Just before going away on holiday, most people would be busy bidding farewell to friends and family or packing for their trip. But not Adel Al Shared.

If he is going to be away from home for an extended period of time, in all likelihood, Al Shared will be out in his garden talking to his plants. “I love speaking to my trees, especially if I find one of them looking ‘sick’ or ‘sad’ when I am about to travel,’’ says Al Shared, who is the executive chairman of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Centre for Leadership Development (MBRCLD), as well as the vice chairman and managing director of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Foundation (MBRF).

“When I was a little boy, my father would take me around the garden. He would talk to trees, pet their trunks, examine their leaves... I inherited this love of trees from him. I love tending my trees. I do have a gardener who assists me in taking care of the plants, but I find that talking to plants really makes all the difference.’’

Gardening is a means of self expression for this young leader who believes strongly in the power of education and respecting nature.

“My father, Rashid Mohammad Al Shared, had a hard time completing his studies. In his time, there were no high schools here and he had to go to Egypt for his schooling. He later graduated from Mumbai University. He always used to stress the importance of education and believed it was the key to success. ‘It is the difference between light and darkness,’ he once told me.”

Shared took his father’s advice to heart and went on to earn masters degrees in the UK and the US in management and finance.

He holds an MBA from New Hampshire College in the US, and is on the board of several international professional bodies.

One of his greatest achievements was when INSEAD, a leading international business school based in France, appointed him on their advisory committee. He is the first Arab and first UAE national to be named panel member of this prestigious institution.

He hopes to inculcate a spirit of enquiry and thirst for knowledge in young and promising UAE nationals whom he teaches at the MBRF. He is keen to create a knowledge-based society and hopes it will one day help bring together the pan Arab region as one unified entity.


I think punctuality is not just about keeping time. It is an innate sense of discipline. One of its expressions is doing things on time. It shows a commitment to rules and regulations and is conducive to doing good business. Punctuality is a visible characteristic in successful businesses and is a characteristic of leaders such as Bill Gates and Jack Welch.

I am a result-oriented person; results should be delivered according to schedule. I like to fix exact dates to events or programmes and calculate goals accordingly. Without punctuality, you can ruin a great career. I know many people who are great at their work, but lack punctuality. This is an issue we emphasise in our leadership programme. People want to see timely results. Without punctuality, things can spiral out of control.

I feel it is important to be a model worker. Being a role model is an essential component of the obligations of a leader. Being a role model is a result of being an agent of change. I can effect things extensively in my organisation by guiding those who report to me. This ensures a higher degree of success. You have to lead to be a role model to your peers. You can be one among them and still set an example.

I consider Mattar Al Tayer of the RTA to be a perfect role model for his team.

I never take shortcuts in seeking solutions to problems. When things are not looking good, I look for gaps to be bridged. These gaps present us with great opportunities for growth. The potential for success by bridging gaps is great.

I enjoy problem solving. Sometimes I work all through the night to find a strategic solution to an issue. I never look for quick, easy solutions. I try to solve a problem by considering it in its entirety. It may not be easy in the beginning but in the end, it is something that really works and is long lasting.

I am a firm believer in the power of knowledge and innovation. These are two elements that can put anyone on course to a successful career.

I cannot stand a lack of ethics. If there is a lack of knowledge, I will understand and will send the person for training.

If you make a mistake, I will stand by you.

But if you are dishonest or unscrupulous, I will not give you the time of day.

I love to spend time in my garden. I call my gardening hour my ‘happy hour’. I grow
12 varieties of roses and I also grow several trees including neem and coconut.

I love learning about history. I am not much of a television buff and only watch the BBC news channel in Arabic and Sama Dubai. But whenever I find time, I try to read up on the history of the human civilisation. I love to pore over encyclopaedias and read about Asian history. I read a lot. I love to imagine what it must have been like to live hundreds of years ago. Many decisions that I take are based on what I glean from history books.

I am serious about the development of the Arab world. The MBRF is working across borders in all Arab countries. There is so much potential to be tapped into. According to our research, 70 per cent of the Arab population is in the below-30 age group. By 2020, we could be dealing with up to 180 million unemployed Arabs in the work force. It is a huge challenge that we face.

I get emotional when it comes to illiteracy in children. In Mauritania alone, about 60 per cent of the kids are illiterate.

I think providing primary education for children around the world can be a very powerful instrument in allowing children a platform to deal with their vulnerabilities.

I dream of a day when we can live in a global society, not restricted by boundaries.

Me and my goals

I aspire to see a knowledge-based economy in the Arab world. This is one of the goals of the MBRF.

Me and work ethics

I like my staff to be motivated and organised. At the end of the day, we will be judged by the final product, but I see to it that every person in my team strives to achieve only the best results.

Me and loved ones

I am blessed to be surrounded by loved ones at home and in the work place. I dote on my kids – Hamdah, Meera, Shatha, Alyazzya and Almur. At work, I have three teams who I work with closely. My wife Aman is my great supporter – both personally and professionally. She keeps me grounded and helps me stay focused on my goals for work and for my family.

Me and my hobbies

I love collecting and restoring old documents. I have very old scripts that are very rare. I have a document that is 900 years old. The base is made of parchment derived from the stomach of a goat. It is a book on astronomy written in Arabic. Restoration of an old book like this is a long and painstaking process. The temperature in the room where the book is placed has to be at a constant 25°C. As I mentioned, my other hobby is studying history, which I see as a vehicle to gain further knowledge of the world. Learning about historical events and how and why things took place tells us about the workings of the human mind and its frailties. Tending to shrubs and plants by pruning, watering and trimming them helps me stay focused on the small things of life. It never ceases to amaze me how a tiny plant, with a little care, flourishes.

Me and my vision for my country

I want to see all Arabs play a major role in human development.


The UAE is a young country with a strong and large contingent of youth raring to go in various directions. As executive chairman of MBRCLD, what is your plan for them?
I am a member of three youth organisations – INSEAD, MBRCLD and MBRF. I oversee our investments in human development.

My job is to single out high-fliers and high-achievers in the Arab world at a young age. I choose them, groom them and work with them [helping] them become agents of change in our society. It’s important to start when they are young – we identify strong students from the high school level; follow the candidates’ progress through high school, college... up to their graduation.

Most of the leaders in government today are graduates from our organisation. This is now part of our national strategic programme.

How does your organisation plan to channel passion in the youth?

If the large body of youth is left illiterate, or with poor education and consequent unemployment, it would be most detrimental to our society.

To generate jobs, quality education is a must. That said, we must also have a flexible process by way of our policy making to incubate many people. Development has happened so quickly in our society that it has left a huge gap between the older and younger generations. We want to adapt our policy making process and use new tools to educate today’s young minds. Our ruler, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has set an example by reaching out to the youth through Facebook and Twitter!

This is what I mean by looking to new tools. We need to take a leaf out of his book and learn to communicate with the new generation in a language that they understand and will relate to. Only when we create a dialogue between different generations will we be able to groom them into a society wholly capable of leading [others] into the future.

How far away is the UAE from the emiratisation goal and what more needs to be done? What message do you have for your country’s youth?

I suggest that we identify strategic jobs and fill them with nationals. I feel one should nationalise the core business of any industry. By doing that, the country will be properly leading its industry, looking at strategic positioning for nationals and emiratisation will take place on a sustainable basis. That’s my vision.

Is it possible to formulate policies and consider serious issues without falling into
a trap of routine boredom and monotony?

What is the secret to being a live wire in a corporate box?

It all depends on your perspective.
I believe that if you don’t love your work you wouldn’t be able to be an icon in your field or become properly recognised. I think once you love something, you will have fun with it, even if you are at the top where the pressure is high. Whether I am at home, on a holiday with my kids, gardening or at work, I never forget the key factor – to love whatever it is
I am doing.

You have had a spectacular career and are doing a lot of things with many international educational institutions and management organisations. What are the parameters
of success?

It is important to be first and foremost a good human being, no matter what station you hold in life. Your ‘engine’ is the system of beliefs you hold. In English, there is one word I love and that’s ‘enthusiasm’. I like to break it down as follows:

En – Inside
Theo – God
Ism – Within

It means that power lies within you.

It all depends on how you harness this power.

Your brain has the capacity to catalyse so many changes. But once you have established your basic belief system, anything is possible.

Why am I on so many different boards and panels across the world? For me, it is about learning so much more about life and human behaviour. I get an opportunity to mingle with people from all over the world. We communicate, share ideas, and discuss endlessly. My system of belief comes into play constantly in my work.

– Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhary is Senior Features Writer, Friday