The Happy at Work Podcast

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The Happy at Work Podcast

17 August 2023

26m 21s

Navigating Work Culture and Leadership in the Middle East: Zahi Abdeen, Leadership Consultant



In this episode, Laura and Tessa spoke with Zahi Abdeen, Managing Director of 360 Degrees Consulting, to discuss work culture, leadership development, and the unique dynamics of the Middle Eastern job market. Zahi's diverse background in sales, marketing, and talent development, along with his extensive international experience, provided valuable insights into creating fulfilling workplaces.

Emphasis on Purpose and Values: Zahi highlighted the growing importance of purpose-driven work for Generation Z, regardless of geographical location. He observed that younger generations are more likely to seek meaningful, impactful roles that align with their values. This trend, accelerated by the pandemic, underscores the need for leaders to create environments where employees' values are acknowledged and integrated into the workplace.

Balancing Cultural Differences: Zahi discussed how Generation Z in the Middle East faces unique challenges related to cultural polarities, such as preserving traditions versus embracing globalization, or stability versus risk-taking. Expatriates in the region, particularly in economically prosperous countries like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region, experience a diverse and multicultural work environment that contributes to blurring cultural differences. Open-mindedness and cultural understanding are crucial for both expats and local employees to thrive in this environment.

Human-Centric Leadership: Zahi emphasized the importance of leaders fostering a human-centric approach, especially in the face of challenges like burnout and work-life integration. The Middle East, characterized by a strong collective culture, provides an environment where leaders can prioritize employee well-being. Effective leadership involves genuine, heart-to-heart conversations, active listening, and supporting employees' mental and physical health. Encouraging leaders to adopt a pull strategy—asking employees about their needs—rather than a push strategy, fosters a healthy and psychologically safe work culture.

With an MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Zahi's professional journey has taken him from a telecom career to a passion for talent development. As an Arab American, Palestinian American, he offers a unique perspective on cultural nuances in various work environments. Zahi is a sought-after speaker and consultant, guiding leaders to build positive, purpose-driven workplaces.