Leading the Way
On June 23, in mussanah, Oman, Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at London Business School, who is ranked as one of the world’s top 50 business thinkers, announced a partnership between the School and Oman Oil.

The state-owned Oman Oil Company, incorporated in 1996, has become critical to developing the Omani economy and promoting local and foreign private sector investment; and this year London Business School has emerged as a significant ally in its efforts. Under the terms of its contract, it will launch the TAKATUF Leadership Programme and train the finest talent in Oman Oil and its associated companies. Khalid Al-Jashmi, Head of Human Capital at Oman Oil’s recently-established TAKATUF unit, stresses the importance of the venture. “We see our people as the key to our future – not just for our businesses, but for Oman itself,” he says. “That’s why we are proud to embark on an ambitious, long-term leadership development programme with London Business School, which will help us maximize our people’s leadership potential and enable them to become the kind of leader capable of developing and growing our companies and our region.

“Through our partnership with the School, our people will have unprecedented access to the world’s top business thinkers, and global cuttingedge research to drive improvement and growth within our companies.”

LEADING WITH IMPACT


The School already has an unrivalled reputation for business education in the Middle East. It established a centre in Dubai five years ago, and works with several of the largest companies in the Gulf. In Oman, it will deliver a rigorous, two-course programme over the next two years.

The more advanced course, Lead With Impact (LWI), is designed for middle and senior managers with ten to 20 years’ business experience, and is intended to bridge the gap between day-to-day management and true leadership. LWI consists of four one-week modules teaching skill-sets such as how to develop and implement strategies, as well as techniques for accelerating leadership, managing change and improving operational management.

The Emerging Leaders (EL) course is aimed at those with less management experience but with manifest ambition, such as first-line and middle managers with eight-to-ten years’ experience. EL’s three one-week modules cover problem solving and decision making, team leadership and strategy implementation as a means to unlocking an individual’s leadership potential. Graduates of this course may eventually progress to the LWI programme.

The School academics charged with creating this pipeline of human talent include Andrew Scott, Professor of Economics, and Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship. Scott, a Fellow of All Souls and an advisor on monetary policy to the Commons’ treasury select committee, has a particular interest in understanding how macro forces shape global competition. Birkinshaw, the co-founder and research director of the School’s Management Lab (MLab), focuses on the strategy and management of large multinational corporations. He inclines to the view that sustainable advantages in companies are due to innovations in work practices rather than innovation in products.

To be considered for either course, candidates must first be assessed by an organisational psychologist, complete e-learning programmes and get final approval from a ‘talent board’. Individual, confidential conversations with a coach are part of both courses, followed by two private phone calls. Participants also complete work based projects that are designed to address real business challenges. By the end, candidates will have a true picture of their leadership abilities and future direction.

“Leadership is about serving your people, your communities and your country with pride,” says Ahmed Al-Wahaibi, CEO of Oman Oil, who praises the School’s grasp of Oman’s business environment. “It has developed a solution to exactly meet our needs.”

These needs will increase in the years ahead. Sultan Qaboos bin Said, very much a friend of the West, still rules supreme in Oman, and his extensive modernization programme has helped dampen protest movements inspired by the Arab Spring.

But dwindling oil reserves and an expanding labour force are rapidly propelling the Sultanate towards industrialisation and diversification. Encouraging a new generation of leaders is essential to this growth – and perhaps, eventually, to the geopolitics of the Gulf.