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The expatriate as company leader in the UAE: cultural adaptation

Hanan Al Mazrouei (Department of Business and Economics, United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, UAE)
Richard J. Pech (Department of Management, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Publication date: 19 January 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this article is to explore the impact of organizational culture, adaptation, political environment and leadership for expatriate managers working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Expatriate leaders on overseas assignment often attempt to transfer their home organization culture to their new location. The subsequent cultural clash can have a destructive impact on both the leader and the organization.

Design/methodology/approach

Expatriate leaders’ experiences in the UAE were collected through interviews, with a specific focus on cultural adaptation and most effective leadership styles for implementing strategic organizational change.

Findings

Our research revealed that a consultative style was found to be most effective by expatriate leaders in the UAE. Communication with local staff, team building, motivating staff and involving staff in decision-making were highly effective approaches in assisting expatriate leaders to succeed within their organizational cultures. Several strategies have been identified based on the experiences of the expatriate leaders interviewed in our study.

Practical implications

The findings offer practical advice for organizational leaders anticipating an assignment in the UAE and human resource management practitioners preparing expatriate leaders for their duties there. The authors also provide suggestions for expatriate leaders to enhance their adjustment to the organizational and political culture.

Originality/value

Numerous studies have been done on organizational cultural adaptation; however, comparatively little research has been offered on practical organizational adaptation and leadership specific to the UAE.

Keywords

Citation

Al Mazrouei, H. and Pech, R.J. (2015), "The expatriate as company leader in the UAE: cultural adaptation", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 33-40. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBS-08-2013-0067

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited