The influence of national culture on leadership styles in Saudi Arabia

Alogaili, Khalid Abdullah

May 2017

Thesis or dissertation

© 2017 Khalid Abdullah Alogaili. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Globalisation, nowadays, has increased the need to comprehend how cultural differences affect leadership styles, especially given the potential impact on organisational performance.

In the Middle East and Saudi Arabia in particular, organisational performance has been claimed to be held back by national cultural values, but it is currently unclear how leaders in Saudi organisations are negotiating the balance between national cultural values and modem influences, and how the values they uphold may influence their leadership roles and practices. In order to develop leadership in the Saudi context, there is a real need to understand better the relationship between culture and leadership. Therefore, this study investigates to what extent and how the national culture influences the leadership process.

The study was conducted in the utilities sector, the organisations that provide the three main public services; telecommunications, water and electricity. Qualitative data were collected by means of a multiple holistic case study strategy, involving interviews with nine managers and eighteen subordinates, and subjected to interpretive thematic analysis. Seven influencing factors were identified, with tension between the traditional factors of social norms, tribalism, regional affiliation, and wasta, perceived as having negative impacts, and the modernising influences of education and technology, perceived as positive. Islamic values reflected an ambiguous position, theoretically positive but purportedly misunderstood or incorrectly applied. The outcomes challenge universal views of leadership and suggest a distinctive Arab leadership style, albeit one facing contestation. The outcomes are expected to contribute to theories of culture and leadership, and to leadership practice in Saudi organisations.

Business School, The University of Hull
Afanassieva, Marianne; Reedy, Patrick; Elliott, Carole, 1966-
Sponsor (Organisation)
Saudi Arabia
Qualification level
Qualification name
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