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7 Questions on Leadership with Noorulain Zafer


Name: Noorulain Zafer


Title: CEO & Founder


Organisation: Mind Works International


By way of introduction my name is Noorulain Zafer and I am the CEO & Founder of Mind Works International, a youth education and enterprise development organization working on capacity building of young adolescents. For the last 19 years I have been working at the mid and senior managerial level in educational organisations and also consulting with the corporate sector, donor groups, NGOs, incubators and accelerators in Pakistan and abroad. I have worked extensively in the areas of social innovation, competencies analysis, research, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and capacity building. My experience through these years have been focused on working with micro and small businesses.


Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!


I hope Noorulain's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Cheers,

Jonno White



1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?


The ability to relinquish control. As a leader the most challenging thing I have had to do is to learn to guide juniors, train them, allow them to make mistakes and then trust them to contribute to my team to the best of their abilities (without intervening too much in their thought process then).


2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?


I would like to think it happened quite organically as I moved up the ladder in my previous job. But most certainly it happened when I decided to run my startup, Mind Works International. All of a sudden I was the one bearing the flag, developing my team, innovating, putting off fires, embracing mistakes and then rising again.


3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?


I am very task oriented. I make to-do lists, do bulleting in my journal and stick to it then.

I do wish though, that I would reduce my working hours though :)


4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?


UNLEARN and RELEARN

I believe true innovation comes from unlearning your way of doing things and then allowing positive advices to seep through you. Relearning new things leads to accelerated growth.


5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?


Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

This book is all about communicating with your team and taking them along.


6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?


Be humble and willing to learn. No one knows everything. Be open to feedback and suggestions from people around you. Share.


7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?


My business recently went through a change management process. Pre Covid our work was mostly in an analogue way, face to face. I was always unsure that we would be okay going for a digital or hybrid mode of delivery. This took a huge hit on me during Covid when the uncertainty meant that I had to cancel many confirmed face to face sessions. Whilst the online learning took a hike in sales, I and my team were late in ‘adapting’ to unprecedented change. It took me three months, and a financial loss, to understand that I needed to Identify Opportunities for Change and Development for myself and for my team as well. I kept reassuring myself that businesses have ups and downs. I was able to set meetings with industry leaders, other start-up founders and ecosystem enablers for myself and team where we sat done with them and reworked our business model.

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