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-58003-0_15

As an emerging market, Turkey serves as a hub, right in the middle of several crossroads—geographically between Asia and Europe; historically between East and West; culturally between modernism and traditionalism; ideologically between secularism, Islamism, and nationalism; and economically between developing and developed countries. Accompanying national development efforts, the country has been experiencing a dramatic social change in many areas since 2002. During this period, Justice and Development Party (Ak Parti) has won the elections in five consecutive times and has been governing for the past 13 years. Following a 30-year-long period of many unstable short-term governments as well as several military coups and economic crises, the stable Ak Parti government had the opportunity of realizing some long-term economic goals particularly utilizing the popularity and charismatic leadership of its chairman Recep Tayyib Erdogan.

Considering the Islamic roots and aspirations of its founders, Ak Parti was regarded as a replacement of power from Turkish secularists, majority of whom were left-wing politicians or nationalists. The immediate impact of this change was observed in the unprecedented rapid growth of the Turkish economy by all segments of the larger society. It included a shift from a socialist and heavily government-controlled national market to a more liberal and entrepreneurial market structure with a heavy focus on decreasing high levels of unemployment, attracting large amounts of foreign direct investment, and revamping all governmental institutions and units. A new bourgeoisie class called Anatolian Tigers, emerged from previously periphery and began to serve as a powerful economic power in diverse sectors of Turkish economy, such as food, construction, energy, manufacturing, finance, education, and media. As a result, including these new governmental initiatives and approaches, Turkish economy and businesses responded positively and began to work harmoniously with the Ak Parti government under the leadership of Erdogan to achieve economic goals that triggered innovation efforts in many areas, including defense, aviation, automotive, health, and information and communications technologies (ICT) production, just to name a few.

Taking into consideration that today’s Turkish organizations increasingly encounter novel and complex business problems and opportunities, which usually do not respond well to traditional quick fix methods, these new situations demand empowered group of people with effective leadership skills and experiences. Conventional training methods dedicated to developing transactional leaders are focused on solving known orga?nizational problems, but they poorly satisfy the requirements of more challenging and complex global issues coupled with rapid technological advancement that may at times be disruptive.

As an emerging market, Turkey is at a juncture in becoming both a global power player and transitioning to a participatory democracy with a stable economy. As such, Turkish organizations and companies are also transforming to support Turkey’s role as a global economic and political powerhouse. Such transition requires leaders experienced in using non-traditional business and management approaches to help contribute to this transformation process. House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, and Gupta (2004) described Turkish CEOs as being people oriented and participative. Kabasakal and Bodur (2002), on the other hand, viewed leadership development in the Turkish context as being a multifaceted phenomenon. Mabey and Lees (2008) argued that status (both economic and social) was still very influential in Turkish organizations. Leadership in general, and leadership development in particular, is generally new to the Turkish literature except for religious, political, and military leaders, and it is an unexplored topic. This chapter aims to explore leadership development in Turkey and discuss implications for technology and innovation as both these concepts have become very connected with leadership and Turkey is aiming to move forward through its investment in technology and innovation.

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