Author(s), Title and Publication

Nickerson, C. & Goby, V. P. (2017). New lamps for old: The Gulf leadership communication framework. International Journal of Business Communication, 54(2), 182-198. DOI: 10.1177/2329488416687055


In recent decades, the oil-rich nations of the Arabian Gulf, also termed the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries, have established policies and quotas aimed at encouraging locals to enter the workforce, more specifically, the private sector. These policies are necessary as the rapid industrialization that followed the oil boom encouraged a continuing dependence on imported foreign workers of all levels. The aim of this study was to examine ways to counteract the arbitrary mix of organizational communication practices that has evolved as a result of the large numbers of different cultures that make up the workforce of these countries. To do this, the researchers developed a conceptual model of leadership communication, the Gulf Leadership Communication Framework. Their proposed model is based on two sets of empirical data on discursive leadership and interpersonal communication collected from around 600 Emirati nationals.

The findings show that a leadership model for social contexts like the GCC may look very different from the models obtained elsewhere. For instance, their model postulates the need for a shared language, which is likely to be English and a second or foreign language for most of the employees that use it. An understanding of group-oriented behavior and the safeguarding of group solidarity and group harmony, along with the creation of mechanisms to privilege uniformity are likely to be valued within a leader as a consequence of the strong collectivism inherent in Gulf culture. Additionally, the importance of the interests of the group are reflected in the preference reported by respondents for a respectful work environment, fair treatment, tolerance, politeness, and the practice of what can best be described as face-saving strategies in conflictual situations. Both the traditional style of paternalistic leadership and the contemporary style of transformational leadership were equally acceptable. Respondents valued directness and the ability to be both confrontational and competitive in leadership communication. At the same time, being collaborative and preserving alliances were also considered important strategies, as well as understanding when to be indirect and avoid conflict.

Implications for Practice

Organizations should (1) be aware that educating employees on the need to choose a language that everyone can understand needs to be a part of a strong leadership approach; however, care should also be taken not to elevate the status of competent English speakers per se as it can jeopardize working relations, (2) place a special emphasis on the interests of the group, and (3) know that both the traditional style of paternalistic leadership and the contemporary style of transformational leadership can be utilized.

Location of Article

This article is available online at:

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
Follow on Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *