Here’s the scenario – you’re working in an impressive, highly paid role. You’ve been told, "You're an asset to the company”. You’re due a mortgage on your first property. Would you take a 50% pay cut and change career? If you felt there was more to life and you were determined to go for it, you’d probably take the risk.
That’s my Page 1 Woman. But she wasn’t always that way. Health issues troubled her from childhood to adulthood, undermining her self-confidence. Then she made a life transforming decision; she would take charge of her health rather than leaving it solely to doctors. And from this she began to take charge of other areas of her life.
She became a massive risk-taker, opening herself to opportunities, seizing them when others warned her not to. And the outcome? Recognition, huge self-confidence and career success.
Meet Leila Singh, a high performing sales executive, bold, tenacious and determined self-leader with attitude. A work colleague once called her a ‘Rottweiler’, not a label most women would envy. But Leila came to recognize the compliment within, and that being like a ‘Rottweiler’ was exactly what had brought her rewards and success.
‘When I set my mind to something I go after it with tenacity, giving up is not an option, I’ve absolute certainty it’ll work, and I'll have outstanding results.’ Confident? Of course. And by the way, she’s Tony Hadley’s number 1 fan. Here she is in her own words.
Describe your work
Leila: I’ve spent the last 15 years working for what was one of the world’s largest IT companies. I started in a corporate finance role and I’m now a Sales Executive within the company’s financial services business. I'm aligned to what was formerly our outsourcing business solutioning their clients’ investment strategies, (clients include investment banks, utilities companies, government and manufacturing companies), on how they can transition to our latest technology.
I started my working life as an accountant. Soon I’ll be launching my own business, coaching career professionals in the technology sector. It’s about empowering driven high performers, who are motivated to achieve more, but they’ve set their own limitations. I'm all for living a limitless life, hence the title of my book, ‘Success Redefined: How To Leverage Your Natural Talents To Become Limitless’.
What essential steps did you take to get to where you are today?
Leila: Having daily debilitating migraines and chronic acne since childhood drained my self-esteem because people often judge on looks. I'd see my friends going clubbing, socializing and having boyfriends, whilst I hid myself away to avoid judgement. My inferiority complex continued through university and into my working life. So, I threw myself into my studies, believing that academic success would make people like me for being clever and see me as being ‘good enough’.
I remember revising for my accountancy exam finals. I’d a full time City job and attended evening and weekend classes. I was getting migraines daily and taking relief pills alongside drugs for acne. Although the latter stipulated ‘do not take if you suffer from migraines’, my doctor said, ‘It's okay’. One night, I lost my vision. My mum put it down to exhaustion and stress. The next day, I could see, but I knew it was the drugs. I decided to take control.
After I finished the exams, I discovered reflexology and following a couple of sessions the frequency of my migraines dropped. I then adjusted my diet, eliminating many food groups. For several days, it was like going cold turkey but I persisted. On day 10, I awoke feeling light, agile, pain-free and energetic. My skin cleared after three months and I gradually regained confidence. Until today I maintain a holistic approach to my health.
I enjoyed my role as an accountant, yet I felt there was more to life. So after much research and deliberation, I quit my job, took a 50% pay cut and joined a medium-sized recruitment company. People thought I was crazy especially as I was about to gain my first mortgage. But I knew it would be fine.
I helped CFOs, finance directors and finance controllers by identifying suitable candidates. I also interviewed and coached job seekers. I loved it. I made back my previous salary in one year through commissions. My biggest learning was that everyone is equal; a job title doesn’t make one person superior. Consequently my self-esteem and confidence evolved even more.
On being made redundant 2 years later, I accepted a corporate finance role with a vague job description in a prestigious IT outsourcing company. The experience and learnings from my time in recruitment marked a huge change in my perspective, attitude and self-belief, which came across at interview. I obtained a role that required many skills I'd never encountered. But I learned to negotiate structured financing arrangements with investment banks without the help of lawyers, develop processes and systems and work with all parts of the business to create and manage an extensive portfolio. As I transitioned into a sales role, I’ve repeatedly over-achieved and received several awards.
My confidence derives from opportunities I’ve grasped, open-mindedness and flexibility on how things might occur. People have said, ‘All those years studying, qualifying, working in accountancy, wasted.’ But the accountancy qualification, delivers fundamental business knowledge and skills that you can draw upon broadly. I've drawn upon this knowledge in every job I’ve had. To converse with CFO clients in my sales role, I must understand and interpret their financials to present the benefits of our value proposition. That knowledge is never wasted and doesn’t pigeon-hole me.
What’s the one most significant thing you did that got you into your current position?
Leila: Clarifying what I really wanted to do. Four years ago, after I lost my mom, following a long illness, I suddenly thought, ‘What am I doing on this planet? If I keep doing this job and living this great life, what will I have to show for it? What more can I achieve? What will be my legacy?’
With an avid interest in personal development over many years, I began exploring NLP and qualified as an NLP Master Practitioner and Hypnotherapist in 2016. Experiencing multiple realizations and breakthroughs during this journey, I felt I could achieve anything I wanted. I was so excited I wanted to share my learnings with the world, and that we have the resources within us to achieve whatever we apply ourselves to. I began attending events for entrepreneurs and new business owners, accelerating my personal development in the process.
The teacher appears, when the student is ready, right? The people who’ve appeared in the last four years and shared their knowledge or mentored me have been phenomenal. I’m truly blessed. I didn’t consciously set out to do any of this. Instead I was open, followed my instincts when it felt right. I learned that once clear on what I wanted, I could achieve it.
What was the greatest challenge on your journey?
Leila: The biggest challenge was dealing with my health struggles, missing out on fun with friends, simply through lacking confidence and self-esteem.
On joining the IT Company, I realized that the only person who lost out in all this was me. So I tried new things – learned golf, attended cricket matches and concerts. In my twenties I would have said ‘no’, because I’d worry about being seen and judged.
Recently, I shared my plans and what I'd been doing with an old college friend. He said, "You’re a completely different person from when we first met; you’ve simply evolved.”
What one resource has been most crucial to your success?
Leila: Attitude, i.e. mindset - commitment, focus, determination, tenacity, hard work. When I see what some people regard as hard work, I laugh because they often want the benefits without doing the work. When you're prepared to work hard to close your skills gaps, you’ll succeed. In my case, I invested significant amounts of time, energy and money in training and upskilling.
People say, ‘You've got a great job, success and a great social life, which you’re sacrificing to set up a business.’ Many people I know wouldn't give up their weekends and holidays to attend training and development courses month after month. I’m committed 110% and have a clear outcome. And it's rewarding to see transformation in the lives I’ve touched. Some people call me ‘lucky’. I believe we create our own luck.
What do you understand by leadership?
Leila: Leadership is behavior and attitude, rather than status, power and traditional perceptions of leadership e.g. job titles. Leaders are looked up to; they inspire, influence, teach and bring others up with them. I now consider myself, and am often referred to as a leader, having grown exponentially both personally and professionally.
What difference has it made being a woman leader?
Leila: I attract many young women starting their careers who want me to mentor them, or share my learning and experiences.
Being a woman leader means I’m positioned to influence women who want to experience their infinite potential. They may see me as a role model because they resonate more with me than they would with a man.
There’s much cross over in what men and women bring to leadership. Some women leaders, particularly in the corporate world, bring masculine energy and avoid being emotionally expressive because they feel that's how to be successful. But that might be because there are more male leaders and therefore more male role-models. I believe true leadership involves being authentic.
Your top three tips for women who want to be leaders in their field
Leila: First, be yourself. Many people try to be somebody they're not. I'm not saying don't emulate role-models. That’s different from being yourself. Being authentic, you’ll have congruence with who you are, what you stand for, your values and beliefs. And you’ll attract similar into your life.
Second, have a purpose. Be certain where you’re heading, and what you're about. This positions you to influence because you know what you stand for. Set clear intentions for yourself. Once I clearly identified my purpose - who I am and what I stand for - people began to reference me as a leader and role-model.
Third, have viewpoints. You’ll earn respect and position yourself as influential. Leaders don’t sit on the fence. They put their heads above the parapet and voice their opinions. Not everyone will agree with you. As one of my mentors often says, ‘Why do we try so hard to fit in, when we were born to stand out?’ Also remember, many people talk, but few act. Leaders take action.
To find out more about Leila click here
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