Meet The Disruptors: Amira elAdawi Of AMIRA & CO On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Frameworks and lists are so prevalent in the consulting world and I strongly believe that they often limit people’s thinking, preventing them from thinking multidimensionally. So, since I’m trying to change how we offer “advice” as consultants, let me not give you a list but rather offer a story about when my approach to life really changed.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amira elAdawi.

Amira is the Founder and Managing Partner of AMIRA & CO, a boutique management consulting practice designed to deliver transformational change during post M&A integration and enterprise optimization, through a next generation model of management consulting, predicated on the importance of co-creation with clients for long-term success. Amira has over 20 years of experience in top-tier consulting firms, and as a business operator at Fortune-50 companies. She is an External Adviser to Bain & Co, a former Senior Principal at Booz & Co as well as former Senior Group Manager at Procter & Gamble. Amira holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a MC in Hospitality Management from Cornell University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I spent over a decade in the management consulting industry following the traditional approach to consulting that assumes consultants are hired because they are smarter than their clients and that through a handful of interviews they can tell people who have been doing their jobs for decades how to do them better. I never bought into that thinking, and I don’t think empirical evidence would back it up. I always thought the service provided by consultants was essential, valuable, and needed, but I knew there must be a better way to do this. So I left my job at Big-5 consulting firms and dedicated time to do in-depth research with clients to understand what they hated about consulting (it’s a running joke in the industry, that everyone hates consultants! I wanted to know why), and what their “wish-list” is for working with consultants. That’s what led me to creating AMIRA & CO. A new type of consulting practice that uses a unique approach to delivering management consulting by collaborating with clients.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Our “transformation-from-within” approach is antithetical to traditional consulting. We believe that the best way to enact lasting success at a client’s organization is by partnering with them to co-create solutions. This empowers internal teams to play an integral role in the future of their success, rather than relying on external consultants to dictate solutions to them. As I tell my clients, my goal is for you to never have to hire me more than once for the same thing.

We don’t come in as outsiders and dictate solutions. Instead, we actively guide client teams to find the right answer themselves. We use best practices and industry expertise to show them how to analyze data, interpret results, test theories, and then we support them in solving the problems and eliminating the roadblocks that arise during implementation. Most importantly, using behavioral science, we coach them to work together in a whole new collaborative way that increases their job satisfaction as well as their productivity as a group.

I truly believe this is the only way to create lasting change. Successful management solutions must come from within.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I think this is a common mistake made by all consultants, but it’s not really funny: you assume you have all the answers, and you assume because of your pedigree, or because you work for a big top-tier consulting firm that you’re the smartest person in the room and that you must share your brilliance with everyone. Needless to say, over time, you learn that the more you think you know, the less you actually do! (Have you read the Dunning-Kruger research? If not, please read it!). Now I spend more than 75% of my time on engagements listening to clients, junior and senior alike. They almost always have the better answer to an issue, my job is to help them find it.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

That’s a tough one. I grew-up in the Middle East two decades ago when female leaders were very few and far between, if they existed at all. There was no expectation that a woman would “last” in business. The assumption was that you got a job until you got married and had kids, then you left your job, which of course meant that mentors didn’t invest a lot of time in women as they didn’t think it was an investment that would pay-off. So I didn’t have “mentors” in the traditional sense, but I was inspired by many women and men alike. And I learned a lot from many people that have crossed my path in life, even if not all of them were aware of it at the time — it’s really amazing how impactful minor interactions can have on one’s life, and in aggregate they add up to a lot of unintentional and fragmented “mentorships”. I sometimes wonder if that was a curse or a blessing. Having a mentor to turn to definitely would have helped at many points in my career, but maybe not having one and having to figure it out for myself led to a type of growth I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

The tipping point should always be the customer. If you consistently listen to the user of your service with an open mind, and note any trend in input, or any common “inside-jokes” about your company or industry, that’s when you know change is overdue. Customers will always tell you what to continue doing and what to do differently if you listen honestly enough. And when I say customers I don’t just mean the ones you have — I also mean the ones you lost, and the ones you were never able to get. For example, when the common “joke” about consultants is that they “borrow your watch then charge you to tell you what time it is”, it’s time for disruption.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

I can come up with a list, like any good consultant, but I won’t. Frameworks and lists are so prevalent in the consulting world and I strongly believe that they often limit people’s thinking, preventing them from thinking multidimensionally. So, since I’m trying to change how we offer “advice” as consultants, let me not give you a list but rather offer a story about when my approach to life really changed.

So this story may not seem very inspiring to many people, but it was a pivotal moment in my life. As a child, I was smart enough to do pretty well in school without trying very hard. I would skim material before a test and get an A or an A-. Everyone was happy and no one ever told me to do anything differently — not until Mr. Archer. When I was 10 or maybe 11, my geography teacher, Mr. Archer, was handing out exam papers and stopped to acknowledge a normally-B-student that aced the test. He said it was a pleasure reading the student’s test paper because it was clear that “she took time to read the material with dedication and focus, she truly internalized what she read, then took it to the next level by reflecting on what she read and making the learnings her own” — simple right? No duh? But that was the first time someone had verbalized in such a clear manner what it takes to excel at anything if you want to go beyond God-given smarts. The aspects he articulated so well are the aspects that you as a person can control, take credit for, and be proud of. It just clicked with me, that’s how you personally contribute to your development. It changed everything for me. The most interesting thing about this story is that he wasn’t giving me advice, he wasn’t even thinking of me when he said those words, yet the words felt like they were meant for me.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I think there is still a long way to go before I’m satisfied and have disrupted this industry as widely as I would like, so I’m sticking with this for a while longer. I’ve converted a lot of clients, but I’m hoping to convince the traditional consulting industry to join the revolution.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Numerous of course, but let me talk about the most recent one. I just finished listening to Adam Grant’s book “Think Again”, and a lot of it resonated very strongly with me. The most impactful part — for me — was reading about the complicated value of “grit”. He posits that sometimes, grit is not as great as the world of type-A people make it out to be (me being one of those “very gritty” type-A’s). He explains that grit means you sometimes invest too much time, effort, and energy into things long after they’re clearly not working. It was a very interesting notion to contemplate, because it’s really hard to know when you’re being too gritty and beating-a-dead-horse, and when you’re just not persevering enough to reach that elusive tipping point that can change your trajectory. I haven’t figured out the balancing act there yet, but I’m working on it!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I love Dr. Maya Angelou’s “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I love this one both personally and professionally. I think this ties into the grit theme I talked about earlier — a lot of us really want something to be one way or another, so we deploy selective listening and confirmation bias and ignore any information we get that doesn’t support our hypothesis. So even when people, or life, or data, tells us something very clearly, we just refuse to believe it because we don’t want to. Applies to love, friendship, business networking and big-data analytics just the same!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It would be a movement to reach girls in far corners of the earth, and somehow convince them, show them, prove to them how valuable they can be, on so many fronts and in so many different ways. I don’t even think we need to necessarily do anything beyond that, I think just that knowledge alone can create endless transformations.

How can our readers follow you online?

If readers are interested in finding out more about our unique approach to consulting or the impact we’ve had on clients we’ve worked with, they can check out our website at and read some of our client’s “love letters” as we call them, and for more regular news about any interviews and podcasts that our team is contributing to, they can follow our LinkedIn page at — but no tweets from me, the world has way too many tweets as it is 🙂

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Meet The Disruptors: Amira elAdawi Of AMIRA & CO On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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