Opinion: From today's role models to tomorrow's leaders

Our top business leaders have paved the way for a new generation of achievers who will take us towards a more diverse future
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Fri 17 Nov 2017 12:53 AM

The winners of last week’s Arabian Business Achievement Awards come from vastly different backgrounds and sectors, ranging from education to retail and property. One common thread that you will read in their speeches on page 24, however, is that they at least partly credit their success to the environment that the UAE’s leaders have created.

In many ways, these conditions enabled the success stories that were highlighted by the awards. Where else, one wonders, could a young geologist such as Munib Al Masri meet with a country’s founding fathers at the outset of a career that would one day see him at the helm of a multinational conglomerate? Where else could a retail manager such as Colm McLoughlin move 8,000 kilometres from home to build the world’s largest airport duty free outlet from scratch?

Having said that, this generation of role models is very different from the young people who find themselves at the dawn of their careers today.

Looking at the Achievement Award winners, for example, one can’t help but notice that – with the notable exception of Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi – all of the winners are men. For a look at the decades ahead, however, one need look no further than our list of ‘Future Stars’ [pictured above], which, not by design, includes four young women, three of whom are Emirati.

Like those awarded for a lifetime of achievements, this fact is in many ways reflective of the UAE – and the region – in which their careers are taking off.

After all, this is a country in which women – some of whom are young by international standards – make up a significant portion of the national cabinet, and in which women make up a large proportion of the workforce. These conditions allow for opportunities to flourish, ensuring that the ‘future stars’ of tomorrow will include a far higher proportion of women than may have been possible decades ago.

Looking at the Future Stars, it’s also clear that the sectors in which young people are excelling are quite different than those that came before them. While the lifetime achievers are largely drawn from ‘traditional’ sectors such as retail and oil and gas, our future stars include an app maker, nuclear scientist, criminologist, angel investor, drone designer, and even a prolific – and very young – inventor.

Given the regional push towards diversification, the fact that today’s young stars are branching out into different industries gives one hope that they will serve as the vanguard for a more diverse future in the Middle East.

Of course none of this could have happened without the older generation of achievers having set an example and paved the way. “These are the generation of youth that will become the future leaders of our region,” Sheikha Lubna noted during her acceptance speech. “As Arab youth search for and choose their path forward, they will choose the person they wish to hold up as a role model. As positive influencers in our prospective careers, our young people often see us as their role models and choose to follow in our footsteps.

“Special recognition simply focuses a brighter spotlight and calls for a renewal of our enterprising spirit,” she added. “I am optimistic our youth will lead to greater achievements and a brighter future tomorrow for all.”

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