Leadership curricula in UAE business and education management programmes: A Habermasian analysis within an Islamic context

Author First name, Last name, Institution

Eman ElKaleh, Zayed University

Document Type


Source of Publication

International Journal of Educational Management

Publication Date



© 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate leadership curricula in UAE business and education management programmes and examine the extent to which they are derived from and linked to students’ cultural and Islamic values using Habermas’ critical theory. Design/methodology/approach: The study employs a mixed methods approach that takes classical pragmatism as its philosophical foundation and critical theory as a theoretical lens. Data are collected in four sequential phases using critical discourse analysis of course materials, class observations, student survey and faculty interviews. Results are integrated at the interpretative level and abductive reasoning is used as the logic of justification. Findings: Results show that despite the increasing efforts to incorporate cultural and Islamic values into the curriculum, it is still mainly dominated by Western theories and models of leadership, especially in the leadership courses offered by business schools, mainly because of accreditation requirements and the lack of English resources and theories on UAE and Islamic models of leadership. Research limitations/implications: The study is limited to leadership curricula in the UAE. Researchers may extend and broaden the scope of the study by investigating leadership curricula in the Gulf and/or the Middle East. Future studies may also look at other theoretical frameworks recommended by other management scholars such as Mezirow’s transformational learning and the socio-constructivist approach (Hotho and Dowling, 2010). This study aims to open an ongoing debate and further investigation on the topic. Practical implications: The results of the current study may inspire faculty members and programme coordinators to develop critical and culturally relevant curricula that are informed by Habermas’ critical theory and best teaching practices. Originality/value: The study adds to the current knowledge base through its research design and approach that address an under-investigated topic. None of the current studies empirically investigated leadership curricula in the UAE. The theoretical framework and research findings can be used to develop culturally relevant and value-oriented leadership curricula that reflect indigenous and Western perspectives of leadership.




Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.





First Page


Last Page





Habermas’ critical theory, Leadership development

Scopus ID


Indexed in Scopus


Open Access