Why Oprah Winfrey Is a Global Servant Leader
You get a car, you get a car, you get a car. Oprah Winfrey is best known for hosting her own popular talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show”. People often remember her for giving away free items on her talk show. But, in fact she is known for a lot more. She influenced and inspired millions worldwide to dream big. Oprah is self-confident and shares personal stories about her pain and joy. She is an outstanding communicator who makes a strong connection with her audience. Oprah has become one of the most influential people in history.
Oprah was born to a divorced teenage mother in Mississippi. She was a smart girl, who started reading and reciting books at a young age. Her world was drastically changed at a young age, she was molested by male relatives and others. She tried to escape from that terrible life, she ended up living with her father years later. She started her own talk show, called “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in the late 1980’s. Oprah fell in love with acting, which lead her to form her own production company, Harpo Productions, Inc., in 1986. Oprah became one of the most influential people in that time period. Her show ended in 2011 after 24 seasons, but that was not the end of her broadcasting career (Oprah Winfrey).
Oprah became a leader early in her career, you could even say it started in her childhood. Being a servant leader carries many traits, but Oprah Winfrey covers all of them. Her “visions are inspirational, optimistic, and future oriented and she articulates a sense of purpose that attracts, motivates and energizes followers to take on difficult challenges” (Cinderella Stories Of Women Leaders 25). Oprah Winfrey never let anyone or anything hold her down from accomplishing her dreams. “She is a children’s rights activist, and stood beside President Clinton when he signed into law a 1994 bill to create a national database of convicted child abusers, which Oprah had proposed” (Cinderella Stories of Women Leaders 24). Her leadership was a setting, which has idealized leadership successes and failures. Oprah knew what she wanted to accomplish in her life, and thus far she has reached her goals.
Most people can not say that they have reached their ultimate goal in life, but Oprah Winfrey is one of them that can actually say that. People often say that she went from rags to riches and that is a true statement. She grew up in poverty, but she is now living as one of the wealthiest women in the world. It’s hard for one to be a famous icon and a servant leader that many look up to. She juggled it all, and I wish I knew how. Her business has had its ups and downs, but at the very end of the day it is still succeeding. “Oprah built her business empire by capitalizing on her moral strengths and personality traits” (Kashyap 70).
Her company, Harpo has transpired as one of the most powerful media empires in the world. Her employees were always one of her top priorities. She encouraged them to speak their mind and express why their contribution mattered. Oprah stated that “Harpo’s mission was to transform the way people see themselves, to uplift, to enlighten, to encourage, to entertain” (Kashyap 75). With this mission, her efforts have helped her build a committed team that will last forever. Oprah’s focus has never been on the money, I find that so inspiring. So many famous icons are in it for the fame and money, but those are not the right reasons to be in a career. Oprah has a sincere passion for changing the world and those around her.
Being a servant leader can mean a lot of things in our society today. A servant leader to me is someone who is willing to go out of their way for people in need. This definition fits Oprah Winfrey very well. She is not just another famous entertainer, she’s a role model to many. She is a friend and role model for all people, of any gender, of any race, or of any group. Oprah arguably has had more influence on our culture than most people. Her title of being famous did not just land in her lap though. “A daunting work ethic, excellent time management, amazing business acumen, and a massive dose of showmanship made her the number 1 television talk show host worldwide” (Lowe xii).
Oprah faced many kinds of adversity, but at a young age she decided to take charge of her life. She decided that she wanted to become a woman of influence so that she could change the world for better. She never used her talk show for fame, she used it to make a safer and saner world. Many segments of her show were dedicated to major issues, such as children living in poverty, raising disabled children, and child sexual abuse. “Oprah makes her personal philosophy well known – pro-choice on abortion; anti guns; tough on pornographers, drunken drivers, and smokers.
She is equally tough on petty criminals, negligent mothers, welfare abusers, or anyone else who doesn’t take responsibility for their own actions and lives” (Lowe xiv). She was never afraid of standing up for what she believed in and that is so important in our world. It is so easy to give in to our society, but Oprah never did. All of these qualities show that Oprah Winfrey is a servant leader.
Oprah Winfrey is not like any other leader you usually think of when it first comes to your mind. Oprah’s public persona is utterly different from the persona of other stars, her public image has been constructed as a biographical icon – a persona that is known for the details of her personal life. This is done with her sharing intimate details that concern her life with her audience. She does not feel sorry for herself when she is talking about her past, she instead focuses on the psychological details that were apart of that experience.
“The fact that from the pedestal of her exceptional economic success Oprah has been able to successfully perform an identity that shares some of the innermost concerns that plague her audience is key to the trust that she has managed to produce in her viewers” (Wilf, Eitan, and Eva 75). Oprah focuses on her audience first, she wants to create a dynamic relationship with each and every one of them. Creating a dynamic relationship with your audience “has produced charismatic leadership that in turn has resulted in trust and ethical commitment” (Wilf, Eitan, and Eva 83). The fact that Oprah is a human being interacting with her guests in live events no doubt accounts for the ideal type of leadership.
Oprah Winfrey was and always will be an icon in my mind. Oprah made a debut of a speech at the 2018 Golden Globes, it was a speech that will always be remembered. “So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody has to say “Me too” again” (Oprah Winfrey’s Full).
The night of that speech helped transform the awards show into a newly minted platform for women’s rights and social justice. She used her acceptance speech to go forth on the topic that no one wanted to talk about. She spoke passionately and persuasively about the abuse and assaults that women have faced for too long. Her conclusion at the end of the speech was called for the day when nobody will have to say “Me too”. Oprah’s speech has changed so much in culture since, and I am sure it will continue to do so in our future.
Oprah’s vision is that she wants her audience to work toward self-improvement and her mission is self enrichment and self empowerment of others. Servant leadership emphasizes that leaders are attentive to the concerns of their followers, emphasize with them, and nurture them. Oprah believes that in order to move forward you need to give back. Oprah leads by example, and holds herself to a higher standard than others. She encourages her followers to do their best, and helps them to succeed.
She also exhibits many of the characteristics that servant leaders have, such as being able to listen, empathize, persuade, and building a community. These qualities have enabled her to grow her business to what it has become from nothing. Encouraging the heart is one of Oprah’s 5 practices of leadership. I believe this is Oprah Winfrey’s greatest trait in life because she genuinely cares about others and their hearts. Leaders encourage the heart by recognizing contributions and celebrating values and victories. Genuine acts of caring uplifts the spirits and draw people forward. Oprah in my mind will always be one of the greatest leaders in the world.