In this modern society, where life can be hectic and overwhelming, many people prioritize their personal growth, happiness, and success. It’s only natural to look for guidance and support along this journey, which is why life coaches and gurus have become so important. However, the rise of the internet and social media has flooded the field of personal development with countless self-proclaimed experts, making it harder to distinguish genuine wisdom from opportunistic claims.
Among them, Imad Abou Khalil stands out as a true beacon of inspiration and accomplishment. Hailing from Lebanon, Imad has carved his path to becoming not just a life coach but an influential figure, a mentor, and a seasoned corporate trainer.
Imad’s journey into the world of coaching and personal development began at the University of Concordia in Montreal, Canada. Here, he pursued a master’s degree in telecommunication engineering, a seemingly unrelated field to what would eventually become his life’s passion. It was during these academic years that Imad discovered his knack for teaching while working as a teacher’s assistant for Electronics II, under the guidance of Professor Rabin Raut.
His journey was unconventional, to say the least. Imad worked at a coffee shop to make ends meet, a place that would later become a part of his journey as a tutor and manager at Ace It Tutoring in Montreal. This was the stepping stone for his foray into the world of education and self-improvement. He organized tutoring sessions at the very same coffee shop where he had once served lattes, showcasing his resilience and determination to follow his passion.
But it wasn’t just in the world of academia that Imad shone. He demonstrated his marketing acumen by promoting Starbucks’s pioneering sandwich in Montreal through Ace It Tutoring, showcasing his versatility and business savvy.
Imad’s thirst for knowledge and self-improvement led him to meet some of the world’s foremost experts in personal development. He had the privilege of crossing paths with the legendary Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur and motivational speaker. Later, Imad found his mentor in none other than Tony Robbins, the globally renowned life and business strategist who had himself learned under Jim Rohn.
Whilst being CEO of SucceednLead, he is a leading corporate trainer in Canada and the MENA region, a certified Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner, an author, and Lebanon’s top life coach and social media influencer. He has left an indelible mark on organizations and individuals alike, helping them unlock their potential and embrace success.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Please tell us about your journey since its beginning.
In 2010, after earning a Master’s degree in Telecommunication Engineering from Concordia- Canada, and working briefly as an Engineer, I quit everything to follow my purpose.
I started career-coaching university students because I was a Teaching Assistant at Concordia with a great reputation. Within 12 years of coaching, I gained 6 international accreditations from well-renowned institutions and gradually advanced toward coaching leaders and executives at multinational companies.
What inspired you to become a leadership and executive coach?
I started my career by coaching university students who didn’t have jobs then.
Later, I transitioned into coaching employees, then their managers, then their executives. It didn’t happen overnight. From one side, I studied to have the right knowledge and tools, and from the other side, each level prepared me for the next level of my career.
Through coaching at each level of the corporate world, I arrived at Leadership and executive coaching. My slogan is “Transforming People and Organizations,” and by coaching leaders, I am helping to create this transformation all across the organization.
But how can I coach people to become better leaders if I am not a leader myself? – I founded different companies, one of which is SucceednLead, a training and coaching consultancy that co-creates customized training programs.
I had to become a better leader for SucceednLead—to understand our people, inspire them, coach them, mobilize them, and lead them. I became a better leadership coach because I also became a better leader. I understand, practice, and live leadership.
I don’t claim to be a great leader—not at all. I’ve failed many times, but this has enriched my leadership experience to help my clients avoid such mistakes.
How do you stay current with the latest research and trends in the field of leadership and executive coaching?
I read extensively (1000 books since the age of 12), attended workshops and webinars, achieved certifications (Institute of Leadership & Management, Harvard Business School Online, International Finance Corporation, etc.), and I’ve always hired more experienced coaches to coach me.
One more important thing I learned through coaching other leaders coaching is a two-way relationship, and by coaching others, I also learn from their challenges, mistakes, and goals.
What challenges have you come across, and how did you overcome them?
When I started my coaching career 12 years ago, it wasn’t as mainstream as it is today. Most people didn’t understand it and didn’t really know they needed it. Moreover, I was an Engineer with a Master’s degree and a career ahead of me. I left everything behind me. The first challenge was my inner fears and whether, after leaving engineering, I would succeed in an industry that was relatively new.
The other challenge was returning from Canada to Lebanon. No one knew about me then, and I had to start from scratch. The latest challenges were the financial breakdown in Lebanon and Beirut’s explosion. I had to start over again. But I didn’t allow any of that to prevent me from achieving my goals. All of these shaped my personality and my leadership abilities. Leadership is shaped and transformed during tough times, challenges, and crises.
What do you believe are the most important qualities of a successful coach?
- Not to be the hero of their client. To let clients do the work themselves. Coaches might make the mistake of doing the work for their clients. Although it’s helpful in the short term, clients aren’t empowered in the long term because they didn’t learn to do it themselves. Most of them fail after the coaching is done.
- To positively challenge their clients. I always tell my clients, “I am not here for you to like me. I am here to help you do what you hired me for to become a better leader, and this requires changing what you’re doing today. Hence, I will challenge you with love and respect, even if you don’t like me at the moment. You will thank me later.”
At the beginning of our coaching program, they signed a coaching agreement. Among the things it states is to give me permission to positively and respectfully challenge you.
How do you differentiate instructions to meet the needs of different clients?
I don’t have a set agenda for my coaching clients. I take the time to learn about them at the beginning of our program, understand what they do, and craft a general program of what they need to achieve their leadership goals. This is the core. But I also keep the coaching conversation open to allow for more personalization, one session at a time. Each session is a chance to go deeper, to understand them better, and to help them achieve their results in a way that aligns with them, not me.
Kindly mention some of your major achievements, accolades, and recognitions as a leadership and executive coach.
I’ve worked with top leaders and executives worldwide, from Australia, Switzerland, Canada, the UK, the UAE, Lebanon, etc., and from many different industries. Some of them were country managers; others were CFOs, COOs, CEOs, etc. My latest client is a Board Member of a Publicly Traded company.
My clients work for companies like Holcim, Rogers, Johnson & Johnson, Genpharm, Thomson Reuters, etc. Each of them literally transformed their leadership skills and helped achieve better business results by mobilizing their teams efficiently and effectively. I am also proud of their generous testimonials and recommendations.
What would be your advice to people struggling in their leadership positions?
Even if you were born with leadership skills, it’s still not enough to be a great leader.
Leadership is an attitude and behavior that requires the application of specific tools and frameworks to make the results concrete.
You can study the best leadership books, but if you don’t select/build the right team, coach them individually, learn how to mobilize/lead each differently based on different leadership styles, think proactively and strategically, understand the “triangulation relationship” between YOU, Your team, and the Company’s Business Goals, you’ll eventually fail.
“Leadership doesn’t happen in a day, but daily.”
Can you shed some light on your future plans?
My future plan is to coach more Board Members. As I mentioned, I climbed the corporate ladder, coaching each level of an organization all the way up to coaching CEOs. After studying to become an IFC certified Board Director, I realized that decisions at the board level can help create transformation in an organization (or break an organization). Decisions taken by the board have a chain effect across the corporate hierarchy. So by coaching board members, I am helping to shape those decisions.
Also, to grow and lead SucceednLead to become known regionally as one of the best providers of customized training programs.
What makes you and your coaching methodology different from others?
It’s results-oriented (seven years of Engineering taught me to transform ideas into reality),
- Real and concrete (relevant to real-world challenges and goals)
- Very customized to the leader
- Supported by elite education and enriched with massive experience.
- Has a track record of success stories.