A lot has been written on how EQ is the new IQ and why emotional intelligence in managers and leaders is as important, if not more, that pure intellect. We witness that on a daily basis when you see poor management or leadership in companies and government departments. Albeit this is critical to succeed in business, and whilst gaining the trust, respect, engagement and commitment of employees in the Middle East region is also essential we also to forget another critical component. CQ or Cultural Intelligence is probably even more acutely significant as a management skill given the broad range and mix of nationalities in the UAE. If you think back to you working in your home country, generally everyone spoke the same language, you may have had the same religion and had come from the same part of the country. So you may have had some minor regional differences and maybe even supported different sporting teams, but generally everyone was speaking the same language and therefore at least reading the same book and on the same page. In the UAE we are all dealing with a eclectic mix of ages, nationalities, religions and beliefs which transcend in the work environment and muddy the waters. To use the sporting analogy, we maybe on the same pitch but we are all playing different sports. We are not even in the same library.

It is no surprising therefore that people run into each other and maybe not even understand the common game or agenda and what we are trying to achieve. This quickly leads to “lost in translation” management and a great deal of wasted time, energy, and loss of efficiency. This in turn can lead to frustrations, stress, disengagement, poor health, sickness and absenteeism and lost opportunity.

There is no simple or easy answer to managing or leading in this environment but after studying regional management and leadership the past 11 years there are a few simple tips and ideas you can apply that should work in most environments:

1. Seek first to understand: Find out what drives, motivates and inspires for your team. For some its money, for others its freedom, for others it maybe security. Can you treat everyone the same, or can you adapt and present solutions for different people? Some may say this is setting double standards, but if your one rule approach is not working you may find you are only pleasing a small percentage of your people and alienating the rest.

2. Listen to not only what is said, but what is not said. Actions speak louder than words: People vote with their feet, and their silence. If you not getting input from a person or team it could be that they don’t understand your point, or are afraid of making a mistake. Find out which it is as one size does not fit all.

3. Find some common ground: Family, Food, Sports, Media and the weather and great places to start when looking to build rapport and trust. Find out what people like, what they do in their free time? What they watch on TV or Social media?

4. Finally respect and embrace that we all have had a different childhood, upbringing and experiences which formulates the foundation of our belief and the filter through which we see the world. We all have equal rights to our own view and the beauty in this region is that if you master the art of management here you can translate that skills globally in the future.

In terms of the future of work, we are yet to fully appreciate the impact of Artificial Intelligence on the workplace, or even the impact on humans and their role. The World Economic Forum is predicting that millions of jobs could be replaced by robots and automation. This will have an impact on technical roles job opportunities that we cannot yet fully comprehend. Jobs that include human interaction and customer service will last the longest, and it is predicted that the only role a robot may never be able to do is that of a hairdresser! Therefore, what is important to ensure is that you are able to future proof your skills and relevance to the marketplace.

IQ may get you in the door, EQ will determine how far you go, CQ will determine who goes with you. 


  • Matt Lewis

    Headhunter, Executive Leadership and Health Coach, Writer, Brain Changer, Adviser.

    Matthew is a senior executive search, leadership and executive coaching professional with over 24 year’s global expertise in identifying, assessing and coaching talent and senior level executives. He has hired senior executives in 45 countries across the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific for the world’s leading companies. Since 2010 he has been Partner for the Middle East and Africa with Boyden, the world’s oldest and largest private executive search firm, founded in 1946 with over 70 offices in 40 countries. Matthew has conducted over 500 Global Searches, interviewed over 6000 global C level senior executives, conducting over 200 hours a year of executive coaching and assessment of executives, boards and their performance. In 2009 he founded Alchemy Executive, an emerging markets focused Executive Coaching business works with leading regional companies and exceptional individuals across MEA. In 2015 he Co-founded N3 Executive Coaching. N3 delivers Neuroscience based, academically accredited coaching to executives, corporates, MBA schools and students across the EMEA region. Matthew is currently conducting his PhD research in the field of Neuroscience and its impact and effectiveness Executive and Health Coaching whilst also writing his first book, focused on the field of Employee Engagement, Motivation, and Corporate and Personal Performance. He is a member of the AESC (Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants), a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and the Capital Club, Dubai. Matthew serves as a Non-Executive Director and Committee Member of the British Business Group, Dubai and Northern Emirates. He is also a volunteer, Coach and Mentor to Reach, the leading Women in Business, Not for Profit mentoring organization in the Middle East. Matthew is a regular speaker at various MBA Schools including INSEAD and London Business School where is he is also an EMBA coach. He is a regular media contributor and commentator in the MEA region on talent, succession planning, leadership, regional dynamics, cultural awareness and nationalization. Matthew graduated with a BSc (Hons) in the UK and has lived and worked in London, UK, Hong Kong and since 2007 in the Middle East and Africa based from Dubai, UAE