The ultimate executive

In the eight issues the magazine has been running I have met countless chief executives, managing directors and entrepreneurs, but never before had I met a Sheikh — not until a couple of weeks ago at least.

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By  James Bennett Published  September 7, 2006

|~||~||~|In the eight issues the magazine has been running I have met countless chief executives, managing directors and entrepreneurs, but never before had I met a Sheikh — not until a couple of weeks ago at least. But what many people forget is that the majority of power and business sway in the Middle East is held and dispersed, naturally at their discretion, by the various royal leaders across the region. Not only that, most of the time, their investment decisions and political clout also determines the decisions other sandland CEOs make within their organisations. It’s not because you don’t see the various leaders that they don’t have more all-round influence than anyone else, because they do. I saw it at first hand. I was lucky enough to be granted an interview (see next month’s October issue of CEO for a Ras Al-Khaimah special) with His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al-Qasimi at his palace in the emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah (RAK). It was a revealing experience. The approach to the palace was interesting to say the least. After driving up a steep hill we were stopped at the main gates to be confronted by two armed guards wanting to know who we were. Fair enough, I would as well. Noticing that the Sheikh’s personnel were carrying fairly large automatic rifles I was glad my driver gave them a favourable response. Once the barrier was raised, we were in and made our way to meet the top man. Leaving the car I then approached the impressive building and, after unsurprisingly failing to find a doorbell, knocked lightly on the huge palace entrance gates hoping to get an answer. After not hearing anything for some time, I simply walked in and waited for about ten minutes. It wasn’t until a sprightly butler-style attendant came scampering down the corridor that I was seen to. “The Sheikh will be on his way shortly,” he said officially, disappearing faster than he’d arrived. So I waited a while longer, anxiously pacing around next to the endless glass window that overlooked His Highness’s emirate. Naturally I was nervous, and I’m not afraid to admit it. After all, I had never met royalty before, and didn’t know how far I could push the interview. Three minutes 29.5 seconds later (trust me I know because I looked at my watch) the Sheikh appeared and strode confidently towards me smilingly holding out his hand in friendship. He was kind and courteous, asked me to take a seat in his luxurious but tastefully decorated office quarters and we proceeded to talk about his plans and his vision for the emirate. It was only after we had finished, and I was driving back down the slope to more common ground, that I realised that people such as the Sheikh are the most powerful CEOs you can get — the ultimate executive. With his, hard work (he works from 5am until midnight I’m told), acute business sense and business education (believe me he has it) and financial influence he is not only creating something remarkable, but also something that no other ‘everyday’ CEO can ever create and unleash — the power to attract, establish, develop and maintain other successful chief executives and their businesses. It is these people that can and will determine the path that other CEOs in the Middle East take in the future.||**||

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