Sunday 04 December 2016
Today our region is facing multiple strategic challenges. To act effectively against such challenges our strategic leaders must have not only an understanding of the tools of national power and how to implement strategies and policies, but they also must be capable of coordinating government activities to bring national power to bear in the most effective way. Even when the use of power at the national level is fairly well understood, the ability to coordinate all efforts to ensure success at the strategic level remains a challenge. So an understanding of effective methods of coordinating national effort deserves study. Most fundamentally, states have three ways of coordinating their efforts: using organizations, through processes, and by the leadership of individuals.
Organizations. Every functioning state has some organizations that help the national leader manage the affairs of the state. Parliaments, ministries and courts all help manage domestic affairs; but normally states have to create organizations to help manage foreign affairs and state policy directed internationally. In the UAE we have the Supreme Council for National Security to develop policy and coordinate implementation of our foreign affairs activity; we also have the National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) to help focus ministerial cooperation efforts in response to disasters and other crises.
Processes. Organizations are useful forums to discuss policy development and also provide recognized avenues to communicate recommendations, but to truly be effective, governments also need to develop processes that allow for improvement and refinement of strategies and policies. Such processes can be well defined (such as annual budget revises) or more ad-hoc (such as those developed in response to unexpected situations), but the most effective governments ensure that every process is reviewed for effectiveness and refined to ensure that their future use will be more efficient. The best governments also ensure that their processes include lessons-learned reviews, metrics to gauge progress and frequent use of red teams and “out of the box” thinking to minimize surprise and help anticipate emerging challenges.
Leadership. Regardless of organization or process, leadership is key (particularly at the strategic level.) Strategic leaders must be creative problem-solvers who are innovative yet levelheaded, in order to effectuate inevitable changes. Strategic leaders must also effectively communicate a vision to inspire action by communicating their ideas effectively to everyone concerned, thus creating a commonly held understanding of the future goal. Strategic leaders also must act; they need both organizational ability and decision-making skills to align people and structures and then translate strategy into action. The best strategic leaders prepare for the future and consider both long-term goals as well the culture and context of the organization while remaining adaptable, so the coordination of national power can flex as required. Strategic leaders cannot do everything themselves; the challenge of strategic leadership is not only producing an optimum strategy and a clear vision but also creating a strategic team and developing the people required to adapt in execution and coordinate effects as conditions require.
With ongoing crises in Iraq and Syria as well as in Yemen, regional states must be capable of coordinating their efforts even when faced with potentially conflicting requirements that could pull them in different directions. In today’s complex and uncertain world, our national objectives will require constant attention. So effective coordination of national power must not be rigid or doctrinaire. UAE Vision 2021 calls for the nation to “harness the full potential of its national human capital by maximizing the participation of Emiratis and nurturing home-grown public and private sector leaders.” With a proud history of strategic visionary leaders, the UAE should can be confident in its future, but those in the know understand that any success will built on effective use of organizations and processes and by the actions of our strategic leaders, who will still need all of our support as they navigate the ambiguous world of tomorrow.