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Here’s how leaders in the Middle East work with different personality types

A good leader balances delegating tasks and being an attentive listener and communicator.

Here’s how leaders in the Middle East work with different personality types
[Source photo: Krishna Prasad/Fast Company Middle East]

In the past, hiring leaders and organizations looked for technical expertise, a strong track record of success in their core business area, and the ability to manage financial and people resources. However, today’s leaders are required to balance so much more. 

Organizations seek leaders with strong communication skills who can adapt to different situations, think strategically, and consistently strive for innovation and creativity.

However, most of all, they need to be able to manage a team and do it with emotional intelligence, effective communication, adaptability, and cultural awareness.  

Effective communication ensures clarity and alignment within the team, while adaptability allows leaders to navigate change and unforeseen challenges. Strategic thinking helps in making informed decisions that align with the company’s vision and goals. Most importantly, cultural awareness is essential in the Middle East’s diverse and multicultural landscape, ensuring respect and inclusivity.

Kristen Coakley, Partner at  Fluid Moves International LLC and Co-President of Ellevate Network Dubai, says this is particularly critical with the mixed generational and diverse workforces in businesses today. “Leaders also require self-awareness and emotional intelligence to recognize what is working and the different needs of those around them. As automation increases, this will become more important to maintaining strong connections, relationships, and collaboration.” 

Some leaders may also overlook different personality types within their teams because they focus on results over forming relationships. Their priority list may consist of completing tasks, leading to a neglected team with individual needs and strengths. 

This stems from a need for more awareness or training in emotional intelligence and people management skills. On the other hand, leaders working in high-pressure environments may adopt a more directive style with their teams, believing it to be the quickest route to achieving objectives. 

While it is sometimes necessary to focus on results, a good leader understands the importance of balancing this with attention to relationships.

Shwan Alhashimi, Managing Director at Archiplexus Architects LLC, says, “Emotional intelligence helps leaders know when to push for results and when to pull back to support their team’s well-being. Over time, maintaining this balance fosters a more engaged, motivated, and highly productive team.”

Katy Holmes, CEO of the British Chamber of Commerce Dubai, explains that many managers are isolated from their team, creating a rift and making them miscommunicate with the team. “A good manager will spend time with their teams and on an individual level to be in a stronger position to support, develop, and manage.”


Traditionally, leaders would join an organization and hire the team, unconsciously hiring people they enjoyed working with who often had the same working style. However, research shows that hiring diverse teams is more effective and profitable and drives business innovation. 

“Employing a multi-national team creates a diversity of thought, which will lead to a more inclusive sales and marketing strategy, resulting in greater profitability,” says Holmes. 

Additionally, for leaders, understanding the different personality types on the team can lead to better decisions on future hiring and project resourcing. 

“Diversity can drive innovation, enhance decision-making, and create more effective teams, so we must ensure they understand, appreciate, and leverage their differences. Teams that see each other’s differences as strengths can work more effectively, understanding each other’s needs and roles,” says Coakley.

However, with more diverse teams, it becomes critical to account for individual working styles and personality differences. One style will not motivate, engage, or drive the same performance in all individuals.

Coakley provides an example of comparing someone with a high achievement focus who is strongly independent, who sets their own goals, and is internally motivated to achieve them, requiring minimal follow-up or push from the leader. They may, however, require more stretch assignments to challenge them and create opportunities for visibility of their success. 

“If the leader attempts to micromanage an employee, they will discourage them and potentially risk driving them out of the company. Alternatively, some individuals are not internally motivated and prefer structure and clarity, so they prefer expectations to be clearly set by the leader with regular progress checks,” she adds. 

Meanwhile, leaders must overcome challenges such as communication barriers, varying work styles, and differing motivational factors. If not managed properly, these differences can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and inefficiencies.

Within the region’s varying nationalities, personality can vary hugely, and it is for the leader to address and meet the needs of the extroverts, the challengers, the watchers, the quietly taking on too much, etc. 

“In the Middle East, leaders often encounter additional obstacles such as cultural and linguistic diversity. However, in a metropolis like Dubai, which is in a constant state of progression and growth, these challenges are increasingly viewed as part of the norm rather than obstacles,” says Alhashimi.

“Balancing respect for cultural norms with the need to foster a cohesive team environment requires nuanced leadership and a deep understanding of individual differences. Leaders must navigate the complexities of multicultural teams, leveraging the diverse perspectives and experiences to drive innovation and inclusivity,” he adds.

There can also be a generational difference when looking at the different personality types in the workforce. While some team members may be motivated by recognition and praise,  others may be driven by personal growth or autonomy. 

“Whereas financial compensation was thought to be the driving force for many, it would seem now that Gen Z would prefer a flexible role over a fatter pay cheque—or perhaps they would be more motivated to work for a company that has a strong ESG strategy over a robust bonus scheme,” says Holmes.


Leaders should be able to work with the strengths of the team’s personalities and foster growth in areas of weakness. While fine-tuning a team takes time, requiring close observation and, in some cases, trial and error, it can lead to overall organizational growth.

Coakley suggests that leaders ask the right questions and get to know their team members. This means discovering their aspirations, working styles, and preferences, what they think their strengths are, and what motivates them. “You can’t manage what you’re not aware of.”

Moreover, leaders need to work on their self-awareness. This involves developing a self-reflection practice to check what is working, what is not, and how employees respond. 

Alhashimi adds that open communication and a collaborative culture need to be promoted. Team members should be encouraged to express their thoughts and concerns openly, ensuring everyone feels heard and valued. 

Some employees’ thoughts may be feedback to the leader, which leaders are encouraged to receive and adapt their style to the team’s needs. 

Providing tailored support is also crucial. Every team member has unique needs and may require different support methods accordingly. This could be through additional training, flexible working arrangements, or mentorship.

“Cultural and personal backgrounds inherently influence personalities, and managing these diverse traits requires psychological strength and perseverance. It’s not about changing people but rather about reorienting values towards a shared vision of design and the end result,” says Alhashimi. 

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Suha Hasan is a correspondent at Fast Company Middle East. More

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