Leaders 2.0: Shaping GCC’s future
Instability has ravaged many countries in the Middle East and North Africa over the past few years and the GCC is becoming prominently rising as the one of the few safe havens in the region.
In the Gulf, some countries are in fact rising against the tide to progress, develop and further excel, thus increasing their value on the global sphere.
Over the past few years, three GCC leaders have stood tall in the public eye and are proving to the world, through their actions, that they are, in fact, the powerhouses leading the region boldly into the next era.
Taking the lead
The three leading lights of the GCC are: His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai; His Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; and His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar.
“I like the whole notion of young leaders taking the lead in GCC countries. That itself is a very clear indication that the future is brighter,” Her Excellency Dr Maryam Matar, founder and chairperson of the UAE Genetic Disease Association, told AMEinfo.
Dr Matar holds many other distinguished positions in the UAE. She is the vice-chairperson of Dubai Cares and formerly served as the director-general of the Community Development Authority (CDA). She was also a leader of the executive team that set up social development strategies for the Dubai Strategic Plan.
During her years of service in the Dubai Government, Dr Matar has worked directly and closely with Sheikh Hamdan, who is also the chair of the Dubai Executive Council.
She shared some noticeable attributes of the young leader: “I noticed that he is always well prepared for the meeting and the subject. He is also a very good listener; he would not interrupt his presenter or a person giving a talk or explaining a project,” she said.
To Dr Matar, such a simple, eloquent act “gives one a sense of comfort and confidence, working under a leader who is patient, yet aware. I believe it is enough to showcase the guidance at the right time.”
Beyond the political sphere, Sheikh Hamdan is a social and cultural sensation, loved by locals and expats alike. The young, iconic leader writes poetry with both patriotic and general themes under the pen name ‘Fazzaa’. His mastery of words allows him to connect and reach the hearts of the people, as his poetry is shared and quoted extensively on the virtual sphere and elsewhere.
Sheikh Hamdan is also a lover of extreme sports, making him a favourite of the younger generation. The Crown Prince regularly documents and shares his exciting adventures on numerous social media platforms, on which he is extremely popular – for instance, he has 4.1 million followers on Instagram and 2m on Twitter.
“Some of the greatest leaders of the world are storytellers,” Tariq Qureishy, founder and CEO of MAD Talks, told AMEinfo.
“They can have empathy, connection and the ability to relate to people through stories. People remember stories, metaphors and symbols, as opposed to just detail,” he elaborated.
Commenting on Sheikh Hamdan’s modern lifestyle and behaviour, Qureishy added: “Social media [platforms] are tools; young leaders need to be entirely comfortable with these tools, and [Sheikh Hamdan] is. I like that he writes poetry, as poetry is the essence of the brain’s ability to synthesise knowledge. Poetry opens up your heart and mind in a way that almost nothing else does.”
He also noted that extreme sports are very interesting, adding that adventurous people take up extreme sports and they either have no fear or can overcome and control it. With such a spirit, a ruler can lead “with courage” while controlling doubts and fears, he said.
Another ruler spearheading major transformative efforts in his country is His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar. Born in 1980, Sheikh Tamim is currently the youngest reigning monarch in the GCC.
The Emir has implemented major economic and social reforms, and has transformed the governmental approach through efforts that will have long-lasting results and will carry Qatar into the next era.
For instance, shortly after holding office in 2013, Sheikh Tamim implemented a major cabinet reshuffle, cutting down and combining several ministries for more efficient governance. The move sent a clear, bold message to officials and the population of the country that he was taking matters into his own hands.
“I really welcome these new leaders who have a good education, already know each other sometimes from young leader programmes and have probably met before,” Nicola Forster, founder and president of Swiss foreign policy think-tank Foraus, told AMEinfo.
He added: “It really helps if [leaders] have engaged in good discussions before taking power, so it becomes easier to just pick up the phone and have a personal discussion with the other ruler[s]. This helps make peace also when you have serious problems.”
Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reacts upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France. (Image: Reuters)
Meanwhile, yet another prominent leader from the region has dominated headlines around the world recently: His Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and son of the Kingdom’s ruler, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Prince Mohammed was not a well-known political figure outside Saudi Arabia – until he announced the historic, ambitious Saudi Vision 2030.
The plan for the Kingdom was announced last April and aims to transform Saudi Arabia’s economical dependencies, taking the nation into the post-oil era.
Today, slightly more than one year from his announcement as Deputy Crown Prince by King Salman, Prince Mohammed’s name is easily recognised not only in the Kingdom, but also in the region and around the globe.
The Deputy Crown Prince has toured the world, visited the United States, where he met with President Barack Obama among other officials, and signed deals with large US firms like Cisco, Microsoft and Dow Chemical Company, among others.
Prince Mohammed also visited Asia, further strengthening his position as an important figure in foreign policy, as he represented his father, King Salman, at the G20 summit in China in September.
“Foreign policy usually comes from the values and roots of a nation, so normally it is very conservative,” Forster said. “But, when new rulers come in, there is a chance to open up, to have new discussions and a broader public participation, engaging not only on a state level, but also business communities and civil societies.”
Whether in Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Qatar, these three young leaders are running a race against time to shape the future of their countries and, consequently, the entire region.