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Q&A with Shahira Rifaat

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Shahira Rifaat, Leadership & Humanization Coach

How could you describe your career path in a few words?

My career path was full of adventure, curiosity, determination, and courage. The first ten years of my professional life, I worked in the PR and Communications field; my career path was stable and well-planned. However, I felt the urge to change direction. I did not know what I needed to do to fulfill this calling. Although PR and Communications were not my thing; however, they somehow fulfilled my passion for being around people. It was not a job I chose but rather a job that chose me. I met my goals and pushed myself to improve in all I attempted. Despite my professional success, I never felt complete; a void always needed to be filled. A part of me always whispered, "This is not what you are meant to do for the rest of your life." The corporate world seemed like a safe bet, but I was never cut out for it since I lacked the competitive spirit and political savvy necessary to succeed there. Moreover, I often felt trapped in the confines of my office.

It was no coincidence that I ended up in the professional coaching field; it was the exact kind of work I had hoped to find for years before I realized it existed. It was a calling I kept chasing until I came across the term coaching. Only then did I know that coaching was the remedy to cure the toxicity of the corporate life I resented. I realized there was more to life than sitting behind a desk all day, worrying about deadlines, and racing my coworkers to finish their work and ideas.

There were several obstacles in my path. Making a professional change and starting over was difficult because I deeply feared the unknown. My curiosity and drive to fulfill my life's potential superseded my fears. I eagerly accepted the challenge, willing to take any risks along the way. I gambled on an unknown outcome. After working for corporations for ten years, I quit to become a leadership coach and began my quest for self-discovery. I was set to make the career shift without even knowing where this would take me or how it would change my life. In 2006, coaching was a relatively uncharted frontier for the coaching field. So it was a mix of a new career no one knew about and a pretty ambiguous future. However, I was courageous enough and took a leap of faith.

Today, after seventeen years as a Leadership Coach and Assessor, I am still determined to continue humanizing leadership and corporate workplaces by incorporating empathy as a business value to transform both leaders and work experiences. As an advocate of empathetic leadership and humanization of connections, I am committed to helping leaders develop a leadership style that aligns with their values and beliefs. By embracing authenticity, leaders can cultivate more robust connections with others, creating a more positive and effective work environment.

What was the most challenging experience, and it changed your mindset?

The years have passed, and in October 2015, a group of professionally certified ICF coaches founded the International Coach Federation Egypt Chapter (ICF). I was truly honored to be among the renowned founding board members. ICF Egypt Chapter served as an official organization to unite the entire certified professional coaches in Egypt under one umbrella. It was a dream come true. Despite all the challenges in managing and regulating the chapter, the determination to keep the chapter going was way more robust than any disruptions and adversities. It was my dream to spread awareness of coaching in Egypt. I served five years on the ICF Egypt Chapter Board of Directors from October 2015 till December 2020. I then became the President of the ICF Egypt Chapter from 2017 to 2019. Taking the leadership of a newly established chapter was undoubtedly a big challenge, especially in the Egyptian market, which was still emerging in the coaching field. It required time, patience, determination, drive, courage, and passion for managing a volunteer group of professionals from different backgrounds and ideologies, building the Chapter, attracting members, becoming financially independent, and keeping it up and running. It wasn't a breeze, but the results were well worth the effort.

During my Presidency tenure, ICF Egypt Chapter was the only Chapter in the Middle East and North Africa to receive the Annual Global ICF Chapter Recognition Award for the best-performing Chapter for three consecutive years. We succeeded in putting Egypt on the world coaching map as a team with enough determination, passion, and hard work. Today, I proudly announce that Egypt is the fastest-growing market in the Middle East. Egypt is now renowned for having the largest population of certified Arabic-speaking coaches in the Middle East. This experience has shifted my mindset to believe that anything is possible, even with limited resources. We can achieve anything we want with passion, patience, determination, and courage. All it takes is to accept the challenge and take a leap of faith.

I genuinely believe in Mahatma Gandhi's saying, "Be the change you want to see in the world"; and as a result, I've dedicated my life to the field of professional coaching in the hopes of helping as many leaders as possible develop their full potential and make a positive influence in the world.

Based on your experience, what were the key success factors unlocking the potential for success?

My own experience has taught me that there are several key factors to success. Self-awareness makes us better equipped to understand our strengths and weaknesses and their impact on others. This allows us to make more informed decisions and develop better relationships with others. A clarity of purpose and a clear understanding of our personal goals allows us to also align our actions and decisions with our overall vision. Nevertheless, being emotionally intelligent enables us to manage our own emotions and understand the emotions of others. This helps us build stronger relationships with our team members and helps us make better decisions based on the needs of the group.

Moreover, effective communication is essential for successful leadership. Leaders who are skilled communicators can effectively convey their message to their team members, build rapport, and inspire others to take action toward a common goal. Accountability is often overlooked; however, it is a key factor as it creates a culture of responsibility and encourages team members to take ownership of their work. Overall, unlocking the potential for success requires a combination of these critical success factors and a commitment to ongoing learning and growth.

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