Emma Smiling face

From Rock Bottom to Woman on Top

In conversation with Emma Burdett.

Emma Burdett is the definitive multihyphenate. Not only is she a diversity champion, keynote speaker, and transformational coach, but she’s also the founder of WILD – Women in Leadership Deliver. The Dubai-based entrepreneur created the platform for all women to come together, create connections, collaborate, and conquer after a series of life events put her on the path from hitting rock bottom to finding her true calling as an advocate of gender equality. 

Following her success with one-on-one coaching, Emma is gearing up to launch a group coaching programme in November 2021 – but that’s just the beginning. She’s also in the process of setting up WILD Consult in order to guide companies on their Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) strategies and taking the WILD movement to several countries across the region and beyond. As for how she seeks balance and what she has observed while helping women reach their true potential? Listen in.


How would you describe the WILD woman?


WILD is a community of women where existing and future leaders come together and share knowledge with a view to inspire and have a sense of belongingness. Not only do I work with women to help them create wildly successful and meaningful lives, but also become the best version of themselves. The WILD woman is one who realises her full potential, breaks through limitation, transforms fear and doubt, gains confidence, and develops into a powerful leader.


Can you tell us a little about how you work with women?


I work with women in many ways. I work with women on a one-to-one private coaching basis and group coaching where WILD Women can learn together and feel part of a community. Throughout my journey, I’ve had lots of transformations and breakthroughs as a result of going from a breakdown to my biggest breakthrough which was creating and building WILD with no capital and no support – just an idea and a vision and a whole lot of passion and faith! Along the way, I myself have learned and uplevelled my skill set, taking me from being broken, vulnerable, scared, and fearful to being confident and very grounded. To now scaling my own business at an exponential rate.

As my profile with WILD has grown, I have become a keynote speaker and my area of expertise is confidence in presenting and speaking, so I generally work with women from my community who see my journey as inspiring and want to be confident and feel powerful. A big group of my women work in the corporate world and want to go to the next level, perhaps reach director level. I also work with women to build their own women’s networks. Lastly, I’m an advocate for gender balance. Women occupy only 16% of leadership roles, but we know that gender equality contributes to greater productivity, innovation, and corporate returns. That’s why I work with women to become powerful leaders on a one-to-one basis, all working towards the bigger picture of gender equality.


What struggles do women in particular grapple with?


Confidence and impostor syndrome – those are the two things I encounter most often, even when working with the women who are very, very senior in the workplace. In fact, the more senior they are, the more they struggle with impostor syndrome. These feelings of inadequacy are endemic of women worldwide as we all have what I would call wreckage from the past – often from childhood – which we keep pushing aside and trying to cover up. We have to start by dealing with those things that are holding us back, which is limitation and doubt.


Based on your observations, what is it that women fear most?


Fear is actually something that I talk a lot about on my social media channels because I’m big into mindset. We have something like 80,000 thoughts a day – 95% of them are the same as the day before – and a huge 80% of them are negative. Fear is an acronym for ‘false evidence appearing real’. Women fear failure, we fear stepping out of our comfort zone, we fear judgment and what other people say and think about us. Those things, whether combined or in isolation, massively hold us back. The limitations are only in our mind. What will they think if I do this? What if I do that and fail?

Unfortunately, all of these things keep us playing small. If you’re ready for a transformation and you’re serious about going to the next level, you have to be uncomfortable and do things that you’ve maybe never done before because nothing comes from a comfort zone. I wrote WILD from scratch after getting fired and experiencing a breakdown. I had nowhere to go except turning to my faith, but built a women’s network and answered my calling. Was I uncomfortable? Yes. But I really believe that we can start to claim our personal power when we get out of our own way and escape the headlock of fear. And that’s why I want to work with women and help them realise their potential.


Fields like construction, aviation, and finance remain notoriously male-dominated. What needs to change?


D&I is a topic very close to my heart. When I started WILD back in July 2018, gender diversity was a little bit under the radar. But between the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements, companies are now being called out for not being diverse over the last few years, so that’s good. Shareholders, consumers, and clients are also demanding more diverse teams now. For me, what needs to change is companies moving from ‘say’ to ‘do’ – a strapline on a website isn’t sufficient. The first step is building greater awareness around the cause. It’s a complex topic and something that people really don’t understand. Even when I created WILD, I faced quite a bit of pushback from the market. ‘What are these women’s networks?’ they’d say. Well, actually, women’s networks are to counter the boys’ clubs because we know that men in traditionally male-dominated sectors build what we call informal networks. And these informal networks are the boys’ clubs that women can’t infiltrate and where much business is done.

The second step is actually strategy and implementation. But it’s not just about recruiting more women – it’s about creating an inclusive environment where women can contribute. One thing I hear all the time is small numbers beget small numbers. So if you’ve got a couple of women leaders in a meeting, they’ll often be overshadowed by men, they’ll be talked over, they’ll be discredited. All this stops women from speaking up in meetings because they’ll think, ‘Well, what’s the point?’ It also means there aren’t as many role models or mentors for younger women because there is often a ‘think-leader-think-man’ mindset. We have to overcome that bias in order to create an inclusive environment, and a key component is getting men on board as engineers of change. There’s so much work to be done in this space and we’re nowhere near where we need to be. There’s actually more male CEOs called John than there are women in total. I always remind companies that more women in leadership results in higher corporate returns. It’s been proven, so it’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?


How do you feel about the term ‘female entrepreneur’ – empowering or offensive?


I definitely don’t find it offensive. I mean, I am a female entrepreneur and there’s way more things to be offended about. But there is something that I would like to add. Sadly, a lot of women don’t support other women, and I always say that if we’re ever going to tackle gender inequality, we need to support each other – how are we ever going to be taken seriously if we don’t? I see too much judgement and too much competitiveness, and maybe that’s because there aren’t enough leadership positions, so women are scrambling over each of them to get to the top, but I massively believe in collaboration over competition. We’re just so much more powerful if we come from a place of solidarity and sisterhood, and I wish more women understood this. Let’s support each other, let’s come together. That’s fundamental, especially as we’re tackling inequality.


The term work/life balance is rather divisive – some say it’s an achievement, others say it’s yet another double standard. Where do you stand?


I’ve done some talks on the ‘can you have it all?’ subject, and what I deduce is no, you cannot – not without sacrificing something, at least. An example is Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, who was asked that question and felt that her relationship with her daughters had been compromised because of her position. Can you have it all? Honestly speaking, I think you can have it all, but something has to be compromised. Personally, I don’t believe in hustle and burning out in order to be successful. I think you need to work smart. 

There’s a new age thought leader who I follow named Gabrielle Bernstein, and she’s a proponent of ‘do less, attract more’. It’s about attracting as opposed to chasing and an actual theory that I’ve been following for the last two years, and I’ve had so many opportunities come my way as a result of staying true to my values instead of pushing and controlling. Obviously, taking action is important – I’m not just waiting for things to happen – but I’m not doing things out of fear or need or desperation. Instead, I’m working on my own personal development and growth, making sure I meditate, staying centred, and therefore attracting the right circumstances. This concept of hustle is an outdated one. You’re no good to anyone burned out with health issues. After dealing with health issues of my own and reevaluating my priorities, I believe balance is more important than work-life balance.


Successful people have their morning routines down to a T. What’s yours?


Habits and rituals are everything! They’re life-changing. I meditate and listen to an inspiring podcast every single day without fail. I do a gratitude journal almost every day, and exercise three or four times a week. In fact, one of my coaching sessions is called ‘Habits and Rituals’, and I’m shocked at how many people don’t have them. They simply wake up, get dressed, and go to work – that in itself causes unfulfillment. I recommend setting your alarm 30 minutes earlier, but don’t jump out of bed and don’t turn on your phone. Practise gratitude, whether it’s in your head or a journal – it gets us in an amazing state of mind and sets us up for the day. Meditation has changed my life; it’s opened me to expand my awareness, to heal, to improve concentration. And now that I’ve dedicated my life’s work to supporting women in transforming, I wouldn’t get women to do all of this if I hadn’t seen the results myself.


What’s one assumption that people falsely make about you?


Many look at successful people and think that you’ve had things handed to you, that you’ve been given an opportunity. I’ve worked incredibly hard and sacrificed a lot – it’s been blood, sweat, and tears to get WILD to where it is, but I’ve never had any handouts or anything like that.


What one thing do you know now that you didn’t one year ago?


That there is infinite possibility. Anything is possible when we remove limitations and doubt. When I started working with coaches and broke through my limitations, there were infinite opportunities and possibilities to tap into, and I hope that I’m an example – building WILD from awful circumstances and a rock bottom moment to, now, having this growth on an exponential level with no funding. It shows you that anything is possible, and that’s what I’ve really realised in the last year. Always stay open to creative possibilities. We live in an abundant universe, and infinite possibilities are available to us.


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Self-Care for Women

Why Self-Care Is Crucial for Working Women

Caregiving begins with taking care of yourself.

Invited to speak at a Pinktober event recently, I chose the topic ‘Caring for Caregivers’. October and November are months dedicated to increasing awareness on breast cancer and prostate cancer, and as such, focus on self-care. My topic caused a bit of confusion with people expecting another speech focused on the disease, the patient, or the treatment – certainly not the caregiver.

What I have realised is that the term ‘caregiver’ comes with an entourage of associated emotions and labels. The focus is always only on the person being taken care of, with associated emotions ranging from guilt to selflessness. By association, the word ‘care’ has come to take on the meaning of only being directed towards others – more so when you’re a woman, the ultimate caregiver.

I’d like to share a brief version of the popular children’s fable, The Magic Porridge Pot. A poor couple with barely enough to eat themselves hears a knock on the door. They open it to find a tired, hungry traveller. Inviting him in, they share their frugal meal with him and give him a bed for the night. The next morning, the grateful stranger reveals that he is, in fact, an angel and would like to reward their generosity. He gifts them with a magic pot that will never, ever run out of food.

I hear you sighing longingly and asking where we can order this magic pot, too. Let me know when you find it! In the meantime, coming back to caregivers, we like to think of ourselves as magic porridge pots with an unending source of care to give. The truth, however, is that we need to stop every now and again to recharge our batteries and refill our resources so we can resume sharing them with others. In other words, we turn the care inwards and direct it at ourselves, i.e. self-care.

Having been raised to be caregivers for others, with the concept of selfless love drilled into their heads, most women find self-care a difficult concept to accept. It battles with all that they have been told a so-called good *insert role* does. You put others first, more so when you are a wife/mother, always putting the needs of your family above your own. While this school of thought is gradually tapering out, it is still strong enough to make self-care something we need to write about in a magazine, so women will know it’s perfectly alright for them to indulge in it themselves.

Self-care is Important For Women


The primary gut response to sometimes even thinking about taking time out to do something just for yourself is guilt. On a personal level, this can sound like:

“This is time I should be spending on carrying out my role as professional/spouse/parent/daughter.”

“It’s not like I really NEED to do this, it’s actually a bit of a luxury/pampering/treat.” 

“Shouldn’t I be spending this money on something more useful?” 

“Doesn’t X need something like this more?”

“Isn’t this a bit selfish of me?”

The same guilt sounds more like this when it refers to a professional context:

“I am so desperately unhappy in this job, but feel so guilty about quitting.”

“Just because I’m being disrespected here doesn’t mean I have to jeopardise my job by speaking up.”

“I know I deserve a better role, but I’ll be letting down so many people if I move on.”

It’s quite funny how the guilt can spring up over something as silly as taking a break for coffee with a friend or buying fancy bath salts, let alone the high-level guilt that comes from taking a longer break to just chill and relax, or resign from a toxic workplace. This guilt stems from the intrinsic belief that time and money need to be spent on (and earned for) someone else selflessly. 

The Talking-Down

After the guilt comes the talking-down. Talking yourself and your needs down in relation to someone else and what they are going through or what they need. Talking down whatever state you are in – mentally, physically, emotionally – with accompanying justification is something all women go through. And it might sound something like this: our mums’ generation never made a fuss about this; this is natural at this age; everyone in my profession has this level of stress; who isn’t stressed these days?

When we finally do get to move past the talk-down and still continue with our plans, a well-placed sarcastic question or comment from a colleague or relative could have you backtracking in a second, cancelling all plans because you realise they are so right.

Why is it important for women to take self-care

Justifying the Spend

This is the one that women find the hardest. A legacy of the hunter-gatherer days for women is that we were the ones who managed whatever was hunted/gathered, ensuring it lasted as long as possible and was distributed as needed. Resource management has, ever since, been our strongest suit, often leading to wives being teasingly referred to as the Finance Minister or Home Minister.

Having always been responsible for managing the resources for the wider group, the concept of staking a claim for ourselves therefore goes against the grain. There is the niggling feeling that this could have been given to someone else because they might need it more. So how do we negate all this hard-coded conditioning and rewrite it with the empowering belief that we are worthy of care, too?

framed quote

Put Yourself First

Referring to the magic porridge pot story earlier: you cannot be who you are meant to be or do what you are meant to do if you are not in the best shape physically, mentally, and emotionally. By ensuring that your batteries are always fully charged and you are working in peak form, you are ensuring that what you give others – in any capacity – is your best, making it a win-win for everyone.

If Not You, Then Who?

It’s a question that usually stumps my clients. Because the truth is that you are the only one who values your well-being (or should value it!) so much. If you think you deserve better, more, or something else, newsflash: you are the only one who can give that to yourself. Too often, we wait for a manager, spouse, partner, or parent to see what we’re going through and take care of it for us. Not going to happen. Wake up and go after what you want.

Talk Yourself Up 

We know what the opposite does, so go ahead and switch it around. Tell yourself how impressed you are with what you are doing or have just done. List out the attributes you are proud of, the specific details of whatever it is you said or did that made you proud and include even the silly little ones.

Imagine you are talking about someone else and objectively list out the reasons they deserve to make that decision. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to do for someone other than yourself. It is often very easy to appreciate and acknowledge what others do and achieve, and simultaneously find it equally hard to do the same for ourselves. This easy workaround is a great way to get over this and learn to value yourself and your own well-being more.

You Are Someone’s Role Model

Keeping that in mind will help you make decisions that you won’t regret. People, kids in particular, model our behaviours – not our words. So, if you are in a role that impacts how others think and behave, you have a responsibility to show them how to take care of themselves and their well-being by taking care of yours. Lead by example. You never know who you could be inspiring with your proactive self-care.

Bina Mathews is an Executive Master Coach and Communications Consultant at Bina Mathews Consulting FZE. Visit www.coachbina.com or follow @coachbina on Instagram for more information.


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Expert Tips To Run A Business

5 Expert Tips on How to Run a Business Seamlessly 

Are you ready to take the entrepreneurial leap?

As the founder of a relatively new business, My Eco Souk, I’ve firsthand learned the realities of kickstarting a start-up. This past year has been surreal; starting a business from scratch and running it seamlessly is no child’s play. One must run a tight ship and ensure the smooth functioning of all matters. No matter what business you’re in, you will always have competition. At first, it can seem intimidating to face a saturated market.

That’s why it’s more important than ever in today’s business world to stand out from the crowd. With so many businesses vying for attention, making yours stand out from the rest can be difficult. However, if you’re committed and informed, no obstacle is big enough to put you off your path. Some key factors can help you run a business smoothly, and I am here to impart some important lessons to those who want to take the entrepreneurial leap. In my personal experience, here are the ones I treasure the most.

Tips To Run A Business

Tip 1: A Strong Team Is Your Backbone

A dedicated team of like-minded and appropriately skilled individuals is pivotal to the functioning of any organisation. This could be your core team, a council, or even volunteers/interns/regular employees. A team that will back you up no matter what and work to turn your vision into reality is necessary. It is not a battle to be fought alone, but a team effort. 

Having a solid team of trusted individuals also allows various mindsets and ideas to flow and enter the discourse. It also increases chances of accountability as well as a division of workload. Moreover, having people to rely on can be significant while running a business, which may very well take a toll on a person’s emotional and mental well-being. 

There are countless benefits of having an excellent team to fall back on. Your team’s combined skill set and knowledge can help you to overcome obstacles that you might feel insurmountable on your own. They can guide you to see things from a different perspective, which is invaluable. Most importantly, they remind you that the world is not on your shoulders and that all the burden is shared till the aspiration is realised.

Pro Tips for Running a Business

Tip 2: Execution Is Key

Businesses need to be unique and ready to adapt to the ever-changing market. Ideas are constantly circulating among those involved in running a relevant business. However, it takes more than just ideas to be successful. It is essential to have a concrete plan that is executed promptly and effectively. 

A group of people who are good at generating ideas is excellent, but if those ideas are not turned into actionable plans, they will not amount to anything. Therefore, it is crucial for businesses to have great ideas and the ability to execute them properly. Execution brings a result – and the result, good or bad, can only add to your learning and experience. 

As a leader, it is essential that you take charge and pick which ideas you want to bring to life. Discussing with your team is a key part of this process; make sure everyone knows your vision and considers their opinions. It’s also crucial that you don’t spend too much time mulling things over without taking action – every execution has value, even if the outcome isn’t what you initially hoped for.

Growing a Successful Business

Tip 3: Be Adaptive to Changes

While working through an idea, you might often realise that it is not exactly going as you envisioned. This is very common when it comes to implementing ideas. Reality is far removed from one’s ideals, and many adjustments must be made. 

In cases like these, it is important to learn early on to take things in your stride. Not every plan is rigid, and not every process is set in stone. There are bound to be changes and last-minute decisions that might throw you off. What matters is to be flexible and grow around those changes instead of shrinking below their weight.

Accepting changes and working flexibly helps in the long run compared to being stubborn and sticking to a redundant way of doing things. Being ready and not letting inevitable bumps hamper your spirit will work out in your favour more than anything else.

Tips to Craft a Strong Business Plan

Tip 4: Networking Is Necessary

Networking is an essential component of any business endeavour. It allows for exchanging information, building relationships, and acquiring new skills and knowledge. Networking is not simply a process of acquiring new customers or clients; it is also an opportunity to learn about new platforms, resources, and strategies that can be used to grow your business. 

By engaging in networking activities, you will gain a better understanding of your industry and the competition, and you will be able to build strong relationships with other professionals who can help you grow your business. In short, networking is an essential part of any successful business venture. The more you expand your network and interact with individuals across the spectrum, the more perspective and the more ideas it brings you.

It is also an excellent way to invite collaborations and build long-lasting partnerships that are enormously important to getting ahead in this field. Networking does not have to be delegated to employees or interns. Actively participating in it as a leader can convey that you are an involved and eager individual, willing to take the reins into your own hands when necessary.

man standing holding a tablet and credit card

Tip 5: Be Ready to Invest and Persist

Investing will be an integral part of your start-up. Ideas and execution require resources, and resources require money. Money and time will be key investments that you will have to gear up for while trying to make a business work – being patient is also necessary. Persistence is vital when it comes to investing. You cannot sow and expect to reap the next day. It will take time and understanding and, most importantly, faith. 

People often invest large amounts of time and money in a particular idea, hoping for instant success and profit. My time in the field has taught me otherwise. The marketplace is often unpredictable, and being consistent is the only thing that will get you far enough to secure any sort of achievement or recognition. 

In the one year I have spent as the founder of My Eco Souk, things have certainly not been a piece of cake. I have a long way to go before I can see myself as an established business owner. I will strive to learn and step out of my comfort zone. These were some of the treasured tips I gathered in the months that have gone by. Sharing it with fellow newbies in the start-up arena brings me immense joy because I also would have wanted someone to share these with me!

Garima Gupta is the owner and CEO of My Eco Souk, an online marketplace for sustainable and environmentally friendly products. Visit www.myecosouk.com or follow @myecosouk on Instagram for more information.


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Gender Bias in the Workplace

Let’s Talk Gender Bias in the Workplace

In honour of International Day of the Girl, today.

If there’s anything on-trend right now, it’s inclusivity, diversity, and gender – the media is practically screaming at us about! Some may say it’s about time, while others may question what the point is. That being said, there is no greater time to be a woman and define who you are on your own terms than now. Incidentally, today marks the 10th anniversary of International Day of the Girl, a day designated to eliminate the gender-based challenges faced by little girls worldwide, including child marriages, poor learning opportunities, violence, and discrimination. 

But the bad news is that it’s not just men who are subjecting females of all ages to discrimination, it’s not just men who are guilty of ‘gender bias’. Let me explain. Have you or a friend ever judged a woman based on her weight, job, fashion choices, food choices, or comments? Ever commented, “I can’t believe she did that/said that/wore that!” If yes, it could indicate that you may have a bias towards the female gender, which means there is an unspoken expectation of what or how a woman ‘should’ speak or even act. These ‘shoulds’ are societal female expectations that make women base their relationships on persona and conduct – all of which relate to the self.

Men, meanwhile, typically base relationships on performance, influence, and goal orientation in the workplace. But fear not; everyone has a ‘bias’ towards something, and this is indicative of our upbringing, culture, environment, job role, and relationship status. However, by being aware of our biases, we can come to a place of acceptance and therefore become open to building stronger connections that will benefit our personal life and career. 

Women offer so many skills and, in fact, the new term ‘soft skills’ (which includes empathy, a strong sense of emotional intelligence, the ability to make others feel heard, and a sense of perspective) are all skills that I believe women inherently possess. And we have all this whilst taking on 70% of household decisions! We sound truly unstoppable, right? But it comes at a cost – USD 160.2 trillion to be exact. That’s how much money was lost due to gender inequality in the workplace. In fact, the same report on the cost of gender equality estimated that full gender equality can increase the world GDP by USD 28 trillion by 2025.

gender discrimination in workplace

Companies can transform million dollar ideas and concepts into trillions by checking their bias and focusing on the strengths and the incredible skill sets that women can offer. It can do this by allowing flexible working hours, the ability to work from home, part-time working options, and female mentorship programmes that create a space for women to talk about their performance and collaborate with others.

Let’s now start small and check your bias to allow you to look at a new perspective. When you think of a CEO, who do you think of? A male or female? When you think of a parent, do you think of a male or female? When you think of the breadwinner of a household, do you think of a male or female? If you’ve answered male to most of these questions, this shows that you may share the societal bias towards one gender over the other. It’s powerful and impactful to know our mindset as it puts us in a place of awareness, collaboration, and exploration. It can also make our experiences and relationships stronger and more meaningful.

According to a study conducted at Cornell University: “Women tend to underestimate their confidence, whilst men will overestimate their abilities.” Another study found that men will apply for a job role with only 60% of the credentials, compared to women, who will apply for a role with only 100%. Here are ways to check your bias and thrive with confidence if faced with a job opportunity.

Ask Yourself:

  • What can I offer this role?
  • If confidence or self-belief wasn’t holding me back, what would I do?
  • What’s holding me back?
  • What impact would I make if I had this role?
  • Why not me?

If You Own a Business, Consider the Following Questions: 

  • Could the company benefit from a different perspective?
  • How gender equal are we in this company?
  • Is our team stronger in one gender than the other?
  • What gaps need filling when it comes to gender equality?

These small insights and perspectives can offer a host of knowledge about what sets us back. Remember ladies, we all are worthy of achieving our goals and dreams – and 2022 is truly our time – so be proud, make a stand, and show the world who you truly are. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “I was once afraid of people saying, ‘Who does she think she is?’ Now I have the courage to say, ‘This is who I am.'” 


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How to Be an Empathetic Leader

The Dos and Don’ts of Being an Empathetic Leader

Empathy isn’t reserved for your personal life.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s that it weeded out the weak and ineffective leaders, and spotlighted those who exhibited good leadership skills. Good leaders were able to navigate their companies through uncertain waters while maintaining employee morale and productivity.

While these good leaders possess many qualities, the one that we will focus on here is empathy, as that was the one brought into sharp focus over the past few years – because even leaders with the best strategy and roadmap for the company will not be able to get everyone to share that vision and own it if they don’t have empathy. And everyone knows you get further and faster when everyone is equally motivated by the end goal.

That’s where an empathic leadership style comes in. It can make everyone feel like a team and increase productivity, morale, and loyalty. When a colleague has an issue, for instance, they may be frustrated and just want you to listen to them. By something as simple as letting them tell you all the details before responding, you can show them you value what they have to say. And Gallup surveys have consistently revealed that people value being valued more than increased salaries!

Teams with empathetic leaders are more innovative and push the boundaries more, as they feel safe in the knowledge that they won’t be blamed for failures in these experiments. Leaders benefit from empathy as it helps them to understand the root cause behind poor performance and address it constructively.

Ways You Can Improve Your Empathic Leadership Skills

Let’s Dig Deep About Empathy

Empathy is a hard skill to quantify, but leaders who have it are generally able to lead through challenging times more successfully. Good leaders know how to collect input and suggestions from everyone, make a decision that is best suited for the organisation, and fulfill the (reasonable) requirements of the majority. 

In order to recognise the qualities of being empathetic, it is important to understand what empathy means. According to Wikipedia, empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. 

Given the divide between management and the rest of the organisation, it’s a given that executives cannot understand the issues faced by the rest of the employees. By being empathetic, leaders bridge this divide and connect on a human level, strengthening loyalty and pride in being a part of the organisation.

Empathy is a key factor in Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ), which measures an individual’s abilities to recognise and manage their emotions and the emotions of other people, both individually and in groups. An empathetic leader with a high EQ will know which of the three aspects of empathy – cognitive (head/thinking), affective (heart/feeling), and behavioural (action/doing) – to use in a given situation.

A Few Dos and Don’ts of Being an Emphatic Leader

Empathetic leaders can steer a company through turbulent times by providing employees with the understanding and recognition they need to navigate the crisis. It’s not all woo-woo and fluffy stuff, either. In fact, the quantifiable benefits can be seen in the level of innovation, employee engagement, and retention rates – not to mention employees who are brand ambassadors, building up your reputation as an employer of choice.

Empathetic leaders understand the consequences of their decisions on everyone in the company. They are able to look beyond whatever is happening at the moment, inspire, encourage, and strategise in ways that will motivate employees at all levels.

Empathetic leadership style

So if we were to condense all this into a quick checklist for empathetic leaders:

  1. Show genuine interest in others and their situations.
  2. Be willing to support team members with their personal issues.
  3. Schedule one-on-one meetings to stay connected.
  4. Keep an eye out for work burnout.
  5. Implement employee analytics.
  6. Validate how the other person is feeling.
  7. Develop your listening skills.
  8. Challenge your biases.
  9. Build a great culture to generate speed. 
  10. Approach problems from a different perspective.

A few behaviours to avoid:

  1. Don’t ask people to “earn your trust”.
  2. Don’t neglect those who are making the transition to a management role. 
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in order to understand better.

The skills that make an empathetic leader can be learned through training and coaching, and are a worthwhile investment. You will reap the dividends through increased employee engagement, higher morale levels, and a corresponding increase in productivity and quality of work. These skills will also serve you well in your personal life, but that’s another article for another time!

Bina Mathews is an Executive Master Coach and Communications Consultant at Bina Mathews Consulting FZE. Visit www.coachbina.com or @coachbina for more information.


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Inspiring Emirati Women

10 Trailblazers You May Not Know – But Should

All hail these heroines.

Forget everything you think you know about Emirati women because, in 2022, this is a demographic defying stereotypes and shattering glass ceilings in the fields of film, fashion, sports, aviation, and more. Case in point? Every single woman on this list.

Here, The Gaggler reveals 10 Emirati women who are trailblazers in their fields and how to follow them – in honour of Emirati Women’s Day, of course. For the uninitiated, Emirati Women’s Day is celebrated annually on August 28, with this year’s theme being ‘Inspiring Reality… Sustainable Future’, reflecting the UAE’s commitment to a green future that prioritises gender equality.

1. Amna Al Haddad

Youth mentor? Check. Published author? Check. Mental health advocate? Check again. As for what earns Amna Al Haddad a spot on this list? Not only is she the first female Emirati weightlifter, but she also became the first Arab and GCC national to compete in the Reebok Crossfit Asia Regionals in South Seoul – and did so wearing her hijab. Today, Amna is an inspirational speaker, using her unique journey from depression to dumbbells to imprint hope and determination in the minds of her audiences.

Follow her here.

2. Amna Al Qubaisi

Conquering a traditionally masculine field is Amna Al Qubaisi, the first Emirati female racing driver. Incidentally, Amna trained as a gymnast, but it was her father – Le Mans racing driver Khaled Al Qubaisi – and his passion for all things motorsport that steered her in a new direction. At only 18, she became the first Arab woman to take part in a Formula E test when she drove for the Envision Virgin Racing team back in 2018 and the rest, as they say, is history. She went on to win her first F4 UAE race at Yas Marina Circuit in 2019 and make her F3 debut in the Formula Regional Asian Championship earlier this year, setting her sights on Formula One in the long run.

Follow her here.

Amna Al Qubaisi
Image: Courtesy of Guido De Bortoli

3. Fahima Falaknaz

Another pioneer in a super-masculine world? Fahima Falaknaz, the first Emirati female boxer. Citing Bruce Lee as her idol growing up, she made history when she became the first Emirati female boxer to represent the UAE in the Asian Boxing Confederation Championship in 2019. Today, she’s determined to see more women in the ring, joining Real Boxing Only gym in Al Quoz to coach ladies-only fitness classes and dispel the myth that martial arts are only for men. Not only is she a vocal proponent of the mental and physical benefits that come with boxing, but she also uses her platform to speak up against bullying.

Follow her here.

4. Hanady Alhashmi

There’s mountaineers – and then there are mountaineers with a purpose. Meet Hanady Alhashmi, who is celebrated not only for summiting five of the world’s Seven Summits, but also for being the first Emirati woman to successfully climb Denali in Alaska. Even more impressive are her efforts to raise awareness around Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, as part of the #ClimbforMS initiative. In fact, when lockdown prevented her from conquering the remaining two summits, she ‘scaled’ Everest at home, using a treadmill at varied inclines to simulate its height of 8,848 metres in order to highlight how both mountain climbing and living with MS require resilience.

Follow her here.

5. Latifa Al Shamsi

Long before the word ‘influencer’ entered our everyday vernacular, Latifa Al Shamsi was sharing her favourite fashion pieces, dining outlets, and travel destinations with her followers – a figure that now exceeds 393,000 on Instagram. While her claim to fame is the fact that she’s the first Emirati fashion and lifestyle blogger, the tastemaker has only garnered a whole new fan base between navigating motherhood and running her fashion events company, Events by Latifa Al Shamsi.

Follow her here.

6. Nayla Al Khaja

Filmmaker, motivational speaker, brand ambassador, and cultural consultant – Nayla Al Khaja is the definitive multihyphenate. As the first female director in the UAE, she has made her country proud. She has been recognised for her work at numerous international film festivals such as the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) and the Italian Movie Award, Pompeii, and her films have taken part in more than 42 festivals around the world. She’s even received the accolade of Best Emirati Filmmaker. Her most recent film The Shadow will be turned into an international motion picture titled Three, which is expected to be released in 2023.

Follow her here.

Nayla Al Khaja

7. Areej Al Hammadi

Long before interest in female football picked up in the UAE, Areej Al Hammadi was determined to follow her passion. She earned her first cap for the country back in August 2015. Since then, the international footballer has had over 40 caps with the UAE national team, is a Guinness World Records holder, and is a proud Adidas athlete. She aims to inspire other Emirati women just like her to embrace sports and challenge the cultural barriers around it. 

Follow her here.

8. Rafeea Al-Hajsi

Rafeea Al Hajsi officially became the first Emirati model in 2016, making history as she strut the catwalk at Arab Fashion Week. And she hasn’t looked back since. Today, she’s also an artist, an actress, and a TV host – and continues to reign as a runway model. Delving into the behind-the-scenes struggles that she has faced, the striking beauty has admitted that it hasn’t always been easy in the industry, citing online trolls, social taboos, and staying true to her roots as factors. Nevertheless, Rafeea has persisted and walked the runway for the likes of Laura Mancini and Aiisha Ramadan.

Follow her here.

9. Sheikha Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum

Sheikha-turned-captain Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum is a trailblazer in the aviation industry, starting her career as a commercial first officer at Emirates airline in 2017, making her the first female pilot in Dubai. Shortly after, the princess – yes, she’s part of the Al Maktoum family – went on to become the first woman to be appointed as First Lieutenant Pilot at Dubai Police. As for her ultimate focus? Gender equality in aviation. Sheikha Mozah founded the Women in Aviation Association (SHEHANA) in 2019 in order to accelerate the development of women in the aviation industry not only as pilots or crew members, but also as lawyers, engineers, and other vital roles.

Follow her here.

Sheikha Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum

10. Zahra Lari 

Figure skater Zahra Lari has stolen hearts everywhere for so many other reasons: she’s the first woman to have competed internationally while wearing a headscarf, she’s the reason UAE became the first Arab country to join the International Skating Union, she was inspired to take up figure skating after watching Ice Princess. A five-time National Champion, she has been an ambassador of the Nike Pro Hijab line since its launch in 2017, making her a source of inspiration for young Muslim women worldwide. She’s also the founder and CEO of Emirates Skating Club – did we mention she’s only 27?

Follow her here.


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Guide To a Successful Entrepreneurial Journey

Real Talk: What to Expect on the Entrepreneurial Journey

According to someone in the know.

There may never have been a better time in history to be an entrepreneur than now – especially in the burgeoning city that is Dubai. But starting your own business is no easy task, and most people tend to face several doubts and challenges along the process. Today, following the return of World Entrepreneurs’ Day celebrations on August 21, I share some of the most common things that I’ve come across throughout the start-up cycle.

“I feel like I want to start a business.”

The incessant impulse or that initial desire to create change in your life or the market, that lightning strike of creativity and innovation, or simply the passion to move a community forward – are all different versions of the same signal to me. It’s the signal that indicates a call to adventure. Honouring that call requires an act of courage and willingness to take a risk and venture into the unknown.

Tip: Search and create an honest inventory around that impulse. What is the deepest aspiration you have for your venture? Don’t be shy in vocalising and share the big dream, not just the intermediate steps towards it.

“Oh no, I just quit my job and I might fail!”

Overview of the Entrepreneurial Journey

The early stage of entrepreneurship is a vulnerable period. Fear, confusion, self-doubt, dissolution, and disappointment are all part of the starter package. For me, the only path through these feelings has always been to focus on work. Think action and forward motion. I don’t know any entrepreneur who hasn’t felt that way and, while some deal with it better than others, I was not one of them. My business career has had numerous regrettable encounters, but here I am, finally unscathed. 

Tip: The marketplace is a busy and crowded space. However novel or noble your venture, success will almost always involve time, persistence, blind alleys, and wrong turns.

“Should I get a co-founder?”

I may be biased when it comes to this because all my business adventures have always involved co-conspirators. Not only did it help propel my ventures forward, but it also promoted a balanced attitude, thinking, and approach. There are, of course, drawbacks and considerations to founding teams. The wrong fit in a team will sink a venture faster than anything else. If you do not want a co-founder, you can achieve the same result through a variety of ways such as creating an advisory board or a board of directors, finding angel investors, or creating strong option plans for early-stage employees where applicable.

Tip: In the beginning stage, treat every relationship with extra care and attention. Partners, early clients, investors, and employees will have a significant impact on your growth. Make sure your values and visions are aligned and nurture those relationships.

“My business hit its first milestone!”

Make sure to enjoy the moment – but not for too long! As your business starts hitting its stride, your entrepreneurial role shifts towards a leadership role. As a leader, maintaining focus and discipline on what’s around the next corner is a priority.

Tip: As a business matures, the creative and energetic qualities of the entrepreneur can often become counterproductive. It’s important to be in tune with the needs of the business as it shifts towards administration, optimisation, quality, and performance.

“I didn’t sign up for all this paperwork!”

Freelancer Permit

Depending on the country, there can be significant administrative overhead to building a business. It can come in the form of licensing, HR laws, data and privacy, taxes, and industry-specific legal requirements to name just a few. Most countries, however, distinguish between small businesses and large corporations, maintaining different thresholds of regulation depending on the size and maturity of the enterprise. In my experience, Dubai has some of the most start-up friendly culture and governance frameworks compared to other countries I have worked in.

Tip: Check out the Freelancer License. It’s a low-cost, low-risk way to explore the world of freelancing and a first step towards building a business.

“Someone wants to buy my business.”

Congratulations! You are at what investors refer to as “the exit”! It’s very useful to think about the end of your entrepreneurial story before even starting. It’s not necessarily something to plan for or focus on in the beginning, but it’s useful to keep at the back of your mind. It should also influence the types of choices you make early on as it will impact everything from branding to business strategy and corporate structure. Are you building something that will be franchised? Sold to a larger company? Is yours a social enterprise that will be handed over to a community board of trustees?

Tip: Not all businesses need to have an exit – some can be lifestyle and even generational. Whatever the end of the story, it’s worth considering the options before you start.

“Prepare for a journey, not a result.”

Prepare for a journey, not a result

When people ask me about my business, I generally speak about the journey – the people who I’ve met and worked with, and the places that I’ve travelled to. I don’t think my kids know a single one of my business accomplishments, and I like it that way. Having gone through a full start-up cycle from an idea hatched in a coffee shop to a global technology business, I get to now reflect on the experience, and it has inspired me to start a new adventure as a writer.

My first book Man in Motion captures love, wisdom, relationships, and creativity, all while trying to run a business and keep the lights on at home. When I look back and see where I am now, what I cherish most has been the freedom to succeed or fail, to make decisions and be accountable for their consequences, to explore the world, and live my own journey.


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5 Tips to Balance Summer Travel with Running a Business

Yes, it’s possible.

There’s a joke claiming that the phrase ‘family holiday’ is an oxymoron. Parents with very young kids often agree with this while also loving the precious memories they’re building together. This love-hate relationship with vacations is one that a business owner can relate to as well. 

The logical mind agrees that every engine needs downtime to stay in peak running condition. The nervous entrepreneurial mind, however, has a panic attack at the thought of stepping away from the wheel for any amount of time. So what’s the happy balance that would satisfy both? Let’s begin with why taking a break is essential – not a luxury.

We usually break our normal routine when we travel, which means we can’t be on autopilot, thus increasing mindfulness and stimulating well-being. Taking time off improves the capacity to learn. When your brain is completely relaxed, it is better able to integrate knowledge and brainpower. According to a study released by the American Psychological Association, time off helps reduce stress by removing people from the activities and environments they associate with anxiety.

Taking regular vacations could help reduce the risk for metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health issues including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess belly fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Sounds good, but still have those niggling doubts? Here are five tips to help you enjoy your summer vacation with a stress-free mind while keeping your business in check.

1. Goal Check:

Check your goals for the year and assess where you are right now. Prioritise by order of what needs immediate attention in order to stay on track for timely completion. Identify the specific areas that absolutely need to be worked on during the summer break.

2. Delegate:

Once you have a bird’s eye view of the areas that will require attention during your vacation, identify the people best suited to handle them and delegate. If you are a solopreneur, check on outsourcing tasks that fit your budget and plan, so that they can be completed while you’re away. Consider trying out a Virtual Assistant for a while before you travel, so you can assess their efficiency. That would make delegating tasks to them during your absence a smooth transition.

3. Plan Ahead:

Since you are realistically not going to be able to completely switch off work mode, taking care of the following can ensure you get the most out of your time away:

  1. Map out all the main activities and events in your holiday schedule and any critical work-related meetings/calls that you absolutely have to attend. Once you know what you are committed to and when, you can plan accordingly, ensuring no overlaps or unexpected surprise calendar events pop up. This will manage everyone’s expectations as well as ensure boundaries are maintained.
  2. Give your clients and suppliers a heads-up on your travel dates, so they are informed and prepared well in advance. Anticipate things that might pop up during that time and ensure they are either addressed ahead of time or delegated to someone to take care of. Keeping them in the loop keeps them calm and confident that you have a handle on things. It also ensures they have enough time to raise any relevant concerns and allow you to sort them out.

4. Watertight Compartments:

When you are on vacation, be fully in vacation mode, and when you are stepping into your planned work time slots, focus only on that. As I said earlier, maintaining distinct modes ensures healthy boundaries, which honestly are the secret to peace of mind in these situations! How do you keep work and play separate?

  1. Unplug: When in vacation mode, make a conscious attempt to unplug from devices that keep you tethered to work – no sneaky peeks at email notifications. I realised just how huge the impact of not being mentally connected to work was, only when I had no internet on a holiday and couldn’t even ‘just glance’ at emails. Whether we respond or not, once we’ve plugged in to what’s happening at work through email or chat, we’re mentally and emotionally invested in the subject and how it’s being handled. The solution, therefore, is abstinence! Only check mail at the allocated time at the end of the day, unless of course there is something critical that requires you to monitor and stay in touch. Otherwise, your holiday will become like working from home with some sightseeing and shopping thrown into the mix!
  2. Identify triggers and prepare responses: Mentally review the thoughts that lead you to panic about work and not be present with your loved ones. It could be recurring worries about something you have already delegated to someone or that is under control, it could be seeing someone working away at their laptop or on a work call, or someone asking if your business can manage without you being there. We all have different triggers and once you’ve identified what yours are, they can’t blindside you anymore. 
    Now plan a suitable response to each one, that will neutralise its impact and allow you to continue to get the most out of your holiday. For instance, when you see someone else hard at work, you could say to yourself, ‘Wow, they look stressed and tired, and that’s what I’ve looked like for the first half of this year! Thank God I took a break. It will recharge my batteries and let me return to work relaxed and with a full tank!’ Again, find the responses that make sense to you. You can test them out by visualising your trigger, bringing up the response, and noticing how different your response is now. If it’s still triggering you, find a stronger response.

5. Agree on Outcomes with Your Family/Friends Pre-Travel:

This is so that you can track your success in sticking to the plan. If you are travelling solo, set your own expectation markers. You only know something worked if you have criteria to confirm it was successful, so just as you have KPIs and ROI criteria at work, you need clear indicators that have been agreed on prior to the vacation, which factor in all your stakeholders. 

So, what exactly do your family/friends expect from you prior to and while you’re on vacation? Having this clarity will prevent regrets and finger-pointing later! Manage your client and supplier expectations as well, with a clear understanding of your availability with specific timings set for catch-up calls/meetings, frequency of expected updates from them, your response time while away, emergency call protocols etc. The more clarity everyone has on details, the fewer misunderstandings and the risk of things falling between the cracks. Now that you have everything under control, get ready for a well-deserved break, secure in the knowledge that you and your business will be fine. Bon voyage!


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Financial Advice for Women

Why Women with Money Can Create a Better World

It’s time to break down our biases.

Much of the research around how and why women feel the way they do about money management isn’t surprising to us women. According to statistics, 81% of women said they’ve personally been a victim of negative stereotypes – including about their investing abilities. And while this is extremely sad, it’s not surprising to most. I, too, have experienced this firsthand on more occasions than I care to remember, even though I am a finance professional with the experience and qualifications to back it up. 

I remember how every conversation was directed at my husband when I was talking to banks and brokers about obtaining a mortgage. I’d ask a question, and the broker or advisor would proceed to answer it looking at my husband as if he’d asked. As a regional head of finance who was responsible for billions of dollars in company revenues, you’d think I’d be taken seriously – and that’s notwithstanding the fact that the mortgage application was 100% based on my salary and would be my liability! It felt like my gender was overshadowing my financial credentials and my experience. Of course, as a woman, I can’t possibly be the decision-maker or capable of understanding a complex mortgage agreement, right? Wrong.

So much of that bias is unconscious, and it’s present in both men and women. We, as women, often display this bias against ourselves. We believe the stereotype that women are simply not good at managing money – that we cannot control our spending and we’re not good at investing. This idea is widespread and spread across cultures, geographies, and generations. When it comes to money, there is often a canyon of space between our mindsets and money-belief systems. But why is it this way? Thankfully, there is much research on this topic and I’m going to discuss some key facts here. 

How Are Men and Women Different? 

Women are socialised to save money, keep it safe, and not be greedy. Our male counterparts, on the other hand, are socialised to invest, seek out ways to earn as much as possible, and be proud of their financial achievements. For men, earning vast amounts of money is seen as powerful and impressive.  Because of this, women tend to hold 71% of their assets in cash and shy away from sharing what they earn or have. Men, on the other hand, hold 60% of their assets in cash and are more likely to boast about promotions and what they earn.

What I hadn’t considered before was our tendency to use our money to benefit everyone except ourselves. Studies have shown women use money to create a lifestyle in the present. We do that by buying the groceries, making 70% of travel decisions, and organising the day-to-day lives of our families. This is a different spending perspective from the stereotypical one portrayed by the media, where women spend all their money shopping and even need to be given tips to stop or reduce.

On the other hand, we are less likely to plan for retirement, buy life insurance, or be involved in arranging mortgages. In contrast, men use money to create a secure future. They take on the role of decision-maker in significant and long-term financial decisions. Ironically, we women tend to live longer than men and, yet, we are leaving our retirement security in the hands of people we are likely to outlive.

Financial Wellness

Why Do Women Feel Less Financially Confident?  

Money is genderless, and it’s as much of a tool for women as it is for men. So why do we feel so differently about it? This is where it gets particularly frustrating. The divide in money isn’t just about gender pay gaps, there is also a worrying gap in how men and women are spoken to about money. Men are taught the benefits of investing, blockchain, and NFTs, while women are told to stop drinking artisanal coffee so they can save for a pair of designer shoes. 

A study carried out by Starling Bank in 2018 found that 90% of articles targeted at females focus on small ways to save money. 71% encourage seeking out vouchers, discounts, and coupons to save money. 65% define women as excessive spenders, urging us to limit, restrict, and better control our ‘splurges’. Our male counterparts, on the other hand, are targeted with articles about the importance of making big investments, how to mitigate investment risks, and how money can enhance one’s status as a man. Furthermore, 50% focused on how to protect themselves from future harm, including financial harm from divorce. Is it any wonder that arguments over money are consistently reported as the number one cause of divorce?

Why Is It Good to Get More Money into Our Hands?

As women, we use our money to help others. Women invest 90% of their income back into their families, while men only reinvest 44%. When I first came across this, it surprised me, but when I sat back and thought about it, it all made sense. When my mother spoke to me about money, it’s clear now that she assumed my income would be used to pay for my family’s needs. She also urged me to always keep enough aside just in case – which I did, but I too had unconsciously internalised her assumption. My income went back to my family and, for years, I didn’t invest or think long-term either. It was a real wake-up call. 

Despite how the media portrays us, we are more financially responsible than men. When we do invest, we are more likely to invest long-term, we are more patient, and we achieve better returns. Studies show women are more likely to invest in ESG and sustainability, so we use our money to invest responsibly and do good for the planet. We use our money to help our families and our communities, so communities thrive when women make more financial decisions. We currently control over $31.8 trillion in worldwide spending – imagine the positive change we can create with that level of wealth if we felt empowered to use it in line with our values and help others?

Female Empowerment

What Can You Do to Feel More Financially Confident? 

Put yourself on the path to financial wellness by taking small actions that you can do now. What’s most important when you begin is clarity. It means knowing how much money you have, and then creating a plan for where you want your money to go. Ensure the cash flow plan is in line with your values, not what others or the media tell you it should be. Set financial goals that are true to you and then build your budget to achieve those goals. Make peace with your money situation and forgive any past mistakes – every human makes money mistakes. 

If you’d like to know more about financial wellness, get your free copy of my Conscious Finance Coaching Financial Wellness Checklist here.


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cast a vision for career

 Cast a Vision and Never Worry about the How

Take your career to the next level.

My life today is barely recognisable. Having worked in the corporate field all my career to being an entrepreneur today, I have to admit that this path is full of unexpected twists and turns, highs and lows – and it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted! 

During a trip to Thailand to confront my fears, I sat down and started writing on a blank page, At the top, I wrote the following words: Authenticity, Voice, Freedom, Expression, Integrity. These were values that I live by and they became the ones I poured into my business, the WILD network, which is now reflected in my brand. I wrote the business plan in April and picked a date in mid-July for WILD’s first live event. I didn’t worry about the how; I just worked backwards.

It’s amazing how things all come together and the right people pop up at the right time to support you when you simply cast a vision and let it happen. It’s as though the universe is conspiring to assist you. I launched on a shoestring budget and the very first venue only cost me AED 600 as the owner was kind enough to support me. So believe me when I tell you, the universe has your back! 

Now, when people ask me how I did it, it makes me recall my process of visioning and not worrying about the how. It’s about placing one brick at a time, not letting it overwhelm you, and having a deep sense of belief that you can do it – this is how you can turn the imagined into reality. 

cast a vision for your career

We place so many restrictions limitations, doubts, and fears on ourselves and this often comes as a result of societal conditioning or cues we pick up from others. An example: a few years ago, I asked a friend about doing an evening event in Dubai. Her view was that it wouldn’t catch on, people wouldn’t pay, and it would be a waste of time. That was her view from her limited belief, and I took on her belief and followed her advice.

A few years passed, and I changed my mind and decided to go ahead with the challenge – I even charged double of what I’d originally mentioned to her for the tickets. And guess what? It sold out immediately! Don’t get me wrong, she didn’t say it out of malice. She merely had her own limiting beliefs as she’d never done an event before and wasn’t best suited to advise me on it. I know it might sound easier said than done, and in some respects it is. But to vision and create is about getting out of your own way, aligning your vision with your values, and learning to trust your gut instinct. Here are my three tips for casting a vision. 

Tip 1: Think about what you want to create.

Play it out in your mind and get it on paper. Try to draw it or write down some notes. Don’t worry about how it will happen. It’s only when we think of every detail and start getting anxious that procrastination and feeling overwhelmed sets in. Set a date in the future and work backwards.

Tip 2: Self-belief is key! 

Know deep down in your core that you can achieve anything and build unwavering faith and grit as you go. You need to push past your comfort zone in order to achieve something new. Having the right support is also essential. This can mean finding a coach, a mentor, or even investing in a course that will give you the skills to be able to reach a new level.

Tip 3: Follow your gut and intuition. 

We have all the answers we need within ourselves. Choose to rely on your own ideas instead of asking everyone else all the time. It’s okay to seek counsel, but go to people who you trust and have experience in the area you want to progress in.


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Career Out Of Board Membership

Here’s How to Make a Career out of Board Membership

The rewards make it worth it.

Board service takes commitment and comes with legal duties, but gives you a chance to offer your expertise and guide an organisation. But let’s be real: what can you get from it? Why on earth would anyone want to give up their leisure time for more work (especially work that has definite legal ramifications if things go sour)? Every board director started with a specific focus as to why they started, and many who I’ve met have changed their reasons with time – nothing stays the same. 

Reasons Why People Embrace the Opportunity

Being Recognised as the Expert

For many who are asked to serve on a board, doing so is like a badge of honour. A board member is usually sought after because of their track record as a successful outsider, with years of relevant and useful experience to bring to the table. As a board director, you are being recognised as an expert in your field and asked to share your wealth of knowledge to better the organisation. 

Many find that working as a board director reinvigorates their interests in what brought them into their career and breathes new life into stale careers. This happens when you get the opportunity to interact and work with other people who are motivated and may work outside of your immediate sphere of influence – like at your day job. You might be supporting a start-up to grow and avoid costly mistakes or supporting a non-profit in giving back to your community – either way, you get to be highly engaged and personally motivated through lending your experience and insights. And who isn’t inspired by that type of work?

career in Dubai

Increasing Intellectual Challenges

The duties of board directors are incredibly different from those of the operating roles that you would be used to until now in your career journey. Directors look at organisations holistically and eventually develop a more in-depth understanding of a breadth of topics that senior leaders have to contend with. These topics include mergers and acquisitions, executive pay, shareholder concerns, market growth campaigns, and technological adaptations. You develop and contribute in a way that expands your understanding of how organisations work and the process behind true strategic decision-making.

Powerful Networking and Growing Your Personal Brand

Being a board director conveys to other executives and thought leaders in your industry that you are an expert in your field. It highlights the fact that you have ideas, or at least that you can take a leadership role past the operational and are well-equipped to help shape the future of any organisation. 

Being on a board highlights your qualities to other board professionals as well. It provides exposure beyond your current company or smaller network and allows you to be recognised by a wider audience of peers. Some of you may well be looking to make board service a long-lasting career and developing a portfolio of boards to serve on. A portfolio career is what we refer to when someone’s job becomes sitting on a number of boards at one time. 


Some board positions pay you for your expertise. Yes, while most just pay a token amount, many corporate boards compensate handsomely for the expertise and advice that board directors provide. According to Lodestone Global, in 2020 the average director of a public company made $42,750 in 2020. And according to Veritas, the top range can be from $300,000 to $500,000 annually. If pay is increased on a salary side, this generally means a higher firm status as the compensation is linked to the increased risk and responsibilities. 

Meanwhile, according to a Reuters report, S&P 500 companies tend to pay the most, with the average being $304,856. They have the financial backing to be able to recognise the substantial time and responsibility necessary to oversee the affairs of the company. Not all firms can provide this level of compensation, yet governance structures do make it public what compensation boards will offer their directors.

That being said, there is a huge discrepancy among the rest. Start-up boards typically do not pay a salary, and board members and advisors may be compensated in equity. For non-profit firms and school trustees, directorships are often entirely voluntary and the pay is the intrinsic rewards felt at performing the role and helping the organisation.

Taking Board Service to the Next level

For those who find serving on boards truly rewarding, a portfolio career – also known as a board career – can also become an option to pursue. Typically, it is when an individual pursues more than one board role simultaneously – not just as a source of income, but most importantly, because they enjoy the work as well as the flexibility and variety it offers.

Usually, a board portfolio can have a mixture of any activity that allows you to utilise different skills and involves engaging in various types of work, from directorship roles and board consulting roles to advisory board roles and governance board work. Being a board director takes work so, depending on the organisation you join, board service can be time-consuming. The role can be demanding and it requires staying abreast of the industry. 

There can also be internal politics to manoeuvre and, at times, it can feel risky to navigate the legal considerations. Therefore, it is important to be clear on why you would want to start a portfolio career, what you want out of such a move, and how it will serve your interests. You can use a portfolio career to develop new skills, expand your industry influence, and expand your centre of influence – as long as you are very clear about what roles you take on.

Opportunities in Board Membership

Next Steps

In the end, board service is not for everyone, but if you think it’s a potential fit for you, begin by asking yourself a few key questions:

  • Does the work of that board spark a light within you? 
  • Do you understand the role, responsibilities, and legal duties? 
  • What can you bring to a board that is beneficial to the organisation?
  • What do you need to do to be proactive and prepared for such a role? 
  • Does working on this board support your plans for the future of your career?
  • What time commitment is required to be effective in the role (both meetings and prep)?
  • Who else would be serving on the board with you? Who are you working with and learning from?
  • How effective is the board? And have there been issues within the board previously?

For me, serving on a board is a way for me to stay true to my purpose as well as continue to look out and look beyond. I serve in a mixture of paid and unpaid roles and, in the end, it is a service with rewards that go both ways. I give my expertise, time, and energy. In turn, I receive rewards that are fulfilling to me and align with my values. Be true to yourself and your values, and you will succeed. Being aware of the risks makes performing my duties easier as the ramifications are clearly known. If you have a need to serve, get out there. And if you know someone who you think should be serving? Put the bug into their ear, and help educate them to make the decision that much easier.


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