Saad Hariri: Like Father, Like Son

May 22, 2010

Amer Chehade

February 14, 2005 was unlike any other Valentine’s Day, witnessing the killing of Rafiq Hariri, twice Prime Minister of Lebanon, and also a business tycoon with global political and economical ties

After his father’s assassination, Saad Hariri,was chosen by the family to be his heir, heading his political movement and hence, becoming a key player in the Lebanese political arena while maintaining his business leadership responsibilities within the family interests such as Oger

Despite his limited experience in politics, Saad Hariri, was able to gain and maintain acceptance and respect from national and international co-players. Today [May 2010] he remains Prime Minister of Lebanon with a parliamentary majority.

He continues to manage and influence family business on a part-time basis while occupying the Prime Minister’s post having to keep up with political changes and challenges, even among allies, while tailoring trust in his dealings with rival leaders.

A tough start

Saad Hariri’s political start, though backed by the heavy inheritance of his father, confronted the obstacles of the creation of UN special tribunal set up after his father’s assassination, and political upheavals that marked the period of the 2006 Israeli war and the internal security conflict of May7, 2007. Saad Hariri has passed through these several minefields successfully and now is facing further military and economic challenges.

He has promised to fight corruption, applying Paris III conference aid prerequisites. His cabinet (National unity government) is thinking of raising the State’s income (more taxes/VAT) thus earning further criticisms on economic and political grounds. In some ways he faces a re-run of challenges faced by his father.

Leadership in the genes?

It might be argued that Saad supports the theory of leadership arising from genetic factors (‘born to lead’). It is correct that he is a billionaire ($4.1B), son of a billionaire, a Lebanese leader whose wealth is managed abroad and whose background enabled his political career to flourish quickly.

Saad Hariri is showing, day by day, that, if some of his father’s traits are not inherited genetically, some others are cloned and raised identically. This is evidence that his followers were anxious for a continuance of the leadership style of Rafic Hariri and his political skills at network building with others, even his adversaries. Saad is following the steps of his father by normalizing relations and meeting with rival leaders, always talking peacefully for the good of the country, and the “common interests of the nation”. The son may disagree with many other politicians but like his father has never been caught insulting or gossiping about them. This is evident also in his speeches.

History repeating itself?

Saad Hariri, a few months in the post as PM, and five years as head of Future political movement, is catching up the trails of his father, a proof of and a prerequisite of political resilience against counterparts. Saad Hariri cannot but continue the trail of his father yet has to face his father’s challenges. The pattern of “history repeats itself” and the resemblance of the Son’s trail to his Father’s, make anyone guess that the Son can best reach his Father’s level, as Lebanon faces a simple yet complex formula: The saying is that Lebanon is not allowed to die, yet Lebanon is not allowed to live. This conclusion (and saying) has made me, like many others, seek a better future abroad. It has produced a Diaspora, which included Rafic and Saad Hariri. However, both returned to Lebanon to serve their people and country, I hope I will have my chance some day.

The riskiest dilemma is that Saad Hariri, the Son, to strengthen leadership, his has no choice but to follow the trail of his Father so that he perfectly reflects the saying “like father, like son”. Nevertheless, I hope that he contradicts his father’s trail by at least one of his steps, his very last step…that of February 14, 2005.


This post was developed from an assignment set within the Manchester Business School Worldwide MBA Program. The views expressed are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of other parties including MBSW, and Leaders We Deserve.