Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: “Words fail to express what we feel in our hearts for such a great leader who relentlessly seeks dignity and glory for his country and people. The people answer his call and the UAE is enjoying the fruits of this extraordinary interaction between the leader and his people,” said Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, chairman of Dubai Airports and chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and Group.

“Having had the privilege of working with His Highness for many years, I have learned that joining his team is not just a great honour but it is also very exciting and challenging. He aims for and recognises only the number one position, and this approach to excellence is the foundation of his brainchild, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Leadership Development. This centre has created some of the best UAE citizens who contribute in every area of their field of expertise and shape the future of the UAE.”

“The spectacular rise and globally acknowledged success of the aviation sector of the UAE in general and Dubai in particular is the outcome of His Highness’ foresight and support. Many others faltered and some failed as the global aviation industry went through ups and downs, but His Highness was steadfast in his support as Dubai continued to invest billions of dollars in creating top airport infrastructure as well as one of the largest and most advanced aircraft fleets in the world. Thanks to his vision, the aviation sector currently represents about 15 per cent of the UAE’s GDP and about 30 per cent of Dubai’s GDP,” Shaikh Ahmad added.

Those on the ground at Dubai Airports vouch for His Highness’ hands-on style of leadership. Jamal Al Hai, Dubai Airports deputy CEO, said, “When I first joined Dubai Airports in 1985, His Highness welcomed me saying he was looking for young people who wanted to be leaders. I still remember the meetings at his Majlis where he would seek feedback on every new project idea from all those who were present. The tradition continues till date. There’s so much to learn from him, he is like a free university. When he presented a roadmap for Dubai at the former Chicago Beach Hotel 15 years ago, he said those who were ready to travel that road could stay in their chairs, otherwise they could just leave.”

In November 2006, when Al Hai was elected to the Federal National Council with the highest number of votes, one of the first calls he received was from His Highness’ office. “I felt so honoured and humbled when he walked into my majlis later to personally congratulate me. It was the biggest moment of my life, I had no clue he would be visiting.”

He said he has also had the privilege of going with Shaikh Mohammed on some hunting trips. “It never ceases to amaze me what a caring leader he is. He will not rest until the last man in the team is back and has had something to eat.”

Anita Mehra, vice-president, marketing and corporate communications, said, “His Highness is an amazing role model. He happened to visit Terminal 1 at DXB at 2am one morning many years ago. There were only two baggage carousels at the terminal at the time. He noticed huge crowds of people waiting at the Immigration and the baggage area. He immediately instructed us that the situation must change. Within two weeks, a couple of carousels were added and more immigration counters introduced.”

Recalling another visit of His Highness to the airport in 1995, she said, “I had just been promoted. When he met us and I happened to mention it to him, he told me he already knew. I was stunned. The he said we should employ and train as many women as we could. That’s His Highness exemplary style of functioning.”