Joining the Conversation: Emerging Research Directions in the Middle East (1/2)

Wow! It was a wonderful caucus at the Academy of Management this week. We organised the caucus to, in essence, start to push MENA based research into the Academy (and highly rated journals). We also hoped it would act as a catalyst for new research collaborations - across institutions and internationally. We had scholars from numerous schools, representing almost as many countries as scholars!

Beginning our conversations...


Joining the conversation

I think the one common theme that emerged was that we, as management scholars doing research in and about the large Middle East/MENA region, need to join the conversation with our interesting research problems, stories and contributions to existing theories (and developing some of our own in new areas such as the possibilities of social media in education and more, entrepreneurship, the concept of Wasta, Islamic Finance/management/ethics, etc.)

We started the session welcoming the 17 or so scholars gathered and spoke a little of the progress made by regions and countries such as India, China and more recently Africa and Latin America as they continue their process of entering the mainstream of management scholarly research.

Misconceptions in the mainstream

For many Western based scholars, the Middle East is one big melting pot of people of are Arab and Muslim. For people from the Middle East we know that the term "Middle East" comprises of ancient and new countries, many religions, many languages and many different socio-economic and political contexts. In fact, most Western-based theorists tend to put all issues and research problems "in one cultural basket"... So we know we have a big job ahead of us, to find our voice in the larger academic community, and to help firms, organisations and government organisations understand their problems better and hopefully offer up some long-term solutions.

Areas of research interest

There were many research areas that the assembled scholars were currently working on and ideas given on how to best present our research at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting next year. In general the following main areas were mentioned, Culture/Context, Islamic banking/ethics/management/etc., Entrepreneurship, Management Education, Organisational Development and Innovation.

Each topic of course is worthy of a blog post (at least) to speak about past, current and future research. For now I will just provide a few notes that will be developed over the next few months (deadline for the Academy is early January) into special issues, workshops, symposiums and articles.


There are a number of ways that were mentioned about using the rich and new "context" to do replication studies of existing theories, about doing special issues of journals, and developing the interesting stories that could have theoretical and practical implications to the wider academic and business community.

The point was made several times that MENA is not one culture and to better understand organisations and the socio-political challenges and problems then a better understanding of regional and individual country context in required.

Islamic banking/ethics/management/entrepreneurship

A large stream of emerging research is looking at the new norms, rules and implications of the application of Islamic principles to traditional Western concepts and ways of doing business. This does not just imply the application of Sharia law - but the application of cultural norms and new ways of doing in Western organisation operating in the region and for indigenous organisation.


No, this wasn't just brought up by me :) Entrepreneurship is an important concept in many of the nations and regions of the Middle East - not just because of the huge youth population, and the alarming percentage of unemployed, but entrepreneurship is seen as a means to develop diversified economies, with enhanced opportunities for citizens and residents of the region.

Management Education

Developing case studies for use in the Middle Eastern classroom, developing case studies of wider interest for Western business schools, the use of new media in the classroom and to a wider audience and the emergence/impact of American and Western style business schools are all topics that are being researched. Of course, more needs to be done and there are many questions that need to be asked... and answered.

Organisational Development/HRM

Organisations, both new and more established, develop in processes that are not dissimilar, and yet are rich in new research problems. Human resource management is also an area of current research - in the Gulf in areas of Emiratisation/Saudisation/Qatarisation where many efforts are being made to include more of the local population into the active workforce - but also in more general areas such as managing in organisations with dozens (and more) languages, cultures, religions and ethnicities under one "roof". Under this theme I would also put leadership studies, in particular we have many researchers at Zayed University working on this and there are already interesting results being disseminated and published.


Last, but not least is innovation. Regular readers will know this is a subject dear to my heart and we have published a chapter and an article on this. Innovation is at the heart of knowledge industries, which is where governments in the MENA region are targeting for growth. Innovation is also a founding block of entrepreneurship... In fact, there is a special issue being edited by one of our group - not just for the Middle East of course, but it is edited by researchers who are aware of the context of the region.

Special Issue on Technology Business Incubation Mechanisms is for the Journal Technovation - an important journal for innovation researchers.

About half way through this post I realized that I have material for at least two... so I will leave the advice we got from senior scholars at the meeting on how we, as scholars, can join the "conversation" on management research.

Perhaps by raising awareness in the global academic community about research in the Middle East we can raise more regional and local awareness about the need for funding research... not just so that our universities can raise in the global ranks, or that local populations can increase their own research capacity, but for a better understanding of the context in which we live and work - our problems and hopefully to come up with a few solutions.

The gang is all here (I am represented by my ipad cover - I did that on purpose!)


Developing Emirati Leaders - a presentation at the AOM Annual Meeting 2013

Yesterday I attended the discussion paper session "Do Leaders Matter" as a participating author. It was a great session with great participants. Positive feedback and genuine interest shown by all to improve the presented papers and get them ready for publication in a journal.

The Chair (Gina Grandy; Mount Allison U in red), an author and attendees interested in leadership.

The Chair again, more authors and some more attendees. 

Of the four papers presented, ours was the only one to use qualitative methods... but that was OK :) The presented papers, associated authors and abstracts were (copied from the AOM Program website):

OMT: Bean Counter or Co-Leader? A Contingency Perspective on Leadership Delegation to the CFO
Author: Malte Schulmeyer; RWTH Aachen U.;
Author: Malte Brettel; RWTH Aachen U.;

Recently, scholars started to draw attention on forms of co-leadership. Studies so far focused on the CEO/COO duo. We use contingency and power theory to assess, for the first time, factors influencing the CFO’s co-leader role. Specifically, we argue that under conditions of high industry dynamism, organizational complexity, and limited personal experiences CEOs delegate leadership to the CFO which in turn increases CFO power due to higher influence on resource allocation and strategic decision making in the TMT. Using a 6-year pooled sample of 94 German firms we find evidence showing that the CEO’s experiences as well as complexity arising from the firm’s diversification strategy affect leadership delegation to the CFO and CFO power. In addition, we find a positive main effect of the presence of a powerful co-leader CFO on firm performance.

OMT: How Much Do Leaders Matter? Ownership and Governance as Constraints on CEO Discretion
Author: Jonathan Clark; Pennsylvania State U.;
Author: Chad Murphy; Pennsylvania State U.;
Author: Sara J. Singer; Harvard U.;

Leadership and strategic management research suggests that the extent to which CEOs influence performance largely depends on the presence or absence of certain factors. This research suggests that CEO effects may be constrained by the task at hand, subordinates, the organization itself or by the external environment. A fundamental source of constraint that has received little empirical attention is an organization’s ownership and governance structure—that is, who owns and monitors the organization. In this paper, we outline how different ownership and governance structures can constrain leader influence and empirically examine the extent to which leader effects depend on these structures. Examining organizations in the same industry, but with different ownership and governance structures, our results suggest that these structures are closely aligned with the degree to which CEOs influence firm performance. Our findings support the notion that leaders matter most when institutional logics are weak or ambiguous, contributing new insight into the organizational factors that can constrain leader discretion and limit CEO effects on firm performance.

OMT: The Impact of Founder CEOs on Firm Leadership and External Constituents
Author: Nikolaos Kavadis; Erasmus U. Rotterdam;

This paper draws from theory on authority and prior research on founder-CEOs to explain why founder-CEOs are inclined to centralize decision-making authority, and how they materialize such preference. Further, I propose that founder-CEOs have a positive effect to external constituents with whom they closely interact and the source of legitimacy of their authority become most apparent. Based on a panel of large, publicly-traded firms, the results support the paper’s model.

OMT: Developing a Leader-Apprentice Framework Using Grounded Theory in the United Arab Emirates
Author: Sarah Abdulla Alhaj; National Cybersecurity Authority (NCSA);
Author: Constance Van Horne; Zayed U.;

Using grounded theory, this article looks at the role lived-experiences play in developing leaders, as opposed to formal interventions, as well this study seeks to explore the underlying factors that enable young Emiratis to learn how to lead. The findings are illustrated in a Leader Apprenticeship Framework which consists of experiencing influential encounters, dealing and learning from difficult events, and transforming at the heels of a formal-training programme.

This was a discussion paper session, which means that each author (or team of authors) presents a paper that is not their own and suggests ways to improve it so that it will be ready to send to a journal. Often a conference is the first step to present research results to the wider academic community, to get feedback and constructive advice so that when the researcher returns home, he or she or they can work on the paper to improve the chances of publication. (Yes, it is a long process, but it is a process that has developed over centuries and it seems to work!)

In another blog post I will provide a snap-shot of our article (but I can send you a copy if you email me).... I have many notes to go over with Sarah when I get back to Abu Dhabi, and en'shallah we find the time to get it ready for a journal.

The Academy of Management Meeting is not just about getting a line on your CV, it is about the research process and making our research in academia more robust - and hopefully more helpful to one another and for the communities we belong to.


#AOM2013 Tweetup!

Yesterday was the first Academy of Management tweetup I have attended (although the third organized I believe). Last year I was tweeting, but maybe like many tweeters, too shy to actually attend.

This year I used smile and courage and went... and was the first to arrive! To a room full of food and free beverages. Now for any of you who have visited the Disney Resort complex, you will know that this in itself is a reason to celebrate for all academics (even as an assistant professor I seem drawn to the lure of free food at these things- but at Disney there is no nearby 7-11 to get a 99 cent hot dog - more like a 20$ sandwich!).

Needless to say it was great meeting people I have only "read" or tweeted with... we even had a skyped-in tweep from Denmark - ‏@bogers who I heard is one of the most active #AOM2013 hashtag users!

A nice thing is that on the way to the tweetup (I tweeted I was going) @FidaAfiouni followed me - so I knew there was going to be someone to talk to right away! (and I was right and she is a super nice professor of HRM from AUB)

I met @jendinger who has a super interesting trajectory and is now doing her PhD in the area of disaster relief and the use of crowd funding - and @EmeraldBizMgt who took this great photo!

Photo taken by @EmeraldBizMgt

The tweetup passed quickly, but there was more talking than tweeting!

I realized I got more backsides than front-sides - but I was assured by @entrep_thinking that I captured his best side :)
In fact, we were doing so much talking the bartender was without much business (but I seemed to always have a bottle of water beside me - so I shouldn't complain he had time to deliver!

Empty "open" bar! A never-before-seen phenomena at the AOM!
There were several other people that it was so great to see - and I few I didn't get a chance to meet. @thomroulet congratulations again on finishing your PhD and the new job!

@AOMConnect deserves a special thanks for organizing, double checking wireless connection and skyping in our fellow #AOM2013 tweep. The session was great and I am already looking forward to next year!

Photo credit @AOMConnect