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Zeib Khwaja: "Resilience and adaptability are pivotal qualities, enabling me to stay relevant"

 March 28, 2024, 6-min. read.


Interview with Zeib Khwaja

Vice President at

Empowerment & inclusion in leadership

In honor of International Women's Day, celebrated under the inspiring theme 'Inspire Inclusion,' we had the distinct privilege of hosting Zeib Khwaja on our podcast, "Breaking the Mold: Creating Jobs Around People for a Good Reason."

This special episode aligns with the essence of a day dedicated to highlighting the strides women have made in various fields, pushing for more inclusive and equitable work environments. Zeib, whose career spans significant roles, including her impactful work at a leading global financial services firm, embodies the principles of leadership that our podcast seeks to explore.

Through this dialogue, we delved into how career mobility programs can catalyze personal growth and positively affect organizational dynamics, reflecting on Zeib's professional journey. Our discussion offered profound insights into creating workspaces that not only embrace but thrive on empowerment and inclusivity, resonating deeply with the theme of this year's International Women's Day.

Drawing from Your Empathy-Led Change Initiatives

As highlighted in your WeAreTechWomen profile, you've spearheaded significant change initiatives, focusing on empathy and inclusivity within a global organization. How have these roles shaped your perspective on fostering inclusive work environments?

"In guiding leaders, I stress the significance of 'listening' within their teams. It's crucial to grasp diverse perspectives and realities to effectively lead global organizations. Each team member brings a unique personality, experience, and problem-solving approach that we should leverage.

Inclusion serves as a conduit to establishing a safe space for teams to express themselves, challenge one another, and collaboratively identify optimal solutions. Such a safe environment, fostered through inclusion, encourages new ideas by eliminating discomfort, inhibitions, and doubts, allowing teams to focus solely on solutions, ideas, and creativity.

In my interactions across the workplace, at industry events, or within mentoring circles, I've found that inclusion is key to unveiling genuine sentiments and unvarnished realities. For a leader, these insights are priceless.

Empowerment & Inclusion in Leadership

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Initiating change requires an understanding of the issues and the application of appropriate solutions, starting with inclusion.

Given the evolving workforce dynamics, including generational diversity, neurodivergence, cultural integration, and recent global challenges, inclusion stands as the most vital tool for aligning everyone."

HR TRENDS 2024 | LutherOne

Learning from Experiences of Resilience & Adaptability

Reflecting on your experiences shared with Trusted Magazine, including leading a team at a young age and relocating to the UK during the pandemic, how have these challenges enhanced your understanding of resilience and adaptability in leadership?

"Each challenge I overcome feels like advancing to the next level in a game.

Nvidia’s co-founder and CEO Jensen Huang outlined this very well at a recent Stanford Summit - “People with very high expectations have very low resilience. And, unfortunately, resilience matters in success. I don't know how to teach it to you ... but for all you Stanford students, I wish upon you ample doses of pain and suffering”.

Resilience and adaptability are pivotal qualities, enabling me to stay relevant, seize new opportunities, and advocate for myself.

Navigating tough or unfamiliar circumstances often requires seeking help, a sign of a growth mindset, not weakness. I'm immensely grateful for the support network that has empowered me to confront challenges with resilience.

Adaptability is essential for sustaining desired changes, whether it's adapting to a new country, landing the ideal job, or nurturing a fulfilling relationship. Success achieved without adaptability may be fleeting and less enjoyable.

Leadership entails a significant responsibility toward teams, alliances, and customers, preparing for the unpredictable and embracing the diverse challenges each day brings."

The Impact of Mentorship on Your Career Trajectory

In a previous interview, you highlighted the crucial role of mentors and sponsors in your varied career journey. How has this support system influenced your approach to mentorship and leadership within your industry?

"I'm fortunate to have a robust support system for various challenges.

Giving back is something I deeply value.

As a mentor, I dedicate my time and honesty to my mentees, striving to understand their personalities, ambitions, and challenges to provide empathetic and personalized guidance.

It's vital to establish a mutual understanding of success, mentorship expectations, and commitment.

It's vital to establish a mutual understanding of success, mentorship expectations, and commitment.

Over time, I've recognized the importance of a strategic approach to mentorship—seeking different mentors for different life goals. Whether it's enhancing domain expertise, leadership skills, or personal growth, identifying and engaging with the right mentors for specific needs is crucial."

Influencing Leadership Development & Organizational Change

Given your role in Transformation & Change at JP Morgan, as described on WeAreTechWomen, where you've championed Manager Excellence for over 1,200 managers, how do these responsibilities contribute to leadership development and meaningful organizational change?

"The adage 'People don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses' rings true.

Leaders have an immense responsibility to foster their teams' development and success. The more an organization focuses on this management layer, the greater the likelihood of having satisfied employees and customers.

Managers are pivotal in translating and implementing company strategy, serving as both strategists and agents of change at the grassroots level. Supporting managers to make their roles more manageable and effective is a worthwhile investment.

Particularly, 'first-time managers' require solid foundations for success and to positively impact their surroundings."

Advocating for Authenticity & Continuous Learning in Leadership

Your insights in Trusted Magazine underline authenticity, continuous learning, and the upliftment of others as key success principles for female leaders. How do these values shape your vision for a more inclusive and diverse leadership landscape?

" Women are increasingly leaving their mark on the world, supported by the allyship of both men and strong women. The significance of being a role model is paramount. Decades ago, my grandmother, who was married at 13 and never formally educated, was considered foolish for challenging her family's expectations and prioritizing education for her children. Her actions have had a lasting impact.

A personal key performance indicator for me is to inspire someone to achieve something they previously thought impossible.

In my opinion, an inclusive and diverse leadership landscape involves a continuous journey of understanding the people across the table, considering their whole selves, and sitting in their shoes more often. Continuous learning helps you diversify your thinking, challenge your assumptions and biases, and reset your mental models to become a holistic person. 

As a female leader, it also requires the recognition that basic opportunities and rights are still a privilege for many women even today. When I participated in the UN Commission on the Status of Women last year, I realized that there is still a lot of work to do for leaders to get us to a true state of equality and make diversity and inclusion second nature."

Final thoughts 

Reflecting on the insightful theme of 'Inspire Inclusion' for International Women's Day, our conversation with Zeib Khwaja has been an illuminating highlight. Her narratives, shaped by a career that includes valuable contributions at a renowned financial services firm, have profoundly resonated with us at LutherOne. Zeib's journey underscores the importance of leadership rooted in empathy, inclusivity, and resilience, serving as a compelling call to action for organizations and leaders alike. Her insights into mentorship, the impact of career mobility programs, and the significance of nurturing environments where every voice is heard and valued are invaluable.

We are immensely thankful to Zeib for taking the time to share her experiences and wisdom with us. Her participation has not only enriched our celebration of International Women's Day but also strengthened our commitment to advocating for a professional landscape that is more equitable, diverse, and inclusive. 


The experiences and opinions expressed in this interview are based on Zeib Khwaja's entire career journey and are not specifically attributed to her tenure at JP Morgan.

Written by Loic Duvezin-Caubet, Digital Content Manager at LutherOne. 


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