One of the great joys of my new work setting is getting acquainted with colleagues and establishing new relationships. I had heard a great deal about my supervisor, Dr. Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, before I arrived. I had heard much about his role in getting Education City started. I had also heard much about his sensibility in working with students and colleagues. I've had many opportunities to have these perspectives confirmed but one was at the Photo-Shoot that I referenced in my lasts post. This picture shows Dr. Abdulla on the stage in front of young people from 5 to 25, interacting comfortably and helping them pass the time it took to prepare for the picture.
I was amazed by Dr. Abdulla's comfort with all these students. It was like all were friends and acquaintances - a true gathering of colleagues. This has continued to be a theme in the interactions I've had with others - the importance of relationships. And, it's one of the things that westerners have trouble understanding most. My western colleagues will frequently use persuasive or political power strategies, sometimes winning their point. However, particularly in this cultural setting, the political strategies do not win points in long-term relationships. I'm not sure the degree to which this is different in Arab culture versus the U.S.A. but I believe it at least has some additional weight. In the U.S.A., those who choose coercive and manipulative strategies have consequences - usually fear, intimidation, and distance. In the Gulf, these may also result but I wonder if those who choose these strategies retain their credibility and positions in the same that westerners do. I actually don't know and that will be part of my ongoing learning here.
I've struggled with power issues throughout my career because generally I feel that power and politics breaks down the authenticity of relationships. I think it does but I also know that politics is a natural part of organizations in which we work. It's unavoidable and accepting it for what it is and dealing with it is critical. I don't have to engage in the politics but it's at least important to recognize the dynamic and adjust my strategy accordingly.