Publication Details

Willemyns, M. 2005, 'Cross-cultural communication and leadership in the United Arab Emirates', Emergent Models of Global Leadership: International Leadership Association (ILA) 2005 Conference, University of Maryland, USA,


As part of a larger study into cross-cultural workplace communication in the United Arab Emirates, this paper presents research on communication and leadership in the UAE, with a focus on perceptions and communication between UAE National managers (Emiratis) and expatriates. Sixty Emirati managers (52 males and 8 females) from a wide variety of organizations in Dubai completed a questionnaire which asked them to describe an interaction they recently had with an expatriate employee. Communication accommodation theory (CAT), and social identity theory (SIT) were the major theoretical frameworks used in the research, to examine how Emirati managers perceived expatriate workers in either “ingroup” or “outgroup” terms, and the impact these perceptions had on the managers’ leadership style. The results indicated that negative perceptions of expatriates were related to Emiratis’ sense of social distance from expatriates; that is, expatriates were perceived in negative outgroup stereotypes. There was a relationship between these managers’ perceptions and a power-marked directive style. However, the results also showed that many Emiratis reported positive perceptions of expatriates, and that these managers perceived their employees at a more individualized level, as opposed to perceiving them in stereotypical cultural outgroup terms. There was a relationship between positive perceptions of expatriates and a more consultative style. This study contributes towards a better understanding of cross-cultural communication between Arabs and expatriates in a workplace context, where individuals of different nationalities, religions and values are required to adopt a more inclusive approach to communicating with each other, enabling them to share a common identity and purpose when working together towards their organization’s vision and goals.