Some of the most successful business leaders across the world possess similar qualities – they excel at leading, managing and coaching, and have visionary, operational and people-orientated skills. We often refer to these individuals as humanistic leaders – those who place people first and who create a strong internal culture while bringing success to their organisations.

Humanistic leaders create collaborative environments while eliminating internal competition, rewards and contests, enabling people to develop professionally. Because they are usually excellent communicators, humanistic leaders also ensure that employees are treated as partners and not simply workers.

It is this that enables these leaders to set their companies up for success, creating a happier and more motivated workforce that results in a more productive team.

An example of an organisation whose leaders, by many accounts, can be described as humanistic and have helped pave the way for success is the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, known as Saudi Aramco.

Since 1933, it has grown to become the world’s top producer and exporter of crude oil and liquefied natural gas. A brief look at the company’s leadership since it came under the Saudi purview in 1980 can help explain how it reached this level of success and how those in power helped position Saudi Aramco for its prosperous future.

Ali Al Naimi, the company’s first Saudi chief executive from 1980 to 1995, motivated his workforce towards a common goal. According to reports, his style of gentle and respectful leadership made people feel good about their work and function as a team.

The humanistic leader knows that enabling joy at work and measuring it to detect any changes in workforce happiness before issues can arise are key indicators for both individual and organisational success.

After Mr Al Naimi’s success, Abdullah bin Saleh Jumah served as the chief executive between 1995 and 2008. He used to tell people: “When I am asked what business I’m in, I don’t tell them I’m in the oil industry. I tell him or her that I am in the business of making people happy.”

Through comments like this, observers and employees alike knew that he understood the relationship between contentment at work and productivity, which ultimately led Saudi Aramco through a prosperous time.

When Khalid Al Falih became the chief executive in 2008, he aimed to advance the company to be able to compete on a global scale.

He achieved results by focusing on the importance of education, which is often a strong priority for humanistic leaders, who give employees the tools and skills to take on new challenges as the business model changes.

Leaders at all levels in an organisation can benefit by modelling this humanistic behaviour so the company culture behaves in consistent ways. This is especially significant today, as the younger generation seeks more meaningful development opportunities out of work.

Humanistic leaders should be prepared to support their workforce, and in particular their new professionals who are looking for ways to enhance their skills and knowledge.

Not only will higher education become increasingly important for new professionals, but it will also play an important role in enabling emerging leaders and their teams to learn and apply new skills, languages and approaches while working to meet the needs of the global workplace.

As changes in leadership often bring changes in the company, the appointment in September of Amin Nasser as Saudi Aramco’s newest president and chief executive is no different, and stepping into the footsteps of successful leaders can bring pressure. Mr Nasser can take comfort in the successful culture his predecessors set up at the company.

Craig Nathanson

Source: The National Business, UAE


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