At Central Working, we’re passionate about promoting female entrepreneurship and encouraging more women to step forward to become leaders in their organisations and communities. Which is why we launched our ‘Inspirational Women’ series, to celebrate and share the stories of many of our female entrepreneurs and leaders, and the networks or organisations that they run.
Lara Khalaf is an Executive Coach, supporting women in business to become extraordinary leaders. Hard work, determination, and love are the three main qualities that most define her career and life accomplishments to date. She has always found a strong connection with the people and organisations which lead her down a fascinating career path.
Who are you and what’s your business/or what is your job?
My name is Lara Khalaf, I was born in Syria 40 years ago to a Syrian father and a Spanish mother; I lived in Aleppo up to my teen years when my parents decided to move to Spain, I made the same decision in my mid-twenties to come to the UK.
Before getting to London I remember having a few challenges. One of them was that I could only speak a handful of words in English, like “I love you”, as I thought it might be useful one day.
“Hard work”, “determination” and “love” were the drivers behind many of my decisions and life experiences.
Although I’ve been coaching for a decade as part of my people leadership responsibilities, it wasn’t until three years ago that I decided to focus on my coaching business. My practice specialises in supporting and developing women’s leadership, both personally and with their teams, in a conscious, confident and feminine way.
I’m also the co-founder of Woman 5.0, a platform that supports women raising consciousness in the world; I hold NED’s positions for 2 start-ups; I speak internationally on topics such as confidence and feminine leadership, including a TEDx I did two years ago.
Why are you passionate about the job you do currently?
Women, more than ever, are waking up. It’s incredible for me to see the transformation my clients go through; they realise their voices matter, grow confidence in what and how they do business, how they lead their teams and lives. When they reconnect, accept and love themselves at all levels and become unapologetically authentic…
Imagine how stunning it is to witness a woman lead a life, a team and a business with purpose. Perhaps a little bit by chance, but mostly by design. It’s a true privilege to be part of their lives.
What’s your background?
I have a degree in Literature, but I had more than 20 years of international experience in progressive leadership roles and managing large team operations across organisations in the private, corporate and public sectors.
Some of the clients I worked with are from insurance brokerage, banking, investment banking, entertainment & media, marketing, technology, governmental bodies, medicine and even Royalty.
What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome as you scale the business or what is the biggest challenge that you have in your job because you are a woman?
The transition from employment to entrepreneurship was traumatic, with a strong feeling of loneliness and fear. Especially after having looked after such big teams in the past. So, once I was settled and ready to take off I realised my real challenger was me! And how do you overcome that?
I had massive personal breakthroughs (and continue to) when I took myself seriously. That was the key to helping me get out of my own way.
Sometimes we can get too attached and identify ourselves by our thoughts. Here’s a tip: Don’t believe everything you think! Sound difficult? The good news is, this philosophy is accessible to everyone (with some practice) and it’s quite impactful!
What advice would you give yourself 5 years ago?
You were on the right track and did the best you knew. If you knew better you would have done better. Don’t overthink, love yourself more and have strong boundaries.
Who inspires you? And why?
I can come up with a long list of people who inspire me. Like New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern for being a true representation of what feminine leadership is; cosmetics mogul Huda Kattan for proving one can make a name for themselves amongst the best in the industry; or Barbara de Angelis for being such an incredible fountain of knowledge and wisdom.
But let’s not forget that we ourselves must also be our biggest inspiration. Be curious and excited about what life holds for you while becoming the person of your dreams.
What else can Central Working do to help women entrepreneurs and leaders?
How about we create a series of monthly masterclasses on feminine leadership topics. We could discuss ‘feminism versus femininity’; whether or not ‘fake it until you make it’ is true; how to lead successfully as a woman; or ask ourselves ‘am I a people pleaser?’ I think mentorship programmes would also be useful.