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Essay about Oprah Winfrey as a Successful Leader

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One of Oprah Winfrey’s quotes that has stuck with me for the past 3 years is: “The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but significance- and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning”. A leader is built by being able to do everything confidently and encouraging the same confidence in those you lead. Some qualities a leader should poses is dependability, integrity, and perseverance. When if people think of picking a leader or when they simply type in ‘successful leaders’ in the Google search bar, you don’t see the top five being a female unless you narrow your search. I have chosen to write about Oprah Winfrey, as she is one of the top female global media leaders who has made significant efforts to be where she is now. She’s now the host and owner of The Oprah Winfrey Show, which consistently wins high ratings, and the founder of the Harpo Productions, Inc., which produces her television shows and movies.

I believe the best leaders are those who overcome their past and that is exactly what Winfrey did. She was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, On January 29, 1954 and was taken in by her grandmother. From the very beginning, Winfrey was into ‘playacting’, writing speeches, and going in front of an audience. Starting the age of nine, the poor environment had negative effects on her as she was victimized by repeated sexual abuse by men that her family had trusted. The turning point was when she went back to live with her father who was a strict and firm person but also provided her with guidance, structure, and rules. Getting back on tract, she got a full scholarship to Tennessee State University and a year in she was invited to the White House Conference on Youth. Just two years into her college career, she become Miss Black Nashville and Miss Tennessee. Winfrey moved to Chicago in January 1984 and took over as anchor on A.M. Chicago and changed the show from traditional women's issues to current and controversial topics. Winfrey on live TV spoke about her abuse in 1989 of the show regarding sexual abuse. As a leader, being able to take your past and accept it and move millions of viewers shows the courage and motivation to continues and that is exactly what she has done.

Some important leadership qualities that people like me see in Oprah Winfrey are emotional intelligence, charismatic leadership, and transformational leadership.

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EI is concerned with our ability to understand emotions and apply this understanding to life’s tasks. More specifically, “EI can be defined as the ability to perceive and express emotions, to use emotions to facilitate thinking, to understand and reason with emotions, and to effectively manage emotions within oneself and it’s relationships with others” (Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2000). This can be easily seen through Oprah’s leadership style. Her awareness of her own vision has led her to achieve big goals while her listening skills and empathy have enabled her to motivate others. Oprah once said: “I am a woman in process. I’m just trying like everybody else. I try to take every conflict, every experience, and learn from it. Life is never dull”. People can trust Oprah with darkest secrets to their greatest accomplishments. People follow leaders who are transparent and relatable. One thing people can relate with her are the struggles with weight gain which she has publicly shared over the years.

In 1976, Robert J. House published his working paper ‘A 1976 Theory of Charismatic Leadership’. His focus was to move the theory towards a psychological explanation rather than sociological or political science theory of power. For House, personality characteristics of a charismatic leader include being dominant, having strong desire to influence others, being self-confident, and having strong sense of one’s own moral overtones. In leadership, Northouse states, “transformational leadership is the process whereby a person engages with others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the followers” (pp.164-165). If there is one person who fits the description of a transformational and charismatic leader, I would look at no one other than Oprah Winfrey.

Time magazine named Oprah Winfrey ‘one of the most influential people’ from 2004-2009. Winfrey’s communication skills have enabled her to engage with people from diverse backgrounds. People have been able to identify with Winfrey because of her background and the fact that she was able to succeed in a male dominated world. Oprah is known to feel empathy over emotional stories through her interviews and this human side of her. She connects her with people and they view her as a caring leader. She is an authentic communicator who makes a strong connection with her audience. She also has a great sense of moral values. An example of this is when she broke her silence in regards to the increase of mass shootings that have occurred over the recent years in the United States. When Oprah makes mistakes, she is willing to announce that she was wrong and will learn from them like any ordinary human. This is why so many of Oprah’s viewers feel a strong connection with her. Besides her having traits of both transformational and charismatic, she is also a servant leader.

Oprah Winfrey is an excellent example of many dimensions of leadership. Scott Testa is a professor of business administration at Cabrini College. He has described Oprah Winfrey as ‘the ultimate self-made business leader’. Her leadership style is so common, yet she makes it unique in her own way. What I find inspirational about her is how she is able to inspire those around her especially with their past, and how she’s able to execute her vision. There is no doubt that her philosophy extends to three branches of leadership which are value, vision, and team. She came from nothing and now is a billionaire.

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