Which leadership models work best? Dr Nidhal Al-Sarraf has been studying just this question with his formidable background in statistical analysis, research and teaching as well as a range of senior leadership roles himself, as part of his recently completed Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) at London Met.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I was born in the "mother of culture" city of Baghdad, in Iraq. I started my professional career as a statistical researcher in the Organization and Productivity department of The Ministry of Electricity in Iraq, also taking an MSc in Operational Research from the University of Sussex in 1997. My main duties were to study the practical problems faced by all departments (more than 30,000 employees) – using quantitative techniques to achieve alternative solutions and following up.
In 1981, I moved to the Scientific Office of the Scientific Research Council of Iraq as Head of Researchers until 1991, where I led research staff and committees to study issues in higher education, transportation, industry, agriculture, and other Ministries.
I was also teaching part-time as a lecturer and trainer in various universities and colleges including the Iraqi Engineering Society, Arab Union of Physics and Mathematics, Iraqi Physics and Mathematics Society and the National Center of Planning and Development of Iraq.
In 1992, I left Iraq for the Yemen to work as an assistant lecturer in the University of Taiz, and following that, I joined the HSA Group of Companies (Yemen) as the Head of HR and Executive Manager in the Decisions Support function. In 1997, I enrolled as a PhD student in economical statistics and cybernetics at the University of Bucharest in Romania. My thesis title was: “Operational Research Methods for Replacement/Maintenance Strategies in a Group of Industrial Companies”, which I completed in 2002.
Since 1999, I've continued working with the HSA Group (Egypt) as a Board Member as well as various organisational and HR roles.
What brought you to London Met?
Working with HSA for more than 20 years made me realise that HSA is in a very critical situation, as it's in the maturity stage of its life cycle but is still expanding – and that this family business would be very soon heading towards the decline stage. My aim as a researcher was to study the impact of leadership on the family business life cycle (considering HSA as the research setting) in order to conclude how to expand the maturity stage of its life cycle before it reaches the exit/decline stage. Then to think about how to revive the business in order to start a fresh life cycle. To achieve this, I joined London Met.
Can you explain more about the DBA and your research project in particular?
My research project was to study the relationship between leadership and family business performance, and to answer my research question: “how does leadership impact organisational performance in a family business?” considering different leadership styles. I tested various hypotheses using statistical analysis and different organisational performance measures.
The study chose eight companies as the research setting, with data collected from 588 participants; seventy-six who held leadership roles (top and mid-management levels) were asked to complete a questionnaire that was compared against historical company data. The results showed a very strong, or strong positive relationship between many of these leadership styles (subscales) and some of the organisational performance measures. Some of these relationships are statistically significant.
What were the challenges and the highlights of the course?
The challenge (to see the funny side) was my age! When I joined the course, I was around 62 years old – one of my fellow students who also became a friend was 26 years old. This put me under pressure to work very hard, especially as I continued to lead my work team remotely in Egypt.
What do you think will be the real-world impact of your research?
My research work makes a significant contribution to knowledge and literature by providing solid empirical evidence about the relationship between each of these three leadership styles (twenty subscales) and the selected organisational performance measures (four measures) – this is the area where a theoretical gap has been identified.
In addition to the theoretical conclusions, the study makes a significant contribution to practitioners’ knowledge, by offering recommendations that are beneficial and practically useful to the HSA Group and any similar company who is in the process of selecting and recruiting new leaders and/or setting up development programs for existing leaders.
How were the lecturers?
The course management, professors and experienced lecturers and staff were very good and helpful.
What did studying at London Met mean to you?
I was able to achieve one of my dreams – to get a Doctorate, especially in business administration, from the UK.
Completing my course also helped me to establish my private company in management consultation.
What drives you?
The challenge, continued success and solving business problems are my main drivers.
What’s the proudest moment in your life?
The moment when I received the following email from my supervisor Dr Hazel Messenger after my viva:
“Congratulations 'Dr Dr' Nidhal;)
I heard from the internal examiner and the Chair that they were very satisfied with your thesis and also with the way that you defended the questions.
You should be very proud of yourself... let the family take you out for dinner!
University Teaching Fellow”
What’s next in your career?
I intend to continue working in my current position for the coming three years and, in parallel, I'll devote myself to working in my own company.
Do you have any advice for anyone else considering studying at London Met?
The title “Doctoralness” is the key word of this DBA programme at London Met. It will assist you to think, behave and act as a doctorate student, and as a Professional Doctor in, and all the way up to, a high position in one’s career.
This course will widen your practical skills as a researcher, and your knowledge of business processes as a professional.
The course management, professors and experienced lecturers and staff will help you to expand your scientific and practical skills in different areas of organisational theory as well as the management process you need for your career.
In a nutshell, this DBA programme is the ideal vehicle to prepare you for a senior leadership position.
"This course will widen your practical skills as a researcher, and your knowledge of business processes as a professional."