These Are the Top Challenges of Middle East CEOs

A recent survey highlights concerns about leadership attraction, development, and planning.

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  • [Source photo: Krishna Prasad/Fast Company Middle East]

    CEOs and boards of directors in the Middle East are concerned about five strategic imperatives impacting leadership positions and company performance.

    According to a recent survey by Heidrick & Struggles, about 29% of Middle East CEOs and board members surveyed were concerned about attracting the right leadership candidates, followed by developing and retaining them as their biggest challenge compared to the global average of 24%.

    Similarly, 22% of these candidates see leadership succession and turnover as their chief concern compared to 17% globally.

    Yet, on these key issues, only around a third of those who expressed concern are confident in their organization’s ability to manage them, less so than leaders surveyed worldwide.

    “In 2024, Middle East organizations face an increasingly complex external business environment, and regional intricacies that demand a localized approach. To survive and thrive this year – and beyond – companies must prioritize not only attracting the right leaders but also retaining and grooming talent from within to take on the leadership mantle,” said Richard Guest, a partner in charge of Heidrick & Struggles Middle East and North Africa.

    “With growing pressure on leaders to be more forward-looking yet aligned with current needs, the onus is on boards to help organizations stay focused on building internal capabilities and addressing competency gaps of current and emerging leaders,” he added.

    Having The Right Culture

    The survey also found that although the region’s leaders have about the same level of confidence in how their leadership development strategy is positioning the organization for the future, 12% report having no confidence at all—double the global figure.

    Markus Wiesner, regional managing partner of Heidrick & Struggles for Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Emerging Markets, adds, “Any effective leadership development strategy starts by having the right culture – a culture of excellence not only ensures good leaders stay, but helps organisations attract the best-fit talent from around the world. Putting in place a strategic road map is also essential, where boards and leaders must agree on the key skill sets needed for the future and view talent acquisition as a long-term, always-on imperative.”

    With ongoing tensions in the region and trade disruptions, Middle East CEOs and boards cited economic uncertainty, at 56%, and geopolitical volatility, at 56%, as the most significant issues facing their organizations in 2024. Their global peers shared the same sentiments, with the global average sitting at 63% and 39%, respectively.

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