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How Different Eras Produce Leaders with Different Mindsets



Written by: John Grisby, Professor of Management Practice & Managing Partner at Grey Matter Global Ltd.

About the Writer: John Grisby is a Professor of Management Practice and teaches Leadership on an Executive MBA programme at Majan College in Muscat, Oman. He is Managing Partner at Grey Matter Global Ltd., a consultancy dedicated to leadership strategy ‘4.0’ (The Fourth Industrial Revolution).

Middle East Leadership for the changing times

I teach the practice of leadership to executives (MBA) at in Muscat (Oman). Participants include government, private sector and tribal leaders. During the first session I ask the group, ‘What is leadership?’. It provokes interesting debate and a range of answers: personality, characteristics, traits, behaviors, culture, etc. Then I ask, ‘Who would like to experience Google’s Leadership programme in the U.S. called SYI-Search Inside Yourself?”. A large number raise their hands thinking they would learn ‘cutting edge’ or ‘state of the art’ leadership from a young, global, fast growing technology company. Think again. The six minuet video overview of the programme shows leaders meditating, doing yoga, asking introspective questions and speaking about the need to find work-life balance.  When I ask the Omani executives to comment there is utter silence and a roomful of very confused looks. Then one executive explains, “I meditate a lot too. Every day I wake up at sunrise and pray, then I pray at mid-day and at sunset.” Excellent. He’s understood the exercise and insight about the true meaning of leadership.

The concept of what leadership is (and is not) has changed since the theory was first formally studied in U.S. circa 1940s. Since 1968 over 1968 77,000 books have been published on the topic. Yet as a practice leadership existed in the Middle East for many thousands of years even before Western Civilization began. So what exactly is it?

Modern-day global leaders are faced with a multiplicity of leadership theories, models and approaches about how to effectively lead. The world, and particularly the Middle East, is experiencing significant changes in the environment, what people think and how oranisations operate. So if you are leader in the Middle East and asked to lead a team or an entire organisation, which one do you use?

Do you lead surround yourself with an inner circle of only people you know, related to or trust as suggested by the ideals of Arab tribal leadership?  Use charisma and absolute power over peers to intimidate demonstrated in a clan/feudal leadership? Expect totally loyalty and adherence to rules of law suggested by formal management or religious leadership? Motivate through success-oriented reward for thinking differently embodied in American entrepreneur leadership? Consider everyone an equal leader and ‘keep the peace’ demonstrated in a United Nations style type leadership?

There is no leadership ‘magic solution’ – but there is a way through the confusion of competing ideas. It is an evidence-based theory named Middle East Leadership Value Systems or MELVS. MELVS draws on the entire developmental history of humans, the region and business to clarify and resolve many of the dilemmas modern Middle Eastern leaders face.

Core Middle East leadership mindsets philosophies

There are various MEVLS at play in Middle Easter business world. There are obvious differences between countries, and less subtle between organisations competing in the same sector.

For example three major Turkish banks Türkiye Is Bankasi, Akbank and Türkiye Garanti Bankasi are all banks form the same country but have differing cultures and leadership philosophies. So too are the Saudi Telecom and Egypt’s Orascom Telecom.

MELVS identifies six core leadership mindsets developed from the history of business, politics, etc., each rooted in different complexity of life conditions:

Life Condition Complexity (LC) Summary of Leadership Adaptations and Skills to Solve Problems 
A: Basic Existence LC N’: Life conditions activate/develop skills to solve individual problems through        Subsistence-Survival
B: Pre-industrial LC O: Life conditions activate/develop skills to solve to solve group problems through
C: Industrial Revolution LC P: Life conditions activate/develop skills to solve to solve individual problems
     through Power and Dominance
D: Information & Knowledge LC Q: Life conditions activate/develop skills to solve
group problems through
     Master Plan and Management
E: Global Technology-Finance LC R: Life conditions activate/develop skills to solve individual problems through       Achievement and Entrepreneurship
F: Digital/Social Network LC S: Life conditions activate/develop skills to solve group problems through      Community and Digital Networks
A’: Complexity-Problematic LC N’: Life conditions activate/develop skills to individual problems through Problem 
      Solving and Functionality

   Dr. Clare Graves (ECLT) © Adapted by Grey Matter Global Ltd.

Middle East Leadership Mindset 1- Survival/Subsistence

“The only focus I have is on my survival”

MELVS 1: There is no dominant leadership mindset in (A) life condition complexity. In these conditions a leader cannot think in complex ways or make decisions. They are only focused on subsistence and survival. The closest environment we can find is the deteriorating life conditions caused by war, famine, natural disaster, etc.

Middle East Leadership Mindset 2 – Traditional/Tribal

“Our tribal inner circle is a family bond formed by traditions and customs”

MELVS 2: In (B) life condition complexity, the dominant leadership mindset is (O): traditional, tribal and kinship. Leaders are associated with legends and powerful wisdom. They are born into position within a core of semi-elites. They are concerned with maintaining group cohesion, values, customs and traditions. Followers organise in a circle structure around the center ‘chief’ or ‘patriarch’ in a demonstration of unity and for protection. Examples of leadership elements exist in the Bedouin dessert lifestyle and patriarch of family owned Arab merchant businesses passed down through multiple generations.

Middle East Leadership Mindset 3 – Power/Dominate 

“I maintain control through power and domination”

MELVS 3: In (C) life condition complexity, leadership mindset emphasises the idea of power and conquest (P). Leaders climb through the ranks through power and dominance. They can also be courageous and take risks necessary to move forward. Followers organise in a top down Big Boss/Small Boss/worker chain of command. An example of leadership elements exist in the authority and allegiance to Al-Za’eem (feudal lord).

Middle East Leadership Mindset 4 – The ‘Master’ Plan/Purpose  

“We follow rigorous principles and plans to achieve our purpose”

MELVS 4: In (D) life condition complexity, following and living by the ‘master plan’ becomes a central idea (Q). Leaders are chosen by class or status. They display patriotism, demand group discipline and have a sense of purpose. Followers organise in formal management structure where positional authority determines rank (Head Department/Division). Expression of leadership elements exists in the Islamic Sharia religion, Arab prophets and non-religious CEO/Director of a national government institutions or a military General.

Middle East Leadership Mindset 5 – Success/Innovation

“I seek strategic advantages to excel and continually improve”

MELVS 5:   Where (E) life condition complexity predominate, leaders maximize advantages and leverage competitive opportunities. Leaders are the most competent and smarter, who have developed a special competitive advantage over others (R). Key elements of leadership include highly skilled and motivated, financial rewards and being entrepreneurial. Followers organise in formal management structure where positional authority is flexible depending on competency. Expression of leadership elements exists in Dubai’s economic diversity, young Middle Eastern entrepreneurs and Directors of global mulit-nationals.

Middle East Leadership Mindset 6 – Social Network/Community

“We create conditions to empower and enable everyone possible”

MELVS 6: In (F) life condition complexity, leaders act as a facilitator/collaborator with followers (S). Leaders encourage performance through fun, participation and community. Social networking, emotions and intrinsic motivation are key elements. Followers organise in an equal circle structure with no identified leader in the centre. This leadership philosophy is rare in both the modern Middle Eastern and Western European world where global dominance, competition and financial bottom lines rule, but is emerging among the millennial thinking.

Middle East Leadership Mindset 7 – Complexity/Problematic

“I do whatever is necessary to restore order”

MELVS 7:   In (A’) life condition complexity, leaders aim to be functional and flexible (N’). Leadership is practical and leaders integrate the five other Middle Eastern leadership philosophies to find whatever works with followers at the time, place and circumstances. Followers are not really such. Everyone is aligned characterised by high levels of commitment and differences between people are expected and accepted.

Above, each MELVS is described individually and as a stereotype: in the real world they mix and combine in interesting ways to form the bio-psycho-social DNA of Middle Eastern Leadership.

The bio-psycho-neuro-socio ‘DNA’ of Middle Eastern Leadership

Dr. Clare Graves (ECLT)  ©  Dr. Don Beck and Christopher Cowan (SDI) © Adapted by Grey Matter Global Ltd.

As the pace of change increases, and the business environment becomes more complex, there is a need to improve the skill level of all global leaders from ‘good’ to ‘great’. For such a vitally important strategic, economic and political region like the Middle East the rest of the world’s development will depending on it.


Beck, D., Larsen, T., Solonin, S., Viljoen, R., Johns, T., (2018) Spiral Dynamics in Action: Humanity’s Master Code, Publisher: Wiley.

Graves, C., (2009) Levels of Human Existence, Publisher: ECLET.

Graves, C., (2005) The Never Ending Quest: A treatise on an emergent cyclical conception of

adult behavioral systems and their development, Publisher: ECLET.

Grisby, J. (2016) CMI Insights: The Six Different Mindsets of Leadership

Maalouf, Elza S., (2014), Emerge! The Rise of Functional Democracy and the Future of the Middle East, Publisher: Select Books.

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Stevie Awards Winners’ Articles Series – Eng. Abeer Mahmoud Ramadna



“Continuous Learning, adopting innovation & creativity and teamwork are among the guiding principles of success and excellence in the government sector” Eng. Abeer Mahmoud Ramadna

Winner Name: Eng.  Abeer Mahmoud Ramadna

Winner Title: Director Assistance for Control & Inspection for Economic Activities at Ministry of Industry & Trade in Jordan

Winning categories:

  1. The Gold Stevie Winner in the category “the most innovative Communications Professional of the year “
  2. The Silver Stevie Winner in the category “Innovation in Community Relations or public Services Communications”
  3. The Bronze Stevie Winner in the category “Innovative Management in Government – Organizations with 100 or more employees”
Brief Biography about the Winner:

Abeer Ramadna is the Director assistant of control and inspection unit at the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Supply (MIT) in Jordan, she has a Master Degree in Industrial Engineering- Engineering Administration / University of Jordan with “excellent degree”. Abeer has 20 years of experience in private and public sectors, and is a focal point for UNIDO at MIT in Jordan. Abeer is a certified Management development Expert from ITC/ Vienna in 2005, a certified Export Consultant to EU from CBI/Netherland in 2007, certified Lead Auditor for Quality Management ISO 9001:2015, a certified Engineer Expert in Quality and Environmental Management systems in 2018 and a certified EFQM Assessor from EFQM in 2019. Eng. Abeer has a wide professional expertise in many fields that allow her to provide consultations to the organizations in various fields including Quality Management, Environmental Management, preparing industrial polices, strategies and plans, Inspection polices, Monitoring & Evaluation systems, implementing the ISO9001, ISO14001 ISO14040s standards, and conducting technical industrial sectors studies.

Eng. Abeer won three Stevie Awards from three different categories after participation in Middle East Stevie Awards in 2020, these are:

  1. Gold Stevie Winner in a category:” The Most Innovative Communications Professional of the Year”. These categories honor the most innovation in communications practice, management, and use of technology.
  2. Silver Stevie Winner in a category: “Award for Innovation in Community Relations or Public Service Communications”. These categories honor innovation in communications practice, management, and use of technology in the public sector.
  3. Bronze Stevie Winner in a category: “Award for Innovative Management in Government “. These categories honor innovation in executive management including the Award for Innovative Management in a number of industry sectors.

Abeer has been published scientific papers in one of the world accredited journals in E-government. Titled “Barriers to E-Government Adoption in Jordanian Organizations from Users’ and Employees’ Perspectives” in 2017, the link is:

and published another scientific paper titled: “SEM approach to determine factors affecting e-government success in Jordan”,  the link is: _to_determine_factors_affecting_e-government_success_in_Jordan

She was selected as a Judge at the Best Jordanian chemical product Award in all three cycles of it during 2015 to 2020, Judge in the 2019 management & entrepreneur Awards categories judging committee Stevie Awards, and Judge at the best industrial engineering project for the Jordanian universities in 2019. She participated in several national and International conferences, meetings and presented papers, as a representative of the MIT / Jordan.

Stevie Award winning Case Study:

  • Developing action plans of inspection development to governmental institutions (Inspectorates) work in fields of health, Environment, labor, safety for economic sectors in Jordan.
  • Supervision of developing Electronic Inspection System for governmental inspectorates.
  •  Conduct many awareness workshops for governmental inspectorates and for private sector institutions.
  • Conduct many workshops and training sessions as A National trainer of trainers in the shaping of future studies.
  • Secretariat of higher committee for Inspection development of Economic Activates that consists from high level management in governmental inspectorates.
  • Abeer is trusted as a competent team leader and confident expert in Quality management & Inspection systems
  • Abeer conducted in 2018 a study titled the Industrial engineering in the government sector in Jordan, current situation and future opportunities and present it in the 2nd International Conference on Industrial Systems & Manufacturing Engineering (ISME’19) Nov, 11-12, 2019 in Amman.
  • Abeer was chosen after a series of selection process as one of the National participants in the Civil Service Development Program in Jordan and attended all phases including the leadership and developing high performance teams at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst UK during 2019.

Eng. Abeer Mahmoud Ramadna “Continuing to contribute achievements and make positive impacts are goals that are achievable with the presence of strong & positive attitude, self-motivated character & determination.”

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Stevie Awards Winners’ Articles Series – Asiacell



“Winning such an award requires hard work and we encourage other companies to focus on their customers and local communities in order to excel”

Winning Organization: Asiacell

Nomination: Award for Excellence in Innovation in Technology Industries (including Telecom)

Brief about the Organization:

Asiacell is a leading provider of telecommunications and data services in Iraq. As part of international telecommunications company Ooredoo Group, Asiacell was Iraq’s first mobile telecommunications provider to achieve nationwide coverage. Asiacell is also a leading internet provider with its 3.9G data services, offering the best network coverage in all of Iraq since January 2015.

Stevie Award Winning Case Study:

As part of its commitment to expand network coverage in Iraq, Asiacell has continued to support the redevelopment of the country’s infrastructure and economy and the provision of high-quality connectivity solutions. It has enhanced its “Hot Zone” restoration strategy by putting 200 sites on air and connecting over 500 sites to 3G.

Focused on improving the quality of life for communities, Asiacell’s CSR initiatives are focused on key areas, such as health, education and culture. Asiacell has equipped several higher education institutions with computer labs and supported the renovation of schools, with the aim of providing quality education infrastructure. It also partnered with the Chibayish Environmental Tourism Organization to build the first Iraqi Marshlands heritage museum in Ahwar as part of its efforts to revive Iraq’s Marshland, while generating a positive effect on tourism and jobs creation. 

Recognising that its people are its key asset, Asiacell continues to roll out initiatives focused on engaging and empowering employees. It has invested heavily in digital transformation, including digital upskilling for employees, and streamlining of various internal processes in order to nurture a digital-first culture that embraces innovation.

We are so glad to be recognized as a successful and innovative telecommunication company in Iraq with a Stevie Award for “Excellence in Innovation in Technology Industries”. Recognition from the Stevie Awards means a lot to us and motivates Asiacell to continue to serve the community with professionalism. Winning such an award requires hard work and we encourage other companies to focus on their customers and local communities in order to excel.


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Qisaty Project & Developing Talent in Children with Special Needs in Egypt



Edited By: Mahmoud Mansi

Qisaty Project – founded by Mona Lamloum – was launched on 26th December 2019 to support children talents through a series of storytelling, writing and drawing workshops.

The total number of children who participated in the storytelling workshop is 60 including the most talented 20 who were selected to the story writing sessions, 16 children ranging from 6 to 14 years old got their stories selected to be drawn by 19 children with special needs.

The drawing workshops were held in 3 cities in Egypt with cooperation with 2 special needs associations; Nida Society Rehabilitation with both branches in Cairo and Luxor. 14 children, and Ashab El-Erada Association in Alexandria. 5 children.

The children have different disabilities, hearing loss, partial blindness, movement disability, learning difficulty disability, mental disability and increased electricity in the brain.

Of course such an interesting project needs proper preparation and an intellectual plan. Mona Lamloum shared some of the challenges that she and her team have faced during the project:

1-The global pandemic and the sudden lockdown.

2- The fact that most of the children with special needs suffer from many chronic diseases which lowers their immunity, in addition to the huge responsibility that lies on the team while holding the workshop during the pandemic.

3-The fear of the parents of the children with special needs participation at the drawing workshops due to the pandemic and the lack of their immunity. Which was managed to concur with the help of the project partners in drawing workshops. 

Eventually, Qisaty Project was held at exceptional circumstances and according to deadlines set up before the global Corona pandemic. However, the team did their best to get the project done within the lockdown with a quality that is aspired from the beginning, and that was done simply by teamwork, sharing a unified vision, and collaborating to find new solutions.

The result is 16 short stories in addition to 64 drawings by hands of talented children with special needs and with variable disabilities from three cities: Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor. Each drawing tells a different scene from a short story inspired from the children themselves to be published as a grand book that gathers the short stories and the drawings of all the talented young participants.


Qisaty Sponsors:

– Amideast: Hosted the story telling, story writing workshops and the day that gathered the writers and children with special needs mixed day.

– Nahdet Misr Publishing House.

Media Sponsors:

– Marj3 Platform

– HR Revolution Middle East


– Arablit Quarterly

Children with special needs Associations:

– Nida Society Rehabilitation with both branches in Cairo and Luxor.

– Ashab El-Erada Association in Alexandria.

Qisaty Trainers:

– Hanan El-Taher.

– Mona Lamloum.

– Zeinab Mobark.

Designing Storytelling and writing workshop:

-Mona Lamloum

Writing workshops:

– Mona Lamloum

– Yaqoub El-Sharouni

Drawing workshop:

– Under the supervision of Shoikar Khalifa,

 – With the help of respectful team at Nida Association at Cairo and Luxor.

 – Ashab El-Erada Association at Alexandria by Sahar Zaiton with the help of Aliaa Abd-Elsalam.

Team Members:

– Rawan Said

– Ahmed Ismail

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