Across the globe, public sector leaders share many of the same leadership challenges. This paper addresses questions about leadership challenges, gaps, career derailment factors, and opportunities within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) with a focus towards leaders of public service. The research reported in this paper is from three samples of Saudi leaders who participated in programs at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®). The data illustrate KSA leaders share many of the same challenges and opportunities as government leaders with whom CCL has worked around the world. Our data further suggest that even though KSA leaders are facing a rapidly changing world, they are reasonably well prepared to manage these changes with a strategic skillset, knowledge of doing what it takes to achieve key results, and the ability to influence the thinking and actions taken by leaders at higher levels in the hierarchy. Similar to leaders in other countries, Saudi public sector leaders face challenges related to leading themselves, leading their teams, and leading organizations. Further, the study reveals important gaps in leader development. These gaps could have an impact on leadership capability in the future. The gaps include selecting and developing others, self-awareness, and negotiation.

The data suggest that leaders pay attention to the low ranking on importance and effectiveness of various competencies including resiliency, risk-taking, work-life integration, and managing globally dispersed teams. The two most important risks that are related to the possible career derailment of KSA leaders are not meeting business objectives and maintaining too narrow a functional focus. Following a summary of the analyses of these data, this paper offers leadership solutions that may be taken by institutions to help KSA leaders address these challenges, bridge their gaps in leadership development, and prevent career derailment. Solutions could include:

  1. Understanding leadership as a collaborative effort versus an activity based solely on exerting positional authority.
  2. Creating teams that consistently achieve high performance despite challenging internal and external conditions.
  3. Building interdependent organizational cultures to improve innovation and creativity. Focusing on these areas could create results that matter across the Kingdom.
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