He has his own award-winning personal website. He has recently invited people to submit questions and suggestions online and he is busy responding in this forum. This week His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has joined Facebook.
Why ever would this busy leader want to join an online social network?
The test of good leadership is the ability to engage with your people, to help them to know that you hear their concerns and to learn from them.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has consistently given many indications that he is not remote or aloof. Facebook gives the Ruler of Dubai a further opportunity to engage with his people.
One of his new Facebook friends likes this quality and after thanking the Sheikh for accepting him as a friend he says, “Facebook helps us to communicate with you directly.”
Down to Earth
It surprised his interviewer on 60 Minutes to see that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed drove his own vehicle around Dubai and the Emirates.
It was a sign of his pastoral concern that after floods did damage to the homes of his constituents that he rolled up in his vehicle to visit them.
Now, judging by the reactions of his first few Facebook friends, the Sheikh is surprising many people with this initiative and his reaching out in friendship.
One of his appreciative Facebook friends remarks, “This is the first Arab leader in the world who reaches out unconventionally, innovatively and who contributes to building the virtual world community.”
Facebook gives to everyone the opportunity to reveal as much or as little as one chooses. This is a useful avenue for leaders and celebrities who want to share with people their ideas and the ordinary ‘status updates’ from their everyday lives.
On his Facebook page there is much already that Sheikh Mohammed is revealing—his political views, his religious views, some personal details such as his birthday, the things he is passionate about, his favourite books, the values that have been instilled within him, the achievements of which he is proud and the things he rates as matters of importance.
At the commencement of this new chapter in his Facebook career Sheikh Mohammed has posted two photo albums. They contain old and more recent photos of his children, with their names and some pictures of him with his grandchildren about which the caption reads, “Deriving happiness from a new generation in the family.”
Some other photographs show Sheikh Mohammed in ‘everyday encounters’—visiting a man he met on his rounds last year, mixing with men in a home for the elderly and visiting students in a school.
Perhaps it is in these pictures more than any of the words that Sheikh Mohammed is depicted as being very approachable. Under one of the family photos someone has added this comment: ‘Father and daughter...an amazing bond.”
The beauty of Facebook is that it is interactive and ideal for stimulating conversation. After his initial greetings the Sheikh is using Facebook to stimulate discussion and seek the wishes of his people. He made this statement which has a question: “I visited the Ministry of Education today and would like to raise this question, ‘Should the new academic year start during Ramadan or after the Eid holiday?’” Judging by the number of replies, people are eager to tell Sheikh Mohammed what they would like to see happen and why.
Sheikh Mohammed’s Facebook friends are already remarking to him on his humility, characterised by the way he is giving them a chance to express their admiration, their appreciation, their blessing and their suggestions.
His friends are feeling honoured and humbled to be able to interact with the Ruler in this way.
One person said, “Wow—my first friend who is a leader of a nation!”
Creating a Community
One wonders how one person might engage effectively with thousands of people through Facebook yet this medium does foster a sense of community. This is a community that reflects the cosmopolitan flavour of the UAE and His Highness is writing to people in Arabic as well as in English. Women and men, old and young have a chance to respond in whatever language they would like to communicate.
Facebook is part of the World Wide Web so people in D.C., Dresden or Durban can feel just as close to the Sheikh as those who are living in Dubai. Facebook, therefore, gives to Sheikh Mohammed an international platform and the possibility of developing an international community.
Here is Sheikh Mohammed’s Facebook address if you would like to request to become one of his friends.
There were more than 700 people who became friends of the Sheikh in his first two days of being part of the Facebook community. Be in quick as there is a limit of 5,000 friends that anyone can have.
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Judged One of the 75 Most Influential People of the 21ST Century, ETE.
Poems Give Most Revealing Glimpse of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum, ETE.
Sheikh Mohammed Hailed as Most Powerful in Horse Racing Industry, ETE.
Sheikh Mohammed Pays Record Price for Aussie Horse Racing Deal, ETE.
Sheikh Mohammed’s Ambitions for Middle East, ETE.
Sheikh Mohammad Models Rare Style of Leadership, ETE.
Sheikh Mohammed’s Leadership is Honoured, ETE.
New Website for H H Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ETE.
Dubai and Sheikh Mohammed on 60 Minutes Video, ETE.
Dr Geoff Pound
Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com or on Facebook.
Image: Sheikh Mohammed’s current photo and front page on Facebook.
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