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Middle East Leadership Lessons

Social media plays a powerful role in the ongoing Middle East transformation. Wednesday I flew to Atlanta to discuss this with business relationship and social media expert, David Nour. He is Iranian born and the global thought leader in the field of Relationship Economics.

Social media plays a powerful role in the ongoing Middle East
transformation. Wednesday I flew to Atlanta to discuss this with
business relationship and social media expert, David Nour. He is Iranian
born and the global thought leader in the field of Relationship
Economics.

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David welcomed me into his home office and spoke candidly about the
situation, sharing unique insights stemming from both his ethnic
background and expertise in social media and it’s capacity to influence
and accelerate change.  Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

David, what is really going on here? What do Americans need to understand to put the turmoil and action in context?

If you think about any revolution, there are often three unique forces at play:

1. Any revolution tends to be more of a transformation (a marathon) vs. a
transaction (a sprint).  The uprisings and a sequence of continuous
unrest may have dominated our front page headlines and evening news
stories, but Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen, Libya and Iran to name a few
are far from resolved.  What most Americans don’t understand, given our
relatively nascent history is the millenniums of secular, cultural, and
socioeconomic conflict.  These regions are the cultural versions of the
Iceland volcanic ash exploding to garner worldwide attention.

2. Any revolution percolates in three distinct phases: the Spark (the
Tahrir Square uprising), a Flame (Egyptian military refusing to fire on
its citizens), and the Fuel (Mubarak resigning) for real impact. 

Social
media played a critical role as an enabler of communication,
interaction, broad-base information dissemination, and organization of
people, a strategy, and real-time content sharing (videos, images,
etc.) 

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The other key point is once the Egyptian government turned off
access to the internet and thus various social networks, it signaled
it’s dictatorship both to its citizens (further fueling the flame and
fanning the fire) as well as to the international community, which has
become a symbol for human rights violations, atrocities, and a
dictatorship regime.

3. As the old cliche goes, you’d rather deal with a devil you know, vs.
the devil you don’t know.  The third and often the most crucial force in
the accelerated transition to re-instituted stability is the presence
of a native leader.  Any revolt needs leadership – willing to listen,
engage, influence and ultimately lead dissent into a cohesive, focused
transition plan and thus lasting transformation.  The new leader must be
willing to pay the ultimate price to demonstrate he / she is willing to
sacrifice whatever it takes to bridge the past wrongs to the future
hopes and aspirations. 

Strategic relationships – both within the
country, as well as external to it with expats or those in exile who
could return and lead are critical.  Again, great opportunity for social
media to collect, connect, and capitalize the dots between individuals,
information, and insightful interactions moving forward.

Can you transpose what we are learning to lessons for corporate leadership?

As most of my work is with global organizations, I think there are
valuable lessons to learn from the Middle East transformation, the role
of social media, and our organizations today.  Here are just a few
questions senior leaders and board members should consider:

1. What revolts are brewing in your organization?  How do you know, and
what are you doing to keep you finger on the pulse of your employee,
customer, partner, board, and market life cycles?  Not with policy and
“management by oppression” but open dialogue, courage to fail, and a
culture unafraid of retribution.

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2. How can social media be significant to your business, which has
seemingly been getting along fine without social media so far?

3. How then does use of social media, internally and externally, have
substantial and positive impact on your business? Where and who should
apply it? Where will it likely thrive?

4. How can you build strategic relationships – keeping in mind that
face-to-face is the original social media – both within as well as
external to the organization, to change, evolve, and elevate the current
status quo to a new norm?  Revolts are seldom about fixing things
(traditional problem solving within most organizations) but rather
initiating a pulse point to elevate individual, team, and organizational
behaviors to a new norm – consistently, intently, and strategically.

5. What’s around the corner – in your organization, in your industry, in
the market?  How do you know and although none of us have a crystal
ball, the fundamental lesson from the Middle East and particularly, the
real-time nature of social media, is that revolts seldom explode
overnight.  Tensions, conflict, discourse, mistrust, abuse, and
misaligned expectations – often the culprit of relationships going bad,
are habitual, behavioral, and fester over years if not decades.

Seth Kahan (Seth@VisionaryLeadership.com)
is a Change Leadership specialist. He has consulted with CEOs and
executives in over 50 world-class organizations that include Shell,
World Bank, Peace Corps, Marriott, Prudential, American Society of
Association Executives, International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike
Association, Project Management Institute, and NASA. He is the founder
of Seth Kahan’s CEO Leaders Forum, a year-long learning experience for
CEOs in Washington, DC. His book, Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out, is a Washington Post bestseller. Visit GettingChangeRight.com for more info and a free excerpt. Follow Seth on Twitter. Learn more about Seth’s work at VisionaryLeadership.com.

About the author

I help leaders with change, innovation, and growth. My latest book is "Getting Innovation Right." My first book, "Getting Change Right," was a business bestseller.

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