How I got here: Abdulla Al Gurg, Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group general manager

The third-generation family business executive describes his climb to the top



Education


As the third generation of my family in the business, it has been crucial for me to develop skills outside of my comfort zone in preparation for a larger leadership role.

In terms of education, I hold a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management from the American University of Sharjah, having graduated from the Dubai National School. I also possess a certificate in management concepts from Regis University, Denver, Colorado.

In addition, I have obtained certificates in executive education in leadership development from the Columbia Business School and negotiation, and competitive decision-making, from the Harvard Business School.

My start


I had 12 years of experience working with semi-government companies before joining my family business. Both my grandfather, the chairman Easa Saleh Al Gurg, and my mother Dr Raja Al Gurg – the managing director – always encouraged me to seek experience and learning in the corporate sector before aspiring to take on a role within the business.

My first job was in the sales department of a call centre at Tejari.com, an e-commerce hub in Dubai. That was followed by a role managing the chief executive officer monitoring unit at Tatweer, an entity within Dubai Holding. My last role was as executive project director for The Tiger Woods Dubai for over three years.

My appointment as group general manager of the family business took place in October 2009. I am proud to reaffirm the trust placed in me by the shareholders. This inspires me to build on the group’s legacy of more than five decades and to move purposefully into an era of greater growth while focussing on innovation and expertise.

Approach


Success is 90 per cent in the mind. It is a combination of factors. As a leader, you cannot do anything entirely on your own. If I did not gain the experience to work with people and motivate them, it would have been a difficult road. This is especially true considering I took over the day-to-day operations of a company that has a long heritage of success.

My leadership style is more participatory, focussing on nurturing synergies and the adoption of a culture of evolution. I strongly advocate business excellence and accountability at all levels while encouraging effective cross-communication between people with varied skill sets and expertise.

I believe in fostering learning and development across all rungs of the organisation. In such a multi-faceted conglomerate it is important to not focus my efforts on just one company or asset.

Highs and lows


Discovering an individual leadership style requires a commitment to developing yourself and, for me, it also means learning from the highs and lows.

In my professional life, the highs include being asked by my family to join the business. I am also grateful for the experience of working with my team in Dubai Holding at The Tiger Woods Dubai and seeing other entities within the group using our example as a benchmark.

The birth of my first son is one of the main highs of my personal life, as it made me realise I live for others and not just for myself. Also dear is the memory of buying my first property.

As for the lows, trusting the wrong people has led to some valuable lessons. I have also sometimes been called naïve because I take into consideration the behaviour of the team before reacting.