Sheikh Mohammed’s Leadership Style

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Leadership is a broad concept that covers not only the ability to lead in business, but also in other areas of life from the friendship of political or military structures. The heads of state are also leaders; however, their areas of responsibility are broader and managerial decisions affect the lives of millions of people. Nevertheless, their achievements are also significant as successful leaders can change the state position and improve the standard of living of their inhabitants. One example of such leaders is Sheikh Mohamed, who runs the United Arab Emirates and has made significant improvements in the country during his active participation in politics and ruling. This paper will study the features of Sheikh Mohamed’s leadership style and practices based on a case study to determine its benefits and formulate recommendations for its improvement in current circumstances.

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Sheikh Mohammed’s Leadership Style

Some of the features and situations presented in the case study help to determine the leadership style of Sheikh Mohammed. First, all of Sheikh Mohammed’s actions were consistent with his vision of the development of the state. He saw the Arab Emirates as a country of progress and development, which largely inherits European values. These values ​​included business freedom, improving city infrastructure and education, modernizing architecture, protecting the environment, and moving away from dependence on oil through the promotion of tourism and business diversification (Mayo et al., 2010). The presence of this vision and its transmission to followers is one of the defining characteristics of a transactional leader since it aims to achieve positive changes for the country (Lussier & Achua, 2016). This fact is one of the most prominent that describe Sheikh Mohammed’s leadership style.

Moreover, the approaches that Sheikh Mohammed used to carry out reforms also characterizes him as a transactional leader. For example, most of the projects, such as building infrastructure, improving the quality of education, or renovating the airport, were initiated by the Sheikh and based on his vision (Mayo et al., 2010). Another example is implementing an environmental project that required a mandatory reduction in energy and water consumption. Although these changes were all positive for the country, they were compulsory. The Sheikh used a management by exception approach, in most cases actively monitoring and controlling the implementation of new regulations (Arenas, 2019). In other words, business people and government agencies had to carry out orders, and they had practically no autonomy in making these decisions, although they could choose methods of completing the task.

Sheikh also used positive incentives to improve the follower’s performance. For example, companies could easily get a loan, practically did not pay taxes, and foreigners received various incentives to attract them to work and live in the UAE. This approach is characteristic of transactional leadership as well as punishment for regulatory violations (Arenas, 2019). However, one of the most notable features that demonstrate the Sheikh’s transformational leadership is in the approach to reform. Arenas (2019) notes that the transactional leader describes to followers the tasks and goals that must be met to achieve the desired performance. In fact, every reform initiated by the Sheikh was such a task to achieve a better future for the state.

Furthermore, unlike the transformational and democratic leader, Sheikh Mohammed had little interest in the problems and desires of the local population. The case study says that Sheikh Mohammed’s father listened to the wishes and complaints of ordinary residents; however, it is not clear whether his son continued this practice (Mayo et al., 2010). It is likely that Sheikh Mohamed still received advice and gathered government and business representatives to discuss major issues, but ordinary residents did not participate in this. This fact is evidenced by both the complaints of local Emirati about the loss of the national identity and the unhealthy working conditions for migrant workers (Mayo et al., 2010). While the second problem was solved under the influence of international organizations, the issue of identity is still acute in the case study (Mayo et al., 2010). This fact can speak of such a trait of a transformational leader as the achievement of the goals of the state or company above the interests of followers or the authoritarian features of leadership.

In general, this type of leadership was effective as it corresponded to the conditions and circumstances of the Sheikh’s work. As a result, the UAE has come a long way in improving its economy, business environment, healthcare, education, and infrastructure (Mayo et al., 2010). In this case, this type of leadership was the most suitable for leading the country. A democratic or laissez-faire leadership style was inappropriate since they stipulate that followers have broad freedoms, and the leader only intervenes when necessary (Jony et al., 2019). Such approaches could cause conflicts within the state due to the collision of interests of the parties or their choice of different approaches to solving problems. Any state requires a clearly defined vision and regulations and laws to guide. The authoritarian and dictator style, in most historical cases, also did not succeed with the leaders of the countries since it did not take into account the interests of citizens. For this reason, transactional leadership was the most appropriate and effective solution for a head of state requiring large-scale changes.

Leadership Practices and Follower Motivation

Despite the effectiveness of Sheikh Mohammed’s leadership, his approaches had both positive aspects and disadvantages that influenced followers’ motivation. Sheikh Mohammed, like his father, was interested in the development of the state and the improvement of life for its inhabitants. Muhammad’s father analyzed the situation by listening to the problems of people of different social statuses and professions, which allowed him to see the situation from various perspectives (Mayo et al., 2010). At the same time, Sheikh Mohammed took a hands-on approach; for example, he learned to fly a helicopter to understand his soldiers’ feelings (Mayo et al., 2010). In both cases, these approaches demonstrate effective leadership.

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Such relations with the people, strong-willed decisions that benefited the state, and the ability to defend their position distinguish the heads of state as charismatic leaders. According to Lussier and Achua (2016), this type of leadership is most effective in motivating followers as it is based on trust and respect for the leader. In addition, Sheikh Mohammed formed a clear vision and objectives, which were based on simple and understandable values ​​for the population. For example, improve the quality of education, modernize infrastructure, attract tourists and foreign investors to bring money to the economy. Thus, residents understood that all reforms aimed to improve their lives in the country and were motivated to achieve these changes.

However, Sheikh Mohammed’s leadership approaches also had flaws that negatively affected the motivation of the population. First, the fact that the Sheikh based his decisions on experience and observation made it challenging to understand all the interests and concerns of the people. In addition, the dedication and stubbornness in achieving goals, which was helpful in the creation of the new airline, also made Sheikh Mohammed’s policies less flexible. As a result, the reluctance to adjust strategies has led to many local Emirati losing the motivation to modernize the country and attract foreigners for investment, work, or tourism. For locals, these changes meant the loss of their national identity (Mayo et al., 2010). At the same time, instead of reacting to this problem, Sheikh Mohammed took measures that further alienated some of the followers. In the United Arab Emirates, media publications that could negatively affect the reputation of the state and its leader were prohibited (Mayo et al., 2010). Such restrictions could not only decrease the motivation of the local population to follow their leader but also reduce the trust of all followers due to the harshness of the measures taken.

Moreover, some incentives also had a negative effect on the country as they were not appropriate for the situation. These incentives were based on management by exception that is commonly applied in transactional leadership (Arenas, 2019). Many business people lost profits during the global financial crisis and could not get loans to support their operations. In the UAE, there was a law that criminalized debt; that is, any entrepreneur or ordinary citizen could go to jail if they were in debt (Mayo et al., 2010). Such a law should have encouraged people to plan their costs correctly and pay their bills on time, which is a good practice. However, the crisis was an unforeseen event, and this law forced many companies to leave the country so that their owners were not arrested. Thus, the main force on which the Sheikh relied, namely foreign business and foreign investors, lost the motivation to work in the United Arab Emirates.

Nevertheless, since the decisions of Sheikh Mohammed were primarily successful and benefited most of society and the state, his leadership practices can be assessed as effective. Charisma and perseverance guaranteed the Sheikh the support of the residents, as well as authority in the international arena. These same qualities, combined with measures to improve doing business in the Arab Emirates, have also attracted foreign investors and business people, helping grow the country’s economy. However, changing international and domestic conditions requires the elimination of deficiencies in Sheikh Mohammed’s leadership to achieve the desired results and continue the development of the state.

Pandemic Management Recommendations

The coronavirus pandemic has significantly affected the whole world, and these days the population is more than ever demanding adequate solutions and government support. For this reason, the main task of Sheikh Mohammed to maintain the development trends of the UAE is the rapid adaptation of the country to new conditions. Trust of the citizens is the main factor in increasing their efforts to improve the situation (Khattak et al., 2020). To this end, Sheikh Mohammed must address the shortcomings of his leadership, which the implementation of the following recommendations can facilitate.

The vital step for Sheikh Mohammed is to restore public confidence. According to the Trust – Confidence – Cooperation framework, the population must have confidence in their leadership to operate under restrictive conditions (Ahern & Loh, 2020). Establishing effective communication is the first step, since understanding the needs of all population groups and taking steps to meet them will show the leader’s concern for his citizens. The second step is to eliminate media censorship, since reporting the actual situation about the state of health can damage the country’s reputation, but it is necessary to inform the population adequately. Such a move will demonstrate to the people that their leader cares primarily about their wellbeing and not the country’s reputation in the eyes of the global community.

Moreover, investing in the healthcare system is also a step necessary to gain people’s trust and sustain the country’s development. Foreign citizens and locals should receive the same conditions, which will restore the local population’s confidence and reduce the likelihood of foreigners leaving the country. The fourth measure that the Sheikh must apply is to use his charisma to articulate a vision to people that includes cooperation, respect, and patience to overcome the crisis and develop the state. Finally, all processes and reforms must be clear and transparent to the public because the ability to evaluate mechanisms increases trust in the leader and reduces dissatisfaction in the event of a crisis (Ahern & Loh, 2020). In this way, these measures will help Sheikh Mohammed enhance the image of a progressive and caring leader and help use followers’ efforts to overcome crises.

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Therefore, this case study shows that Sheikh Mohammed demonstrates the characteristics of a transactional leader, although some situations display authoritarian features. This style is effective and most suitable to rule the country, requiring significant changes, since it motivated followers with the charisma of a leader, a promising vision, and a system of regulations and rewards. However, Sheikh Mohammed’s practices also had flaws that diminished the trust and motivation of a part of the population. For this reason, the primary step for improving leadership and maintaining the state’s position is to gain or restore public confidence, which will allow the Sheikh to use common efforts to carry out and support reforms in the new conditions of a pandemic and post-pandemic world.


Ahern, S., & Loh, E. (2020). Leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic: Building and sustaining trust in times of uncertainty, BMJ Leader

Arenas, F. J. (2019). A casebook of transformational and transactional leadership. Taylor & Francis.

Jony, M.T.I., Alam, M.J., Amin, M.R, & Alam, M.J. (2019). The impact of autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire leadership styles on the success of the organization: A study on the different popular restaurants of Mymensingh. Business and International Studies, 1(6), 28-38.

Khattak, M.N., Zolin, R. & Muhammad, N. (2020). Linking transformational leadership and continuous improvement: The mediating role of trust. Management Research Review, 43(8), 931-950.

Lussier, R.N. & Achua, C. F. (2016). Leadership: Theory, application, & skill development (6th ed.). Cengage Learning.

Mayo, A., Nohria, N., Mendhro, U., & Cromwell, J. (2010). Sheikh Mohammed and the making of ‘Dubai, Inc.’ Harvard Business School.

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