Throughout history we have seen many leaders come before us. These are people that strive to bring out the qualities of the individual and guide them in the appropriate direction. They lead by example to create an environment that is healthy and positive. There are several definitions of leadership because of how many styles it holds. Leadership is the action of leading a group of people or an organization. Roberts describes it this way: “Leadership is the privilege to have responsibility to direct others in carrying out the purpose of the organization, at varying levels of authority and with accountability for both successful and failed endeavors” (Roberts, 16). It is taking motivation from one’s self and inspiring the people around you to find leadership with in themselves. Motivation is a tool that helps people achieve success and accomplish all goals that are put before them. According to Mind Tool, “Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to “win” as a team or organization; and it is dynamic, exciting and inspiring” (Mind Tool, 2019). This is a great quality for a leader. They strive to never give up.
We have seen many successful women leaders that have changed history. Women have come together through the years to fight for our rights, so that all will stand equal. Global Fund for Women is a website that educates women on their rites. According to the website, “These rights include the right to live free from violence, slavery and discrimination; to be educated, to own property; to vote; and earn a fair and equal wage” (2019). Rosa Parks was an American activist during the time of segregation. She refused to get her seat to a white passenger and was arrested. This launched a world-wide effort to end racial segregation of public facilities. Since then, women have stepped up and fought for what is just in our world. Another example of a great leader is Martin Luther King, Jr. In the 1950s and 1960s he was a civil rights activist. His goal was to fight for the rights of all people, not only his race. He hoped that America could change for the better and all be equal. His dream was that no one would see color, they would see the person. In a speech that he is famous for and one of the many non-violent protests that he led, he said to the people, “I say to you today my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’” (King, 1963). It was through King’s leadership and inspiration, that his dream is coming true and all people are one. He was leader that will forever be in our hearts.
These two leaders have proved to the African American community that change was possible. They paved the way for leaders in our generation such as Oprah Winfrey and she has done wonders for all communities, organizations and she has helped people change their lives around. She is a perfect example of a multicultural leader. According to Heidi Achong, “multicultural leadership is the ability to inspire others from different parts of the hemisphere to work towards a shared vision in a harmonized rhythm despite their cultural differences (not appealing more or less to any one group)” (Achong, 2016). Oprah implemented this in 2007, by opening an all-girls boarding school in South Africa, called Leadership Academy for Girls. Her inspiration originated from the lack of opportunities and education that was offered to her as a child. Her vision is to provide excellent education, with a touch of leadership to guide the girls in a positive direction. Oprah hopes that with the opportunity she offers, it will make a difference in our world and future generations to come. We have seen through Oprah’s career that she has always had a strong desire to practice generosity and hope for a greater outcome. In 2004 to 2010, Time magazine recognized Oprah as being one of the most influential people in the world. The achievements that she has been awarded, acknowledging her contributions in our society is due to reaching out to all people. Not just women and the African American culture.
In the book, ‘Salsa, Soul, and Spirt’, the author explains the different approaches from Latino, Black, and American Indian communities. There are nine principles of multicultural leadership that describe the foundation for these three cultures. In her own way, Oprah has demonstrated how her roots have led to her success. For a leader to be successful it is important to know your history and understand what brought you here. In 2013, Barak Obama honored Oprah with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Rhea Combs and Kathleen Kendrick embraced her and created an exhibition that illustrated her upbringing and roots. “We wanted to help visitors understand ‘Where does Oprah come from?’. I mean she is such an icon and a presence. But she didn’t come out of a vacuum”, Kendrick says. “She’s a woman, an African American woman, born in 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi. That had a huge impact on who she is, on her sense of upbringing. It really shaped an idea of who she could become, what her potential was” (Keyes, 2018).
There are two different traits that identify culture, which surrounds them. This is the second principle that separates different leaders. A leader that holds the traits of collectivism, identifies with them as the ‘We’ culture. They believe they are responsible for all and are engaged in the community. By working together, they will benefit more, than by one working by themselves. This will benefit the whole group and not just the individual. If a person identifies with the ‘I’ culture, they tend to be independent and strive for their own personal gain. We see in Oprah that she identifies with the ‘We’ culture, from her actions that we have seen through the years. She gains more by helping people than just herself.
A leader that is described as charismatic, believes in strong moral values and are considered to be strong role models. Using the transformational approach, they use their strength as a leader to help people change. They hope to inspire them with the confidence they hold and bring out the same in the individual. In communities of color, this leadership approach sets the example for everyone to see. Oprah promotes this style of leadership, by setting an inspired example. Bordas describes it this way: “Personalism resonates with a valued trait in the Black community – being known as the person who ‘walks the talk’. African Americans value authenticity, genuineness, and being ‘real’. A leader must therefore speak the truth, communicating with sincerity and conviction. The expression ‘Tell it like it is’ puts it well” (Bordas, 2012).
Oprah is also known for serving her community and it took teamwork to do this. With the help and direction of her team, Oprah has donated to more than thirty-one charities through the years. The Angel Network is a foundation, where 100% of the donations go towards the Leadership Academy for Girl in South Africa and these funds have helped rebuild the Gulf Coast. She is also a big supporter of the Clinton Foundation, which helps support the funding for treating HIV and AIDS. The Clintons are also a firm believer in fighting climate change, so they have added this to their foundation too. Oprah promotes giving to charities on her talk shows. In the book, ‘Oprah Winfrey: A Biography of Billionaire Talk Show Host’, Weston talks about how Oprah’s childhood has affected her actions today. She states, “If the past points to the future, there is little doubt Winfrey will succeed. Obstacles never stood for very long in Winfrey’s way when she was growing up. She learned as a child to meet life’s challenges head-on – and to follow the light of her open heart and generosity” (Westen, 2013). Through Oprah’s charity and foundation, she also encourages celebrities and her fans to contribute to great causes. Generosity can go along way if you are willing to donate, even if it’s just your time and efforts.
The communities of color are growing in size and coming together for its communities. Oprah is an example of empowering people of color are taking stronger leading roles. She believes that spirituality has also played a big part in her contributions. Bordas talks about how the African American soul sings. This relates to the community and how this has flourished their strong roots. The church became their anchor and religion was the stone from which they were taught moral values. He describes it this way: “Soul, which some attempted to deny to Black people, bloomed into one of their essential cultural features. Soul reflects a deep well of resilient hope, a spiritual family bonded by common hardship, and an emotional connection that forces community consciousness” (Bordas, 2012). The traditions that have continued from generation to generation, describes how this culture reflects strong leadership qualities.
- Roberts, W. (1990). Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun. New York: Warner Books.
- Yolande, Midgie, Mind Tools Content Team. (n.d.). What Is Leadership? Retrieved from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_41.htm
- Make a Gift to Help Get Money and Attention Where It Will Make the Biggest Difference in the Fight for Women’s Human Rights. (n.d.). Women's Human Rights and Gender Equality. Retrieved from https://www.globalfundforwomen.org/womens-human-rights/
- King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968. (1968). I Have a Dream: The Quotations of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Grosset,
- Fritchen, Katie. “Multicultural Leadership Defined by Experts”. CrestcomLeadership.com, 4 Oct. 2016, http://crestcomleadership.com/2016/10/06/multicultural-leadership-defined-by-leadership-development-experts/
- Keyes, A. (2018, June 7). Oprah's Undeniable Influence on American History Recognized in New Smithsonian Exhibition. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/oprahs-undeniable-influence-american-history-recognized-new-smithsonian-exhibition-180969267/
- Bordas, J. (2012). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
- Westen, R. (2013). Oprah Winfrey: A Biography of a Billionaire Talk Show Host. Enslow Publishing, LLC.