Authentic Leadership and Its Relevance in the UAE

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Authentic leadership is an approach focusing on the personal traits, qualities, and the right to choose unique ways. The George model existing within this field of knowledge offers a specific framework explaining the role of individuals who lead teams and the choice of strategies. Analyzing these concepts, it is possible to acquire an improved vision of their applicability and use them to evaluate real-life examples. The given paper focuses on analyzing articles devoted to authentic leadership to gain its improved understanding. Moreover, it analyzes Sheik Zayed’s style regarding the George model and its applicability to the case.

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Articles Summary

The article Crucibles of leadership by Bennis and Thomas (2002) delves into the peculiarities of leadership and how they might help to alter the situation. Offering several real-life examples, the authors show how the correct understanding of the situation and the ability to adapt to new conditions can help to attain positive outcomes and create the basis for future improvement (Bennis & Thomas, 2002). Resting on these experiences, Bennis and Thomas (2002) state that the ability to learn from difference and alter styles regarding the current challenge is the fundamental aspect of leadership. The article Discovering your authentic leadership by George et al. (2007) also revolves around the idea of authentic leadership. The authors make one of the most significant assumptions, stating that imitating someone else, it is impossible to become authentic and become a good leader (George et al., 2007). Trust and readiness to follow emerge in people when they see creativity, flexibility, and willingness to adapt to new conditions (George et al., 2007). In such a way, both articles focus on similar concepts.

The authors offer the idea that great leaders possess four skills making them different and improving their chances for success. These include the ability to engage, distinctive voice, sense of integrity, and adaptive capacity (Bennis & Thomas, 2002). Recognizing the importance of all factors, Bennis and Thomas (2002) underline the critical significance of the last one as it allows leaders to transcend adversity, adapt to new conditions, and become stronger. These elements contribute to increased leaders’ effectiveness. Leaders can adapt or create their methods to resolve the problem, limited only by their morals, current purpose, and principles (Bennis & Thomas, 2002). At the same time, that the unicity of every leader should start with the correct realization of values and principles, which serve as the basic factors influencing the decision-making and the choice of strategies (George et al., 2007). Using appropriate leadership principles, it is possible to attain desired outcomes and promote positive change in the most difficult situations (George et al., 2007). That is why adaptability and unique strategies might be viewed as fundamental elements of authentic leadership.

In such a way, both articles focus on the ideas of authentic leadership and the role it plays in the functioning of different units. Bennis and Thomas (2002) say that leaders are not limited in their choice of actions; instead, they should learn from the scenario as it is the most effective way to select practical strategies and create the basis for future improvement. Adaptability and flexibility become the major criteria of good leaders and their ability to promote positive change. At the same time, following the model of authentic leadership, George et al. (2007) emphasize the necessity of selecting the unique course as it is a more effective method of managing people, while copying will not help to achieve the desired outcome. It means that both articles offer a similar idea of the critical importance of a new approach that rests on a specific situation and helps to resolve the problem.

Application of the Model

The model of leadership selected for the discussion if offered by George et al. It focuses on the specific qualities of a leader which allow him/her to become authentic. The five dimensions suggested by the model include purpose and passion, values and behavior, self-discipline and consistency, heart and compassion, relationships, and connectedness (see Figure 1). Authentic leaders have purpose manifesting itself as passion, values seen through behavior, self-discipline explaining individuals’ consistency, relations that help to have connectedness, and heart observed in their compassion (Northouse, 2016). The model was developed in the USA; however, it can be applied to the leaders from the UAE. They might also have these dimensions, but these areas are influenced by the peculiarities of the local culture. The analysis of Sheik Zayed’s leadership can help to prove this statement.

Model by George
Figure 1. Model by George et al. (Northouse, 2016)

Sheik Zayed’s leadership can be evaluated regarding the model offered by George et al. (2007) to understand the major success factors and improve the vision of how this style can be related to the concept of authentic leadership. His actions to improve to attain the positive change can also be viewed through the lens of Emirati culture as it was a significant factor influencing the decision-making and the choice of strategies. He had to adapt his leadership style to new conditions and be ready to engage in cooperation and discussion with other rulers to create a strong basis for a new state. These Sheik Zayed’s traits can be viewed through the prism of authentic leadership as the concept offers similar visions of how a person should act in different situations.

As stated previously, the analysis is performed using the model offered by George et al. It contains the five central aspects, such as passion, behavior, connectedness, consistency, and compassion (George et al., 2007). All these characteristics can be found in an authentic leader as they drive most of his/her actions (Powlus, 2017). Speaking about Sheik Zayed, his passion influenced the establishment of the clear purpose to create a strong state, including the most powerful Emirates as the basis for future prosperity and wealth (“Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan,” n.d.). This desire promoted the emergence of a unique vision used in this leadership style.

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Following the authentic leadership model, the behaviors of a leader come from his/her values. For Sheik Zayed, the major factor influencing his behaviors was the desire to create a new state offering a better future for people, which can also be considered one of the central values (Kechichian, 2010). It means that the biography of a leader, his characteristics preconditioned the shift to specific styles necessary for attaining existing goals (‘Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan,” n.d.). It is one of the basic assumptions of authentic leadership.

The creation of the UAE became possible due to the cooperation between multiple actors who also had significant authority. It means that Sheik Zayed achieved success in building a peaceful federation due to his outstanding capability to create and maintain relationships with the key players (Covelli & Mason, 2017). It is another vital characteristic of authentic leadership as it is focused on moving forward by engaging others and inspiring them with their example.

Self-discipline is another dimension offered by George et al. in their work. For Sheik Zayed’s style, the consistency and readiness to follow the outlined goal can be proven by his contribution to the establishment and development of the UAE and his lifelong efforts to improve its work by offering new ways to manage the state and create new institutions vital for its evolution. From this perspective, his self—discipline is one of the factors characterizing him as an authentic leader.

Finally, compassion is another trait of an authentic leader as it motivates him/her to move in the selected direction. From Sheik Zayed’s interview, one can see that his heart was given to the idea of a strong state with opportunities for people (The National News, n.d.). Citizens who previously lived in deserts had to acquire a chance to make their children happier. This vision influenced Sheik’s decisions and style used to adapt to new challenges and move towards achieving the goal.

In such a way, Sheik Zayed can be viewed as an authentic leader who managed to adapt to new conditions and learn from the challenges. The map of his style (see Appendix 1) shows that his inner beliefs, values, such as the desire to help people, and create a better life for children, resulted in the employment of strategies to achieve current goals. The diversity of visions traditionally peculiar to the region was considered by using effective communication patterns to establish relations and find allies to attain the existing goals (Almansoori, 2018). Moreover, Sheik Zayed managed to inspire followers and alter their mentalities, which can also be viewed as one of the valuable achievements of an authentic leader.

Evaluation of the Model

The application of the George et al. model can help to characterize Sheik Zayed as an authentic leader. Although it was designed considering the U.S. context, it remains applicable for the UAE. However, it is vital to consider the difference in cultures and values typical for both states. For this reason, the dimension of values and behaviors, along with relations, should be viewed in terms of the UAE reality for the improved applicability of the model. The peculiarities of the Emirati mentality and culture, along with the traditional beliefs and values, affected the decision-making and the choice of strategies needed to attain goals. For this reason, these factors might impact the framework and its applicability.

Analyzing the acquired model, it is possible to correlate it with the personal leaders of Sheik Zayed. As stated previously, authentic leadership significantly rests on characteristics of a person, his/her abilities, values, and views as they influence decision-making and the choice of strategies. Sheik Zayed possesses a strong vision different from other ones, which is represented in the model (Kechichian, 2010). The desire to improve living conditions and make new generations more powerful made him focused on a significant and complex project.

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In such a way, it is possible to admit the model’s accuracy. Using the framework offered by George et al. (2007), the main five traits were analyzed to outline the peculiarities of the style, the decision-making patterns, and the level of flexibility and adaptability. Thus, the model outlines the unusual vision, clear purpose, and the desire to achieve it to improve the quality of people’s lives as the main motivation. The choice of leadership methods and approaches was preconditioned by the changing conditions and the need to cooperate with multiple partners with various visions and demands. The model shows the readiness to move in the selected dimension and look for new strategies if old ones fail.

At the same time, there are some drawbacks in the offered model as it cannot consider all peculiarities of the environment, Emirati reality, and the way they influence leaders. Sheik Zayed is a son of the Sheik Sultan; he possessed inherited authority and specific patterns of power distribution typical for the area (Kechichian, 2010). However, as a potent and wise leader, he managed to step away from authoritative and ineffective leadership models instead of focusing on the necessity to create new, more effective models in the selected area. For this reason, mapping Sheik Zayed’s leadership style, it is vital to consider the local peculiarities which resulted in the acquisition of a strong position and the ability to use it to attain various goals.

The application of the selected model helps to improve the overall understanding of the style employed by Sheik Zayed. The prior causes for most of his actions and the approach used to overall some challenges demonstrate the adherence to authentic leadership style. The alliance with rulers and the creation of the UAE can be viewed as the result of the practical application of authentic leadership methods and their effectiveness in real-life conditions (“Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan,” n.d.). The refusal to follow traditional patterns, correct understanding of the current population’s needs, and the desire to fulfill them influenced the choice of the leadership style and its alteration regarding the existing problems or challenges (Caredda, 2020). The authentic leadership of Sheik Zayed was influenced by the Emirati reality, meaning most of his decisions were adapted to the local needs and aspects.

Applying the discussed model, it is possible to create Sheik Zayed’s leadership map. It outlines all five dimensions peculiar to the framework explaining how they are embodied in Sheik Zayed’s decisions and actions.

Leadership style map

Authentic self Outward evidence
purpose Create a Federation of Emirates passion Alter the current leadership styles to create a new entity
values Better quality of life for people, strong state, nation’s wealth behavior Refused from traditional patterns to achieve the goal
relationships Established relations with other leaders connectedness Managed to cooperate with other leaders and negotiate
Self-discipline Devoted most of his life to this goal consistency Insisted on the creation of the UAE following his vision
heart More opportunities for next generations compassion Understood the needs of local people


Altogether, authentic leadership is one of the effective ways to manage people and ensure they can achieve existing goals. It revolves around the idea that leaders are free to choose models that can help to overcome challenges and promote positive change. George et al. (2007) model of leadership outlines the most important aspects of this framework. It is applied to analyzed Sheik Zayed’s activity and methods used by him to become one of the founders of the UAE. The analysis and evaluation of the model show that he rested on his values and beliefs to select the development course.

At the same time, the discussion shows that local culture might be a serious factor influencing a leadership style and strategies chosen by a person to attain desired goals. Sheik Zayed managed to select the only correct course because of the conditions and characteristics of that period. It means that the model offered by George et al. (2007) can be applied to various situations concerning the local mentality and culture as these factors critically influence behaviors and values.


Almansoori, S. (2018). From the desert to the city: The innovative leadership of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai. Western Kentucky University.

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Bennis, W., & Thomas, R. (2002). Crucibles of leadership. Harvard Business Review.

Caredda, S. (2020). Leadership models: The theory and practice. 

Covelli, B., & Mason, I. (2017). Linking theory to practice: Authentic leadership. Academy of Strategic Management Journal, 16(3), 1-10.

George, B., Sims, P., McLean, A., & Mayer, D. (2007). Discovering your authentic leadership. Harvard Business Review.

Kechichian, J. (2010). Shaikh Zayed: The making of a great leader. Gulf News. Web.

The National News. (n.d.). Sheikh Zayed in his words. Part 1 [Video file]. YouTube.

Northouse, P. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc

Powlus, A. (2017). Five characteristics of authentic leadership. PennState.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE. (n.d.). UAE.

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"Authentic Leadership and Its Relevance in the UAE." BusinessEssay, 9 Sept. 2022,


BusinessEssay. (2022) 'Authentic Leadership and Its Relevance in the UAE'. 9 September.


BusinessEssay. 2022. "Authentic Leadership and Its Relevance in the UAE." September 9, 2022.

1. BusinessEssay. "Authentic Leadership and Its Relevance in the UAE." September 9, 2022.


BusinessEssay. "Authentic Leadership and Its Relevance in the UAE." September 9, 2022.