Leadership Essay Rough Draft
When you think of Oprah Winfrey, many words come to mind such as successful, intelligent, and generous. While Oprah fits all of these descriptions and more, I believe the word best used to describe such a remarkable woman would be leader. She has multiple titles attached to her name including talk show host, philanthropist, producer, and actress. All of these roles that Winfrey play, enforce her power and socially influential nature which inspires people within their lives to achieve goals beyond everyday standards. Many of the achievements that she has accomplished to this day, are due to the qualifications she possesses such as beneficial characteristics along with the strengths as well as weaknesses of a true, empowered leader. Her amazing charm and confident personality help her lead and influence people daily. She may have not started out this way, but eventually she was able to realize that she had a talent of speaking which gave her the ability to become an inspiration to others with her natural born ability to lead.
Born in the small farm town of Kosciusko, Mississippi, Oprah was known to have the natural aptitude of speaking to large groups of people. At just two years old, she addressed her local Churches congregation about the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Day ( Encyclopedia 2). She also convinced her first kindergarten teacher that she belonged in first grade by writing her a letter explaining her reasoning to which she granted young Winfrey her wish. Although she, as well as other knew what she wanted to achieve when she grew up, circumstances weren’t always easy as she was growing up. Her parents split at a young age and left her in the care of her grandmother on her mother’s side. Winfrey’s parents were not there for the beginning of her childhood, but eventually she did end up moving back in with her mother during her toddler years. Her mother was located in a predominantly poor and ghetto neighborhood located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After a couple years with her mother, she was then sent to live with her father in Nashville Tennessee. It was during this time where Oprah started realizing her love for public speaking as she participated in making speeches at close churches and social gatherings. The time in her life was when Oprah decided that she wanted to get paid to talk when she got older. This influential time in her life came to an abrupt haunt when she was sent back to live with her mother again in the less fortunate society. Things such as sexual abuse by men in her family and bad behavior on Oprah’s part, had negative effects on her prospering ambitions (Biography 2). This attempt at grasping her mother’s attention due to the odd hours she worked meaning no time able to be given to her daughter, resulted in Oprah relocating for the third and final time back with her father. Contrary to her mother, Winfrey’s father was very strict showing a lot of guidance to Oprah during these troubled times. He would require things from her such as learning new vocabulary words each day before dinner as well as weekly book reports from the young girl. She claims that her father actually saved her life during this time. These things that her father would make her due resulted in her becoming a very well rounded student who was involved in many clubs in high school (Encyclopedia 6). Most of the clubs she was involved with showed her love for speech such as drama, debate, as well as student council. She would grow to compete in speaking contests that would eventually give her a full scholarship to Tennessee State University where she would attend school and work for a local radio station in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1976, she graduated with degrees in both Speech Communications and Performing Arts (Biography 2). Although she grew up with a rocky start, Oprah would eventually grow up to graduate from Tennessee State and begin her career as a host on the local news in Baltimore, Maryland. Today, Oprah has made a production company called Harpo Inc. which hosts the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), a television channel that airs multiple programs daily in the United States and around the world. Along with this network, she has made a book club, won a series of awards including NAACP Image Awards, and stared in many TV series and movies. She is constantly being seen whether on the internet or on the television in your living room. Winfrey's overwhelmingly welcoming presence can be displayed within every aspect of herself thus why she has become a large feature of the average Americans household.
In our book The Truth About Leadership by Barry Posner and James M. Kouzes, Posner and Kouzes talk about what it takes to be an accurate and faithful leader. They describe 10 Truths and how those truths make someone an influential leader, that can also play an effective part in the lives of others. Oprah fits many truths within this book, but I think one of the truths that most describe her and the goals that soon became her reality would be Truth 4, Focusing on the Future Sets Leaders Apart. Within this chapter of the book, they tell us that the ability to be forward looking helps differentiate individual contributors to true leaders within the world (Posner and Kouzes 58). Oprah never let her past mistakes and downfalls get in the way of her dream of becoming a paid talk show host. She went through a rough patch in her childhood that resulted in bad decision making and dealt with horrible life circumstances yet still overcame all of it and was able to use it as fuel to the fire of her compassionate nature. In February of 2003, a special lady named Fannie, who was a nanny and housekeeper for a living, had to take in her nephew and two nieces after the death of her sister along with her own children. Winfrey heard of this lady and gave her a year maid service in order to take some stress off her hands as well as an all paid trip to New York City, and a brand new car. Winfrey can relate first hand to moving from place to place due to certain situations, which is why I believe she chose to make such an impactful decision for the kids of the deceased sister who are going through the same thing. Not only does she want to improve others, but she also wants to improve herself as she constantly strives for higher education. Whether it was her wanting to be in first grade as a kindergartener or using her speech abilities to further her education within college, she has been able to accomplish many opportunities that others believed she would not be capable of due to this constant strive for higher education. This shows how Oprah focuses on the future of others and does not let them be defined by their past as she once was in the same position.
The second truth that I believe relates to Oprah and her brand would be Truth 3 which states that Values Drive Commitment. This truth states that you need to fully know what you believe in and be willing to act on these beliefs. Kouzes and Posner state that you can only fully commit to an organization whenever your valued and that organizations valued are alighted with one another (43). Oprah always knew what she wanted to do with her life from the very beginning and once she began to fully invest her time and effort into it, it eventually paid off in the end. She was born to speak up and speak out to others about what she believes in. No matter what challenges come her way with this idea of speaking her mind, she never changes her voice or tries to downplay what she knows is right. Since the very beginning, she has let people know what she wanted to accomplish with her company. This claim was to help people live their best lives and to create mindful not mindless television which she states in a 2008 interview. When asked this question within the interview, this helped distinguish Winfrey’s true intentions when it comes to her brand and what she wants to do with it. Not only does she always carry out the visions she sets for her company, but when she does have said visions, she is able to carry them out with the help of her team. Since she is able to communicate these visions to her team, they are able to help her commit to them fully to the point where they are transformed into a reality. Oprah Winfrey has set many goals and all of these goals have fallen into place because she chooses to express what she believes in with the people she trust will help the become the best reality.
The final truth that I believe relates to how Oprah is a true leader would be Truth 1 which states that You Make a Difference. This truth is all about oneself and believing in yourself. Kouzes and Posner state within this truth that in order to lead others, you have to believe that you will make a positive impact on others (Posner and Kouzes 11). Whenever you have this believe engraved within your mind, it is then that you will be able to position yourself to hear the call of being a true leader. Oprah knew she would make a different the moment she set out to be a professional speaker. She makes a difference in the lives of others daily as that is her mission statement. Her difference making can be shown in many aspects of her show that airs on the OWN network. Throughout the show, she will make a difference in lives by gifting extravagant gifts to those with difficult pasts or upbringing as well as incorporate them into the show in order to give them a chance to be heard by others potentially with the same problems. When Hurricane katrina hit in 2005, Oprah was able to make a difference in the families lives who were impacted by creating a new community with $10 million of her own money. Over 300 families have been given new homes since the incident has occured due to this amazing gesture. Her constant charitable works such as this one have created a stable foundation for her brand and what it stands for. Not only do they help set the foundation for her company, but also it helps set the foundation with her fan base. These constant good works help her followers know she a reliable leader whose loyalty shows through everything she is apart of. Her natural ability to care for others and ability to be empathetic towards what they have been or are currently going through show how she constantly is fighting for the greater good within society. Her positive impact on many lives has show the strong leader that she was meant to be.
Overall, Oprah Winfrey shows many qualities of a natural born leader. From her humanitarian heart and her forever goal striving nature, she is always leading through one way or another. Although she shows more than just the three truths listed above, I believe that these that I have chosen to describe her, best fit how she plans on using her name and power for the greater good as a true leader would. She always tries to be the best person she can be in order to have a positive effect on her leadership ability. Oprah started out with nothing and had the power to make herself into something so much greater than she ever thought would be possible. Oprah says that “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude” (Own It Autobiography 12) and this is exactly what she has done throughout her life. If you are willing to change yourself, then you could have the ability to change the world. Oprah Winfrey is a household name because of the fact that she was willing to change what her upbringing was destined for her to become. She is a inspiration to many and a natural born leader who changes the lives of others everyday.
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