Fearless Leaders Series: Hira Ali
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Welcome to Wet Cement's new Fearless Leaders Interview Series that provides insights, inspiration and advice from today's most successful female leaders. Meet Hira Ali--a renowned leadership trainer, executive career coach, motivational speaker and licensed Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner. She is also a published author; in Her Way to the Top: A Guide to Smashing the Glass Ceiling, she highlights the career challenges women face globally and the cultural implications of the latter. Those concepts and the strategies to overcome them are also reviewed in Career Excel--the online women’s leadership program created in partnership with Wet Cement’s CEO Jennifer Willey. Hira lives in London with her husband and son.
Self-advocacy is one of the toughest areas for women based on Wet Cement survey findings; if we don’t advocate for ourselves, we can’t fulfill our missions. We would love to hear how you find courage to pursue your goals in the face of adversity. How do you cope with fear?
Moving from country to country and building my business and leadership brand from ground zero, it was a necessity for me to find courage to persist. I kept asking myself ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ Often the eventual outcome is better than my worst anticipation. I run a small business on a limited budget and I know if I don’t step up and self-advocate, no one else will do it for me. If I am not excited about my own achievements and don’t make a big deal about them, then who will? People are busy with their own lives and challenges. Visibility is important; oftentimes when you are out of sight, you are out of mind, so you have to make consistent efforts to keep showing up. No one is saying to be ostentatious--you need to be mindful of language and context. But you will surprised at how many people are quietly observing you and drawing inspiration from you even if they don’t like or comment on your posts.
We love Webster's definition of courage: "Strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty." What advice would you give to your 13-year old self when it comes to acting courageously?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or be judged. Failure is good for your health--in fact, failures are like vitamins. They make you stronger, so step up and ask/show up/volunteer. And even if you have been refused, don’t give up; try again after some time. Most importantly, whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are probably right, so be sure to feed your mind with positive thoughts! Humility is important. Humility and vulnerability make you more likable. Staying grounded and modest will only make you more successful.
We believe confidence is beautiful. On a scale from 1-10 (one being not confident at all and 10 being extremely confident), how confident do you feel most of the time?
On a scale from 1-10 (one being not confident at all and 10 being extremely confident), how confident do you think OTHER people believe you are?
Research shows girls lose 30% of their confidence between the ages of 9-13. What advice would you give to your 13-year old self to boost her confidence?
People are busy in their own lives and hardly anyone remembers past goof ups or mistakes. People move on and so should you. If you are wrong, don't be afraid to admit it and if you are not qualified enough to speak on something then don't; it's okay to not know everything!
Assertive and effective communication is a key skill required to succeed. What is one of the most important attributes of your communication style that has helped you achieve your goals?
Authenticity and transparency. I have never shied away from openly sharing my strengths and failures. Recognizing and acknowledging all points of view is also important to me. I believe we can disagree while remaining agreeable and tactful.
What advice would you give to your 13-year old self when it comes to being a confident communicator?
There is no need to hide mistakes or failures--own them. Confidence is in your mind. Also don't be discouraged by people judging you or disliking you. Not everyone will like you and that's okay--focus on those who do value your work.
Networking is critical for career growth and success, especially for women. What is one of your secrets for expanding your connections and building win-win relationships?
Reciprocity is key. Be there for people and offer them support before asking for favors. Give good feedback and encourage wherever and whenever you can without being concerned that the pie will get smaller. Invest time in nurturing relationships.
Wet Cement research shows that women are not as comfortable as men when it comes to taking control of difficult conversations and feeling empowered at work. How do you overcome any barriers—internal or external—to take control in challenging situations?
It’s still challenging for me but I work to be empathetic and consider a problem from a more flexible, balanced viewpoint before expecting the other party to give in. That has helped me in many tricky situations.
What advice would you give to your 13-year old self so she would feel more in control and empowered?
Be firm yet kind. Don’t be a people pleaser and learn to say no but do it with consideration.
We want to celebrate the accomplishments of Fearless Women. When you look back on your professional career, what are you most proud of?
Honestly, quite a few things. Publishing a book with fabulous testimonials is one of my biggest accomplishments. I am also proud of being featured in a global book as a role model alongside phenomenal women influencers from around the world.
What is your ‘mission’ or the work you are most excited about that you are currently focused on?
Enabling women and ethnic minorities to break the glass ceiling and to close the gender and ethnicity gaps at work.
Please share any social media channels or projects/publications you would like us to tag or highlight:
Thank you for your time, Hira!