LLA Interview features Iris Irumva, CEO, Lead Access.

Can you share a bit about your background and journey that led you to become a coach, speaker, and mentor? What inspired you to take on these roles?

I come from a background where hard work, perseverance, and “Ubuntu” (humanity) were closely held family values. These principles laid the foundation for the path I would follow – a path that ultimately led me to holding senior roles in the corporate world and later shifting to empowering others as a coach, speaker, writer and mentor. 

My journey towards these roles was not a straight one, it was filled with diverse experiences and challenges. I started my career in a telecom company as an intern, but I always had a knack for helping others and a deep love to see people thrive in their careers and run businesses successfully. 

Over time, I found myself gravitating towards senior roles where I could empower and support others, leading teams of +1,000 in East Africa. The turning point came after I realized I could inspire and motivate more people, not just in achieving their professional aspirations, but also in navigating their personal growth as a coach, mentor. The opportunity to change lives, to see dreams realized and potentials unlocked was deeply satisfying. I knew then that my true calling was to serve as a pillar of support and a source of inspiration to others.

What personal or professional experiences have shaped your approach to coaching, speaking, and mentoring, particularly from the perspective of being a woman?

As a woman in a professional world, my experiences have greatly shaped my approach to coaching, speaking, and mentoring.

On a personal level, I’ve had to navigate many of the unique challenges that women often face – juggling family roles, managing expectations, and seeking balance. Dealing with societal stereotypes and biases has also made me appreciate the importance of building self-confidence and resilience. These experiences have reinforced my belief in the importance of empowerment and have become a cornerstone of my coaching practice. 

On a professional front, I’ve worked in environments that ranged from very supportive to those where I had to struggle to make my voice heard. I’ve encountered instances of unconscious bias and have often been the only woman in the room. However, rather than allow these experiences to hinder me, they served to strengthen my determination to succeed and prompted me to help other women do the same.

As a coach, my focus is on helping clients, especially women, become more assertive, develop their leadership skills, and build their self-confidence. I encourage them to believe in their abilities, stand their ground, and use strategically their voices through personal branding and persuasion to make a significant impact in their respective fields.

As a speaker, writer, mentor, my aim is to inspire others by sharing my journey and lessons learned. I aim to provide a perspective that isn’t just theory, but practical and applicable – derived from real-life experiences.

Overall, being a woman has not only shaped my approach but has also fueled my passion to nurture strong, confident individuals who, in turn, will inspire and lead others. At the end of the day, it’s about creating a ripple effect of empowerment and positive change.

As a female coach, speaker, and mentor, how do you see your role in empowering and advocating for other women, especially within the context of cultural and societal challenges?

I carry a deep sense of responsibility towards empowering other women.I see my role as a bridge-builder, to help women navigate the often-turbulent waters of societal and cultural expectations and biases. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, been employed, employed others, started a business closed and reopened a another a decade later. I see lack of self-confidence, resilience, and the ability to express themselves unabashedly with authenticity and authority as some of the internal challenges that hold brilliant women back.

I strive to challenge the mindset and the internal voices that tell women they are not ready enough, competent enough, smart enough, qualified enough. I share stories and insights from my journey, shedding light on the hurdles and triumphs, with hopes to inspire ambitious women and reassure them that they, too, can overcome obstacles, achieve their dreams, and make an impact.

Each woman’s journey is unique, influenced by her background, her culture, and her personal circumstances. But ultimately, there is light in all of us women. I see that light in them and my mission is to encourage them to take ownership of their stories, their potential, and their future, helping them become strong advocates for themselves and for women around them.

Can you share a specific instance where you’ve witnessed the positive impact of your work on the empowerment and growth of other women? 

A few months ago, I was working as a coach for a large organization where I met Laura (for confidentiality purpose we will call her that), a tremendously talented mid-level executive who had, unfortunately, lost confidence in herself due to a particularly challenging professional experience. She was hesitant about her capability to take on bigger roles in the organization and felt as if she wasn’t good enough to lead. 

Together we analyzed her situation, identified the triggers that were causing her self-doubt, and worked on regaining her lost confidence. We created a detailed plan to rebuild her leadership skills and worked towards establishing her personal brand in the organization, which encouraged her to raise her voice and share her ideas without hesitation.

A key part of the process was addressing her mindset. We actively worked on replacing self-doubt with self-belief, and fear of failure with a growth-oriented mindset. 

After 3 sessions, Laura began regaining her self-assurance. With each step forward, her confidence grew, and she started to engage more proactively within her team and the larger organization. She took on bigger projects, not fearing the possibility of failure, and instead embraced them as opportunities for growth.

A few months down the line, Laura was promoted to a strategic role that pays her 3 times her previous salary, and she attributed this success to the mindset shift and confidence she had regained during our coaching sessions. 

I believe that this instance showcases the importance of the role coaches play, particularly for women, in not only shaping professional growth but also personal transformation. The opportunity to witness such moments of impact is what fuels my purpose and passion as a coach.

Being a coach and mentor often involves helping others overcome challenges. What are some common challenges you’ve observed women facing, and how do you assist them in overcoming these obstacles?

Some common challenges I’ve noticed in my coaching practice include:

  • Limited Self-Belief: Many women I’ve worked with struggle with a lack of self-belief. They often find it challenging to recognize their own worth and capabilities, which can limit their potential to pursue better career opportunities.
  • Difficulty in Setting Boundaries: Whether it’s asserting themselves professionally or managing personal expectations, many women face challenges setting clear, healthy boundaries.
  • Struggle with Perfectionism: The pursuit of perfectionism can be debilitating. It can cause stress, anxiety and can hinder overall personal and professional growth.
  • Overcoming Stereotypes: Women often face stereotypes in their professional lives, which can affect their career progression and their willingness to take on leadership roles.

My approach to helping women overcome these challenges involves:

  • Boosting Confidence: Through coaching, we work on building self-confidence, focusing on their strengths and achievements. I encourage women to question the self-doubt and confront the “imposter” that they perceive within. We also work on providing them tools to handle criticism constructively.
  • Creating Healthy Boundaries: I work closely with women to help them understand their priorities, teach them the art of saying “no”, I work with women to strategize and prioritize their tasks so they can effectively manage multiple roles without feeling overwhelmed. Also, I emphasize the importance of self-care and the art of saying “not today” as a way of setting boundaries. 
  • Changing Perfectionist Mindset: I assist women in understanding that perfectionism can be a barrier to success. I encourage them to embrace the concept of ‘progress over perfection’, focusing on continuous growth rather than perfection. 
  • Managing Biases:  I encourage women to confront biases proactively by building influential relationships, leveraging mentorship and sponsorship, and promoting their successes.

Throughout my role as a coach and mentor, I aim to help women believe in themselves, their capabilities and their worth. I stand with them as they navigate their personal and professional journeys, helping them grow into the best versions of themselves.


Confidence and leadership skills are crucial for personal and professional success. How do you help women develop and strengthen these qualities through your coaching and mentoring?

Developing confidence and leadership skills in women is a critical part of my work as a coach and mentor. My approach involves a series of well-structured steps:

  • Identifying Strengths and Talents: The first step is to help women recognize their unique strengths, talents, and capabilities. I use tools like “The Leader in Your Mirror” and feedback analysis to aid in gaining this self-awareness.
  • Addressing Mindset Barriers: Often, self-doubt and limiting beliefs can affect confidence and leadership ability. By employing techniques from cognitive behavioral coaching and mindfulness practices, we work together on shifting these negative patterns of thinking.
  • Developing Leadership Agility: I focus on enhancing adaptability especially for those roles no one wants to take on, I often say that growth resides outside your area of expertise and continuous learning is the skills that set great leaders aside
  • Building Support Networks: I encourage them to build solid professional networks, in and outside their organization and learn from the experiences of others in leadership roles. It’s also about becoming visible to others who might offer opportunities and support.


What advice do you give to women who may be navigating environments that historically undervalue their leadership potential and contributions?

I often say that women would benefit more in learning to listen to their inner mentor or intuition because it’s probably the most natural gift women possess. 

I’ll add to that a few advices that have personally helped me:

  • Believe in Yourself: Often, the external perception of us is a reflection of how we perceive ourselves. Believe in your abilities, your contributions, and your potential for leadership. Don’t let external biases deter you.
  • Seek Out Allies: Cultivate relationships with individuals who appreciate your worth and potential. This could include mentors, sponsors, or supportive co-workers. These are the individuals who will stand up for you, vouch for your abilities, and help amplify your voice.
  • Don’t Personalize Bias: Remember that bias is a reflection of the person who holds it, not a reflection of your worth or capabilities. Stay resilient, focus on your passion and let your work speak for itself.
  • Showcase Your Successes: Often, women are hesitant to shine a light on their achievements. But it’s important to let others know about your accomplishments. This not only increases your visibility but also establishes your credibility and inspires other women.

Keep Going,

Keep Growing,

You got this.


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