Interview Spotlight With Saj Zafar

Saj Zafar is a LeadHERship Coach for women, an international motivational speaker, and an award-winning author. She is also the Founder and CEO of Institute for Change a specialist training and coaching consultancy & LeadHERship Academy which primarily focuses on the development of women.

Qualifying in Social work and graduating in Forensic Psychology it is no surprise at the tender age of 24, Saj ended up in prison. One of her ‘claims to fame’ is she made British history by becoming the first youngest Asian Muslim female to join the Prison Service as a Prison Governor.

Her can-do mind set, attitude, and resilience led her to spend the next 20 years working in senior leadership roles and building an exemplary reputation, which includes working with Ministers and senior officials in central government. As a former Forensic Psychologist & Prison Governor now turned LeadHERship Coach her approach is unconventional, inspirational, holistic and in her own words not for the faint hearted.

Saj has worked with thousands of women across the globe. Her vision and aspirations are to help women to lead from within so they can take control of all aspects of their lives. Her USP is that she teaches “simple steps that produce dramatic life-changing results.”

Meet Saj

Hi, I’m Saj. I never use my full name because people struggle to pronounce it. It also happens to be my passport name and not my birth name. Although the only person who uses my birth name is my Mom.

With this introduction you know how this story is about to play out…

My life is likened to a tsunami. All you need to know is that the effects of a tsunami are devastating, destructive and can take a lifetime to recover from. If you want a full version, I suggest you read my book! Live Your Chosen Life: How To Stop Existing and Start Living

More importantly I want to share with you who I am today. I am often likened to a cross between Oprah Winfrey and Olivia Pope (you will need to watch the drama series Scandal) with a little bit of Rachael (Friends) thrown in! I will let you think on that and make of it what you wish.

So, having spent a lifetime of stumbling from situation to situation, making mistakes, dodging curve balls and consumed by hopelessness, and darkness, endless therapy sessions, destructive distractions I finally found my happiness in my family and home which sits in a small quaint village in northwest London. I am happily married to my soul mate and have two beautiful teenage sons- my pride, joy, and reason for existence.

Four years ago, tsunami hit again and this time even I wasn’t prepared for the aftermath. I literally was fighting for my life.  A nosebleed turned into an emergency admission and the results of my brain scan led to me preparing for an end-of-life conversation with my loved ones.

The following 12 months I lay confined to my bed full of anger, pity and drugged up to my eyeballs. Weeks turned into months and finally there was light. Once I started to wean off the drugs, I sought comfort in God. This took place in the form of daily conversations with him (I must confess up until that time he had been someone to scream at and blame). These conversations turned into reflections and like most I started to question who I was and explore the meaning of my so-called life.

Scrolling through Facebook one day I stopped at a post where the late Bob Proctor was talking about how you are your thoughts,  the more I listened the more it resonated – I felt he was talking to me. I guess I had an epiphany moment which led me to then book a call and sign up to his coaching program.

It took me the next 12 months to reduce the noise in my head, declutter the baggage I had been carrying, begin to respect, and love myself in a way that originally felt awkward and clumsy, and reconnect to who I ‘really’ was. This then led to resigning from my highly successful career and turn my side hustle of coaching women into a full-time purpose.

I would like to think I’m not just another coach. The women who I have worked with will tell you that that I am candid, a truth teller, type of coach whose no nonsense direct yet warm approach will inspire, motivate, and bring about results that they thought impossible. As one woman kindly summarised it in her testimonial ‘be prepared for tears tantrums worldly wisdoms and don’t forget to bring your own box of tissues’.

Other things about me:

  • I am OCD.
  • In everything I do, I aim for perfection and occasionally settle for excellence.
  • I am as materialistic as I am spiritual, and as egocentric as I am compassionate.
  • My party line used to be, if women talked truthfully about marriage and motherhood, we would all be single.
  • I often say things without a filter. I know very little to nothing about most things, but there are a few things I know exceptionally well: people, personal development, and the psychology of success.


When I tell people that I am a Prison Governor now turned Life Coach they always ask two questions: Who is the most famous prisoner you have ever met, and do you think life coaching works? The short answer is Charlie Bronson, and Yes!

My personality and coaching style can be too much for most women, which is okay as I’m not a coach for most women. I only work with women who genuinely want to invest in themselves because they do not wish to settle for living a mediocre, passive, comprising and sacrificing life.

I’ve always been a trailblazer, risk taker and courageous and tend to attract similar women. I often work with women who have no idea what they want, lack confidence, have little self-belief, and deep down know that the life they desire includes much more than what they have now.

When you sign up to work with me, I serve you to the best of my best capability. I help you produce the best results as quickly as possible using my signature ‘Governor/ Coach’ approach. I always speak the truth and accept that at times you would not like to hear what I have to say.  I call this ‘holding up the mirror’. This is where I believe the magic happens!

You are most likely to see things that you have shied away from and ultimately face demons that have been holding you back. Unless you do this, you are unlikely to see and feel growth. Finally, it’s okay if you don’t fully believe you are ready to become who you want to become or achieve what you want to achieve when we start to work together, I will believe for both of us until you do, too.

Most women spend their life self-compromising , sacrificing and leading mediocre lives. On their deathbeds they look back with regret. Not the women that I work with.

Since starting, have you made any changes to your business model?

Yes, several I think the only thing that has remained consistent is my aspiration and ambition to create a global community of empowered women and girls. I have been blessed that starting my business at the start of covid led me to rely heavily on word-of-mouth referral. However, my attempts of building a brand on social media have been not too great. I think I’m on my third iteration of social media accounts.

I think my business coach summarised it well when he said your business is a passion project – which I don’t particularly have an issue with given its success.

Have you ever had a mentor? If so how has this benefitted you either personally or professionally?

I was fortunate to be mentored by the late Bob Proctor who was and still is considered as a leading guru in personal development and scholar of success in his time.

What outlets do use for marketing?

Social media

What or Who has inspired you most recently?

I recently attended the Muslim Asian women’s awards here in London. I was blown away to see a powerhouse of Muslim women leading successful businesses. Each one of them had a narrative which talked about overcoming hardship, and despite cultural barriers smashing their own glass ceilings and making a real difference in real time.

What is the best piece of business advice you have received to date?

Trust the process and remain disciplined.

How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?

I think for women its learning to juggle and multitask as well as learning to switch off and be truly present when it comes to your partner and children.

Name a seminal point in your career so far?

There are so many! Becoming the first youngest Asian Muslim woman to become a Prison Governor in British history.

Having the courage to leave my 9-5 highly paid successful career of 22 years to turn my side hustle into a business. Starting a business during the pandemic and not only surviving but turning my annual salary into a monthly income. In a recent trip to Kashmir where I met some schoolgirls and was told by one of them that the real reason for being at their school was because I was their ‘waseela’ which translated means ‘medium, solution, guide, saviour. Twenty four hours later I negotiated a deal with the male leaders not to sell the daughters as child brides . I now am responsible for the upkeep of 291 little Kashmiri girls.

What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?

As cliched as it sound making a real difference to women’s lives.

Are there any leading entrepreneurs or SME leaders that you admire and if so, why?

I love Steven Bartlett, Diary of a CEO , Simon Sinek, Mel Robbins, and of course Oprah.

How do you define your own success?

Hard work, hard work, and hard work

Finally, what can we expect from you next?

Another book, perhaps a movie, going global ….let’s see what the universe has in store for me.

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