Action Learning for Family Firms Leaders in Saudi Arabia


In the Middle East, the world of business has been considerably improved and developed in a short period of time. There are many countries such as Kuwait, Egypt, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia that have already demonstrated unique and effective approaches to take leading positions in different industries. Such business success may be explained by the decision to take special training programs and methods to improve the sphere of management, the work human resource departments, and communication skills that have to be used in organizations of different sizes. The current changes in the sphere of management and organizational life have increased the necessity for leaders to develop their skills, become better learners, and be better leaders (Leonard & Lang 2010). According to Linsky & Heifetz (2002), they have proven the fact that many organizations have already faced the challenges connected with the inabilities to find enough time and resources to increase and develop the skills of their leaders in a proper way.

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One of the main reasons for why leaders should think about re-evaluating their abilities is the presence of a high rating of leadership failures. More than 40% of new leaders are not able to pass their first 18-month trial periods and do not know what they have to do during their promotion (Marquardt et al. 2009). Ward (1997) conducted a survey in the context of a family business leadership and clarified that poorly developed leadership skills turned out to be of one the threats that decrease the success of family business. Even the next-generation leaders, who believe that they are properly prepared and have the required number of professional skills, cannot be easily engaged with the work of their companies in a short period of time (Handler 1992; Morris et al. 1997; Sharma & Inving 2005). Family firms have to deal with the requirements that are crucial for the transition of knowledge from one generation to another (Morris et al. 1997). Family business leaders need to choose the most appropriate method to search, analyse, and use knowledge in practice and share it with all family members involved in a family business. The importance of family business and educating leaders can be explained by the necessity to learn how to explain the worth of a family business and the peculiarities of the work done by a family to next generations (Barbera et al. 2015).

There is a tendency that leaders learn more and better if they choose action learning as their main method. Pedler (2016) admits that Saudi Arabia is one of the countries in the Middle East those organizations are actively engaged in the idea to develop effective action learning programs. Besides, there are many examples of global companies that use leadership training programs based on action learning. The brightest examples can be observed in such cities as Dubai, Cairo, and Istanbul. Action learning is an effective process that helps leaders to reflect on their personal attitudes and actions when they are involved in organisational activities or try to discuss problems (Trehan & Pedler 2009). Action learning is one of the frequently used methods to develop a new portion of skills and knowledge. It helps to improve the abilities to learn and succeed in performing duties regarding the development of new leadership needs and challenges.

Pedler (2016) underlines that action learning is a kind of gender unbiased methods because it can be used for improvement of leadership skills as among young and old male leaders as well as among young women that take the leading positions in the Middle East. Such programs help to strengthen the participation of women in various social movements that aim to improve the living conditions of poor adults and children (Pedler 2016). Regarding the current technological and managerial changes, the worth of action learning has been increased rapidly. However, not all organisations know how to use action learning. For example, in the period between the 1980s and 1990s, only several global corporations were aware of the benefits of action learning (Davids, Aspler & McIvor 2002) and could use it properly. Today, many organisations know about action learning and are ready to use it in order to succeed in developing family business and improving leadership skills. Still, the intentions should be supported by practice and clear instructions that are offered by experts.

The necessity to research the idea of action learning in order to develop and support the leaders in a family business is defined by several past studies. Barbera et al. (2015) have already the WPL (whole person learning) tool to promote the necessary leadership qualities in a family business; still, they fail to explain how such independent variables as family size, the size of a company, or age can define the project. Breton-Miller and Miller’s investigation (2015) creates a solid basis for the investigations of educational roles that should be played by different family members. Lansberg and Gersick (2015) underline the importance of the choice of the material for educational purposes.

In the context of this research, the central aim of the writer is to explore how action learning can be used to improve the basics of a family business that should be known by leaders and their educators. Besides, it is expected to identify the peculiarities of leadership development, the main challenges leaders can face in their family firms, and understand if action learning is effective enough to be used as the main method for leaders, who want to improve the quality of their work, working conditions in their family organizations. It is necessary to consider the fact that family firms are located in the Middle East.

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Therefore, the location should play an important role in identifying the peculiarities of the Middle East business. It is suggested to divide this project into two main parts in order to comprehend the main objectives about leadership and action learning in terms of leadership. First, it is necessary to comprehend and explain why the family business issue has to be properly investigated and educated. Second, the action learning approach should be identified to be implemented for supporting and developing leaders. A family business is complicated indeed, and people should learn how to develop it properly regarding a number of ethical considerations, working approaches, and demands of all stakeholders. Leaders are challenged not only by the necessity to guide people, consider the goals of projects, or predict the outcomes but also by the possibility to work with familiar people, understand their weak and strong aspects, and use all this information properly.

The Research Objectives

  1. What should leaders do to promote their development in the chosen field of the Middle East business?
  2. How can leaders improve their level of education and the skills that can be used in practices chosen for the family organizations in Saudi Arabia?
  3. How can action learning be used in the study to provide leaders with the required portion of explanations and support?
  4. Is it justified to focus on learning leaders, who want to improve the quality of their decisions and activities in a family business, in order to prove the effectiveness of action learning as the main training method?

Literature Review

Leadership development is not a unique concept in cultural and creative industries, and all stakeholders know that it is necessary to consider the importance of the relations between development, strategic orientation, and organisational performance in order to implement the required interventions in time (Burns & Wilson, 2012). There are many traditional approaches in leadership development the essence of which is to make leaders take responsibility to solve problems and decide on behalf of all people in an organisation (Bolden et al., 2015). At the same time, such researchers as Edwards (2015) offer to consider leadership development as a possibility to improve the sense of belonging to all members of a group, create friendly relations and introduce social networks that can help to understand the communities better. As soon as people comprehend the essence of leadership, it can be possible to develop the required portion of skills and knowledge to succeed in leading people.

However, the current changes in the sphere of business and education promote the necessity to improve the existing knowledge management activities and clarify the requirements and settings of the environment where people have to work, educate, and develop their personal and business relations (McGiver et al. 2013). The investigations of the researchers mentioned above are informative and educative. Still, some of them are conducted between 2012 and 2013. It is necessary to underline the fact that the current technological progress is impressive indeed, and people are not able to follow and consider each change made in the technological and investigate how it can be used in the current business world. People have to learn more in order to understand what is expected of them in terms of leadership. Therefore, the majority of researchers underline the necessity to combine learning and work to achieve the best results and choose appropriate adjustments.

For example, Raelin (2011) offers to develop the leadership-as-practice movement in order to find out and understand the essence of leadership with the help of the evaluation and analyses of all practices within which it may occur. Leadership is not only a collection of certain theoretical approaches and ideas. It is also about practices, actions, and personal attitudes to everything that has to be done. Though leadership is directly tied to the practices chosen by people, the author fails to explain how exactly leaders should improve their skills and consider the changes that come from the technological industry and influence the chosen business. In case many arguments and discussions take place from a theoretical point of people, not many people are eager to share their practical experiences and ideas on how to develop leadership in the communities. Leaders know that they have to do something, use their opportunities, and improve the level of knowledge they have already got. Still, even if being guided by a number of instructions, they cannot realize what actions are more appropriate for them. The development of leadership skills is possible in practice, and action learning is one of the possible methods that can be used to build leadership skills and improve leadership behaviour (Leonard & Lang, 2010).

From this theoretical point of view, the process of leadership is not a simple combination of activities. It is the process based on learning activities, practices, negotiations, and examinations. The main theoretical perspectives that can be used in research are based on action learning and various approaches on how to improve the possible outcomes of the process. In addition to critical active learning, Willmott (1997) offers to pay attention to conventional action learning with the help of which it is possible to develop the required number of qualities for promoting managerial practices and organisational tasks. In other words, leaders, who choose action learning as the method to improve their practices in their family firms that are located in the Middle East, have to understand that action learning for leaders is not only about theory and practice only. It should be an evaluation of what is known about leadership, what people can do to complete their functions as leaders, and why action learning may be regarded as the only best option for them.

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Leadership as a Social Phenomenon

Leadership remains to be a social phenomenon that involves many people, who have different knowledge and skills and have to share their experiences. There is a widely spread tendency that people can learn better and achieve good results in educating in case they choose action learning as the method to rely on. Trehan and Pedler (2009) describe action learning as a combination of practices that can be developed when learners try to reflect on their attitudes in regards to the activities their leaders want to introduce. Still, their main goal is not to explain the worth of action learning in terms of family organizations but to focus on the critical approaches that can enhance leadership development and management processes.

They, as many other writers and researchers, want to analyze but not to describe the methods that can be used by those, who prefer action learning. At the same time, action learning has been proved as the method that experiences a considerable growth due to its possibility to involve many people and improve their capabilities and leadership as the method to gather mutual interests and reflect on the surrounded world in the most effective way (Rigg & Tehan 2008). Still, even these authors do not provide the details and examples of the process. They are good at describing the reflections on leadership and action learning, illustrating difficulties people face with during a learning process, and explaining the positive and negative aspects of the leadership activities critically. The reader cannot understand why action learning is the best option to improve the leadership qualities. Such inconveniences and challenges make the researcher of this project address other sources for consideration.

The investigations by Raelin and Trehan (2015) show that leadership and the importance to develop appropriate skills in any sphere of business have been challenged considerably during the last centuries (Edwards 1992). The promotion of critical action learning is one of the examples that can be offered to analyse the shifts in the business and management spheres. People start paying more attention to the daily realities and the requirements of organisational life (Trehan & Pedler, 2009). The authors underline the importance to develop leadership in terms of some institutional and social contexts in order to explain the power and significance of the relations that should take place between leaders and employees. Still, there are no clear definitions concerning action learning and leadership connection. At the same time, Rigg and Trehan (2008) discuss the difficulties any stakeholder may face while employing the critical reflections on leadership and workplace peculiarities.

There is a necessity to give clear definitions and explanations, consider the current changes in everyday practice, and try to answer all questions connected with leadership development and the required pedagogical methods (Reynolds & Trehan 2008). For example, to stay loyal, leaders have to understand how to motivate, guide, and support employees properly. It is not enough for leaders to identify the orders and responsibilities. This article turns out to be a good source of information about how leadership can be developed and what decisions leaders have to make to succeed in the chosen activities. Employees, like any other educators, are in need of explanations that have to be logically introduced by leaders. Raelin and Trehan (2015) offer to regard leadership, as well as the idea of leadership development, as a practice within the frames of which it is possible to improve the already gained skills, study new material, and find a practical implication to the theoretical knowledge. Leadership as a practice consists of a number of stages that have their own periods and categories. All ideas and thoughts developed by these authors can serve as a guideline to follow when the time to clarify the activities of leaders comes.

Action Learning and Promotion of Leadership

To succeed in promoting leadership and explain how leaders can improve and share their knowledge, it is necessary to use the method that can cover all aspects of the above-mentioned complicated term. Research of Trehan and Pedler (2009) helps to enhance leadership and management development. The authors suggest action learning as the main perspective to promote effective learning and pay more attention to various political (McGill & Beaty 1996) and cultural processes (Schein 1992) that can influence an organisational development. Trehan and Pedler (2009) describe action learning as a combination of practices that can be developed when learners try to reflect on their attitudes in regards to the activities their leaders want to introduce and explain how their followers can take the same actions with the same profits. Action learning may promote and develop leadership skills in several ways.

According to Kraiger, Passmore, Santos, and Malvezzi (2014), action learning has already identified as a global phenomenon with a number of varieties that can be used by large corporations, medium companies, and small firms. Business-driven action learning is the approach that helps leaders identify their weak and strong points, and educators should offer it as the main solution for the problems that bother the majority of leaders. Leonard and Lang (2010) offer to engage the learner in the process and take the meaningful steps in order to integrate new knowledge with the already gained facts. Besides, it is possible to create the strategies with the help of which simple questionnaires can be used to involve team members in activities and use their knowledge in practice. Finally, action learning is characterised by spaced practices when employees may use their new skills between different sessions so that they can use and then analyse the achievements.

Trehan and Pedler (2009) base their investigations on the idea that action learning helps to promote a useful progress that to identify the problems and search the required portion of solutions or opportunities. It is not enough to introduce action learning as a good method to rely on when leaders have to share their knowledge and skills. It is more important to evaluate the effects that can be observed in action learning. Trehan and Pedler (2009) offer the idea of critical action learning as an opportunity to evaluate the control issues of leadership and focus on the external factors that may define the quality of leadership. Raelin (2014) is not confident in the power of a leader’s individualism and tries to introduce collaborative agency as the solution to problematic action learning situations.

For example, it is possible to use dialogues to understand what can be used and how new knowledge can be implemented in practice. Vince (n.d.) says about critical action learning as a possibility to develop collective emotional dynamics that is necessary for leaders and their employees. The author mentions the fact of helpfulness and offer leaders to deal with such “working blocks” and challenges using the power of a team. Leaders, who want to work individually on mutual tasks, can hardly succeed, and action learning is a chance to comprehend how collaboration may assist in developing the required leadership skills and team building (Raelin, 2006). In addition to the development of a number of personal traits, it is possible to consider political and cultural processes that may affect leadership development (Trehan & Pedler, 2009) because every culture is a set of new assumptions and ideologies that can determine the quality of work that is expected.

In brief, the review of the literature shows that action learning has been already recognized as a good solution for many leaders, who want to improve their managerial skills and communication. Leaders get to know that action learning has its benefits in comparison to other training programs that can be offered. Still, the analysis of the material shows that many authors underline action learning importance without clear explanations and examples of how action learning can be used. Therefore, the process of action learning, its details, illustrative examples, and outcomes should be thoroughly investigated, and family firms in Saudi Arabia, as a problematic area for consideration, are successfully chosen for research.

Critical Action Learning Perspective

Critical action learning is defined as a part of action learning and as an approach that can be used in all leadership activities (Revans 1998). Raelin and Trehan (2009) explain how to treat leadership not as an activity and thoughts offered by one person but as the results that can be achieved by people who work together. Therefore, as soon as leaders learn the main features of critical action learning, they should believe that they have succeeded in action learning as a practice. Such achievement proves the possibility of leaders to analyse their skills and opportunities and offer a guide for their teams to be followed. It means that more attention should be paid to the basics of how social and interpersonal relations should be developed (Raelin 2011).

According to Trehan and Pedler (2009), there are three main features of the action learning approach in the context of leadership. Collaboration is the opportunity to promote partnership and engagement and use group discussions as the only appropriate collective process during which professional relations and mutual understanding can be achieved (Vince 2004). Regarding this perspective, Trehan and Pedler (2009) conclude that only self-empowered leaders can benefit with action learning. Another feature of action learning is the necessity to recognise practical knowledge within institutional and social contexts (Mingers 2000). Leaders have to be ready for a considerable shift from what they have already known and used in practice to a new learning material and the development of new approaches that have never been implemented before in a particular organisation. Finally, Trehan and Pedler (2009) promote the union of such ideas as deliberation, reflection, and transformation on the basis of the work developed by Mezirow et al. (1991), who described the learning process as the way to perceive, understand and feel the changes.

The analysis of critical action learning perspective should be based on the evaluation of the key elements of the process such as rhetoric, tradition, authority, and knowledge offered by Mingers (2000). First, from a rhetoric point of view, action learning is the method that helps leaders identify their problems and think about the possible solutions. Action learning is an integral element that aims at discussing the weaknesses that have to be turned into strengths of Saudi Arabia leaders in family firms. Second, the evaluation of the attitudes, the critique of traditions, should take place. Action learning is a new method when organizations develop particular cultures and practices (Mingers 2000).

Saudi Arabia organizations are always ready to develop and consider the innovations offered worldwide. As a rule, it is easy to implement a new approach to the work of family leaders. Still, it is also necessary not to promote the improvements at the expense of traditions. There is also the critique of authority that underlines the superiority of one particular dominant. Regarding the fact that action learning focuses on the changes for leaders, it is necessary to check the validity and appropriateness of teachers, who can help to implement the changes. As for the critique of objectivity (consideration of information and knowledge), it is expected to understand what leaders know, what they want to get, and what they have to understand taking such important positions in their organizations. It is better to involve many people from different departments to comprehend what kind of changes should be done by leaders and with leaders to promote a successful development of their organizations.

One of the possible lines of inquiry that can be pursued in research is based on the necessity to explore the peculiarities of channelling leadership and focused on the investigation of the nature of managerial work (Raelin & Trehan 2015). Finally, Raelin and Trehan (2015) offer to use critical action learning as a call for collective reflections that can be given to the already gained experiences. According to Jordan (2010), reflection has to be regarded as a critical ingredient of leadership practice that promotes the importance of high situational awareness and the possibility to avoid conflicts. Action learning is not only the way to learn something new. It is a chance to unite the requirements of the workplace with the abilities of people, who need to study (followers) and educate (leaders). Pedler (2004) underlines the possibility to treat action learning as a reflective activity that should help leaders to improve their outcomes. Such attitude to an educative process should help to understand the strong and weak aspects of the work, analyse the achievements that have been already made and that are going to be considered. Action learning is the method that combines knowledge, practice, and personal attitudes to the activities that are expected from leaders and their followers.


Researching the Concept of Leadership

The choice of methodology is a crucial step that has to be taken by any researcher. It is necessary to understand what kind of approach is appropriate in a particular investigation and find clear explanations if subjectivist or objectivist philosophies can be applied. Inappropriate identification of methods or poorly explained decisions may result in rather questionable results, and the research may face numerous challenges in their intentions to investigate the chosen field (Holden & Lynch, 2004). In the current project, one particular organization has to be investigated to clarify if the chosen leadership methods and approaches are effective in the context of the company. Holden and Lynch (2004) offer two dimensions for consideration: nature of science (scientific approach) and nature of society (sociological approach). Research may be qualitative or quantitative, or both.

The choice has to be explained. To succeed in the methodological choice, it is necessary to answer a number of questions and make sure all of them have reasonable and justified answers. For example, in this research, it is necessary to investigate leadership in the context of family firms and the possibility to use action learning as an opportunity to develop the required portion of abilities and knowledge. Leaders cannot neglect the chance to enhance their skills, and this research is their chance to identify the weaknesses of their work and the possible improvements of their organization. Therefore, it is beneficial to use the sociological approach and consider the opinion of a particular society (the employees of an organization).

The peculiarities of the methodological techniques and procedures that are applicable to the development and support of leaders in family organizations will be discussed. The choice of methods in a project is an integral step that determines the tools and the success of the work planned. This choice should be made in regards to the already identified research goals, practical norms, epistemological concerns, and ethical, political, or even some personal characteristics of the field (Buchanan & Bryman 2007). It is suggested to use action learning as the method to promote a leadership-training programme that can be used to mentor future potential and current senior managers in the company. Coghlan and Brannick (2005) introduce action research as a sequence of events that “comprises iterative cycles of gathering data, feeding it back to those concerned, analysing the data, planning action, taking action and evaluating, leading to further data gather” and as an approach to problem solving by means of scientific methods and experimentation (4).

To put it differently, the concept of action research implies that the consistent process of processing information retrieved in the course of observations or experiments should be carried out (Ellis & Wright 2013). There are other ways of looking at the subject matter, however. As a rule, several types of action research are identified; these include diagnostic, participant, experimental, empirical ones, etc. (Stringer & Baldwin 2013). Diagnostic action research is aimed at identifying the issue underlying a particular situation, whereas participant ones involve the use of experimental groups or any other form of participants’ involvement for the further data gathering and analysis. As the name suggests, experimental action research requires carrying out an experiment aimed at proving a particular hypothesis.

Similarly, empirical action research denotes the study of a certain scenario; however, the given action research type involves the use of a set case that needs a solution. Studies also point to the fact that action research often implies that the service-user relationships should be analyzed in the process and that a connection between the unique characteristics of the end customer (e. g, race, ethnicity, culture, etc.) (Ellis & Wright 2013). By using the principles of action research, one will be able to promote the concept of action learning among the target audience. In other words, the outcomes of action research not only inform the target audience and the author but also incite a further analysis of the situation, thus, prompting the design of an original model for addressing the issue (Chipchase et al. 2014). Therefore, the given research type is bound to help locate the emergent issues and the tools for addressing them in an appropriate manner.

The promotion of learning among the leaders of family organisations is not an easy task that requires a sufficient combination of theory and practice. Still, there is a considerable gap that exists between the theoretical perspective, practice, and research that has to be conducted. Action research is one of the possible solutions to fill in the gap between what has to be studied and done in a learning process (Parkin 2009). It should help to comprehend how managers and leaders may choose and conduct enquiries in order to achieve their goal and improve their practices that can improve the working environment considerably (Koshy 2005).

Research of such nature contains several paradigms that identify possible assumptions and perceptions of research that may influence the way the work can be organized and done. It is expected to identify the goals of the project and work on the ontological and epistemological positioning. Besides, there are the paradigms that unite the research problem and the methods that can be used relying on different types of knowledge gained by the research before the study begins and during the research process. Therefore, such issues as awareness of the topic and sources that are available for discussions, contributing factors, and identified goals and possibilities have to be taken into consideration before any project has to be started.

Ontological / Epistemological Positioning

There are two types of foundations that may be applied to action research. On the one hand, there is epistemology, the power of knowledge. On the other hand, there is ontology, the nature of the world as it is. Epistemological and ontological perspectives identify specific ways that can be used in research for the validation, generation, and developed of knowledge. The ontological positioning of action research touches upon the questions like what the researcher wants to know when they decides to use action research. The ontology of this research is based on the idea that family firm leaders are in need of special programs that help them to learn and develop their skills so that they can perform their duties at a high level.

The epistemological positioning deals with the relations between the idea of leadership in family firms and the level of knowledge that has been established. From the epistemological point of view, action research aims at knowing something on the subject and intervening in the real situations to promote some changes. According to Easterby-Smith, Thorpe, and Jackson (2012), any kind of research should have a solid basis of knowledge about the background of the topic, its rationale, research goals, data, sampling, access, ethics, analysis units, process, practicalities, and outcomes that may be expected. Although action learning is not a new method, not many organizations worldwide are aware of its peculiarities and effects. Therefore, first of all, to start gathering information and implementing the idea of action learning in a particular firm, it is necessary to introduce the main aspects of the training program and check if the chosen organization is appropriate for the investigation.

The chosen family firm is located in Saudi Arabia. Regarding the investigations conducted, this location is appropriate for action learning because large corporations have already tried action learning and improved the work of their managerial and human resource departments. The implementation of the method is an integral part of the work that should consist of a number of steps and correspond with the research goals and stay rationale. It has been proved that many family firms face a number of challenges while developing appropriate leadership qualities. They want to know more about how to organise their leaders, what aspects leaders should cover in their work, and why improvements are still important for leaders, each employee, and a company in general. In the next sections, there is a discussion about research aims, data collection, and sampling that can be offered as the basis for research.


Action research is one of the frequently used approaches to improve the conditions and practices in a certain environment (Koshy 2005). It makes the participants of the survey to conduct enquiries with the help of which they can understand how they can improve their work, enhance the working environment, and provide other people involved in the chosen environment with new opportunities and knowledge. The selection of method depends on the adaptation of the material available and the possible material that can be found during the working process.

The success of action research depends on how well all stages of the process are understood and taken. Koshy (2005) offers to consider action research as the process of generation knowledge that is based on the enquiries conducted within a specific context. It is necessary to plan a change first. Then, it is better to observe how the change is implemented and analyse the consequences. Finally, the reflection of the process and its consequences is required. If necessary, the same actions may be repeated to achieve some other results. There are several stages that can be offered to a researcher and the participants to take in order to understand how a learning programme can be introduced to the leaders of family firms:

  • The identification of what should be improved (weak points in the system or poor approaches that do not solve a problem);
  • The introduction of the reasons for concerns and doubts (why family firms’ leaders want to use a new learning programme);
  • The description of the implementations that can be offered (leaders and managers should be interested in a new initiative);
  • The collection of information should help to understand why leaders can benefit with a learning programme (cooperation of colleagues and their personal opinions may be used as the background of research);
  • The choice of action research methods should be explained (interviews and observations are used to clarify what makes leaders improve their level of knowledge) (Coghlan & Brannick 2005);
  • The evaluation of the information found has to be properly introduced in the project (the use of tables or graphs is appreciated).

Taking into consideration the goals of research and the necessity to use action research as the only possibility to promote learning in order to develop and support leaders in family firms, several challenges can be observed. First, it is necessary to talk with potential participants of research and explain their duties and guarantees properly. All participants should realise their roles in the project and share their opinions clearly. Second, action research requires the direct communication with leaders, managers, and educators. The conditions for communication (time, place, and duration) have to be identified and discussed beforehand (Buchanan & Bryman 2007). Finally, the offered action research method helps to find many different pieces of information that has to be generated, analysed and reported in regards to the already determined ethical and theoretical standards (Parkin 2009).

Action research is a longitudinal process that has to be planned thoroughly. As soon as the crucial theoretical aspects are covered and the professional and educational needs are clarified, the time of practical steps comes. Interviews can help to clarify why leaders want to participate in learning programmes and what they expect to get. Observations can be used to identify what actions and reactions may be expected on the basis of the offered learning programme. The tables can be used to generate the research data. The identification of the categories (personal evaluation of knowledge, expectations from the programme, participation in research, and new skills) is necessary. Still, the adjustments of the results are possible because the researcher cannot predict all of them in the interviews. It may happen that some new boundaries are discovered during action research (Coghlan & Brannick 2005). Graphs can help to identify the effectiveness of suggestions in the project.

Data Collection

According to Coghlan and McAuliffe (2003), the chosen action research approach helps to unite the necessity to improve the organizational settings and meet the purposes of the study. This study will be based on semi-structured interviews with 15/20 participants from one particular organization. This group of people will be divided into those, who believe that their leadership skills and approaches are successful, and who want to make some improvements in their leadership activities as they understand that better achievements can be observed in their organizations. The interviews will be organized via Skype during the periods discussed with the participants beforehand or developed during personal meetings in case they are possible including the working schedules of the employees. Still, regardless the method of communication, it is preferable to record the interviews in order to use the material in the study. In a result of interviews, it is expected to discuss the possibilities to observe the activities that take place in the organization. Besides, information technologies can be used in the study to gather, process, and share the information gathered on the topic.

Development of Action in Research

There are many ways of how action can be developed in terms of this research. Still, any decision or idea should meet a list of requirements such as the necessity to integrate new knowledge with already obtained knowledge or the engagement of a learner in a working process (Leonard & Lang 2010). In this research, it is offered to develop a training program within the frames of which learners can develop new skills, succeed in collaboration, understand their personal weak and strong working qualities. The design of the program is not complicated. First, the interviews with the company’s employees should be conducted to gain an understanding of the current state of affairs and employees’ and leaders’ needs, demands, and possibilities. Second, a feedback survey is organized for the participants to help them identify the skills they need to develop. Third, the development and implementation of the program take place. Two weeks are available to develop a program, and two months are given to implement training.

The success of the program should be predetermined by the fact that it is based on the ideas of employees and leaders. People, who are involved in the activities that can be improved, share their opinions about what they may need and how they can get. The costs should be evaluated, and the most appropriate alternatives should be chosen. It is suggested to do the following kind of work:

  • Two-week courses are offered to the employees and leaders about the basics of family-firm business, leadership techniques, and communication that can be developed between all people involved in this kind of business;
  • One week is given to the participants to implement a new theoretical knowledge in practice, pose questions, and underline the challenges and improvements that can be observed;
  • One week is given for the analysis of the information and the creation a plan for the next two-week course plan;
  • The second month is characterized by the combined training and practices.

Ethical Considerations and Outcomes

Before starting research about the possibility to implement action learning in a certain family firm in Saudi Arabia, it is important to clarify all ethical and organizational aspects and knowledge leaders have to understand. First of all, action learning remains to be the method in the frames of which leadership skills are built, and leadership behaviour is improved (Leonard & Lang, 2010). It means that any kind of activity or decision made during the process can influence a working process as well as human nature. Therefore, it is necessary to comprehend the ethical aspects of the case such as

  • The intention to participate in research should be personal (no blackmails, specific conditions or rewards can be offered to the participants);
  • The researcher should learn about the organization where action learning will be used as the main method to improve the skills of the current leaders (it is possible to surf the web, communicate with the firm’s representatives, or ask customers or stakeholders of the firm for their opinions about the work and people of the chosen organization);
  • The firm and all its employee should have access to the description of research (if a person wants to know more about why they are participating or what are the possible outcomes, the researcher has to provide people with such information).

Taking into consideration the conditions under which research should be conducted and the theory that has been already discussed about the activities and skills that have to be developed by the leaders of family firms and the worth of action learning for leaders, it is expected to achieve the results that can help to improve the work of the whole company. There is no necessity to explain the possible threats or weaknesses of action learning for developing leadership skills. It is more important to introduce clear and illustrative examples of how action learning can be implemented in a family company and help leaders choose the best solutions for their people and the best approaches to work with people. Communication, collaboration, and support have to be the main aspects of the work. Still, leaders should not forget about the line between a person, who leads a company, and a person, who tries to save good relations with all employees. Even family organizations should be clearly divided into the departments and sections where people take their own responsibilities and duties. Action learning is a chance to clarify if a leader of family firm in Saudi Arabia can take the steps and learn some new material about their possible work that can improve the results of the company and demonstrate effective outcomes in a short period of time.


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