Oprah Winfrey — Leadership Style & Principles
What can we learn from the leadership style of Oprah Winfrey? How could we adopt her leadership principles to drive our teams and empower them?
Experts agree that Oprah is a leader to emulate.
ImportantShe is uniquely able to inspire her team and execute her vision while maintaining mass appeal. She is a remarkable businesswoman.
Oprah Winfrey would not only grow up to be one of the finest women entrepreneurs in the world. She would also go on to become the Queen Of All Media.
If there ever was a true, rags-to-riches story that stands as a testament to the fact that bold leadership can achieve great things, it would be the story of this little black girl born in the southern state of Mississippi.
Transformational leaders like Oprah serve to transform our lives for the better.
Their very decisions are planted with the premise that how others are impacted matters most; whether others benefit matters most; how high others can be elevated matters most; and whether others can be empowered is what matters most.
The tremendous challenges she overcame make Oprah’s career especially inspiring.
The fact that she has handled her success so adeptly, despite her impoverished childhood, is astounding. Then, she successfully touched the lives of people with the combination of her wit, impudence and kindness.
Her charismatic leadership style is known to draw people towards her vision. As a great leader, Oprah Winfrey never fails to influence people with her inspiring thoughts.
She has influenced a lot of people just by her presence and stature. Her achievements today would not have been possible if she was not equipped with the right characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. Here is a look at Oprah Winfrey’s leadership style.
Dream Big Then Dream Bigger
If Oprah Winfrey had allowed her humble beginnings to define what she could achieve, she would never have become as successful and influential as she is today. Instead she harnessed the power of her education and found a career that she was passionate about.
True leaders must have a bold vision, believe in it and people will believe in them as a leader.
Even once she found success with The Oprah Winfrey Show, she had the courage the dream even bigger. She continued to focus on the talk show as the linchpin of her brand, but went into other related areas such as publishing and production which ultimately led to her own television channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Because of this strategy, Oprah Winfrey is not only a celebrity, but also a tycoon. But there is one important leadership trait that transformational leaders share.
ImportantThey are focused on the one thing they have mastery over. While she may seem to be everywhere, she is focused on one area — media. Media is where she excels at, which is why she concentrated on it and worked to have dominance over it.
One of Oprah’s principal strengths as a leader has been creating a vision of her success.
ImportantShe’s been communicating that vision to those around her and resolute in its execution. She’s been brave enough to dream big and smart enough to climb step by step.
Most successful people have big dreams and goals that they worked hard to see through. Oprah is no different.
Although she came from nothing, she managed to find a platform to build herself on and succeeded. She always believed that she can turn her dreams into a reality and, with confidence in her abilities, she found the ultimate success.
Forget about the fast lane. If you really want to fly, harness your power to your passion. Honor your calling. Everybody has one. Trust your heart, and success will come to you.
Oprah is not afraid to get behind a myriad of projects at once, and she always makes sure each one is a success.
Her own magazine, called The O Magazine, has been very successful. Oprah’s Book Club, started on her talk show, influences bestseller lists everywhere.
Increase Your Charisma
Oprah Winfrey is good at attracting attention from the public because people see her to have a strong temperament. Aside from that, she is very competent when it comes to business.
In the case of Oprah Winfrey, she doesn’t have to force her way for people to like her.
Rather, her approach to reach out and persuade people and her persistence has earned her the trust and praise of people around her. Moreover, she has the will that is grounded in respect and belief that she has compassion as her supports has for her.
Just the name Oprah is analogous with an American national landmark and a global treasure.
She speaks and we listen without one ounce of authority over us; this is pure influence and authenticity at play here people! We do this because she brings a level of integrity, credibility, charisma and emotional intelligence that is hardly surpassed.
Leadership isn’t about glorifying ‘self’; it’s about acting with your purest intentions to make your vision a reality.
Ego is any thought, action or intention that makes you think you’re something that you’re not, that takes you further from who you truly are. Leading with your ego is bad for you and, ultimately, it’s bad for business.
Charismatic leaders have many attributes; they are described as having a strong sense of moral values, self-confidence, and having a fierce desire to influence others.
ImportantOprah’s leadership style fits with this definition; she is self-confident, dominant, and most definitely influences others. Her “Oprah’s Favorite Things” episodes, which aired annually on her Oprah Winfrey Show and listed her favorite products, were the most watched of all of her shows.
Charisma is more than being engaging or witty. We’re attracted to those who truly listen to us, who give us their undivided focus and leave us feeling seen and heard. Those who dare to be vulnerable and who genuinely want to connect and share and treat us with respect and kindness.
Be vulnerable. This is not about being sad; it’s about being brave.
When you have the courage to share with another person who you are, and what matters, you invite them to do the same. And when this happens, connection occurs.
📚 Additional reading
Have you ever met anyone with whom you’re inexplicably drawn? Their magnetism has nothing to do with their bank balance; there’s just something about them that is irresistible. That’s charisma at work.
Be Bold & Take Risks
As a self-made multi-billionaire who grew up through a life of poverty, Oprah does remind us that we are in control of our own destinies, and that our lives are shaped by the choices we make and how we choose to move forward in the face of adversity.
One of the reasons I enjoy watching Oprah is her optimism. Great leaders are optimists.
They believe we can do better. They believe there is a higher calling. They believe there is hope. And that inspires everyone around them to do better, be better and keep pushing forward. Oprah displays this optimism and it helps her bounce back constantly.
Another key traits of Oprah is her willingness to be bold and take risks.
ImportantOprah believes risky situations also are significant opportunities. She believes that one of life’s greatest risks is never daring to risk.
Oprah is hard-working and has persevered to get what she wants.
Under her father’s guidance and support, she became an honor student and earned prizes in dramatic recitation and oratory. Oprah became the first female African American billionaire, because of her hard work and her refusal to give up, she went from nearly being sent to juvenile detention to becoming a leading American icon.
To accomplish what Oprah has takes insatiable ambition, drive and focus. It takes an iron stomach of stamina. Her message and example of positivity—to live your best life—endears her to everyone around her.
ImportantLeaders who are viewed as selfish or unethical are quickly dethroned. Oprah continuously is held in the highest esteem because her humor, relatability, optimism and generosity associate her with a greater good.
Work equals fun. You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job, and not be paid for it. When you’re doing the work you’re meant to do, it feels right and every day is a bonus, regardless of what you’re getting paid.”
Being a bold leader does not mean being bold without a clear vision, direction or purpose.
Bold leaders channel their bold ideas, opinions, and actions to motivate, inspire, and guide others toward a greater good. They are the ones who stand out in the crowd, challenge norms, and think outside the box.
📚 Additional reading
You CAN have it all. You just can’t have it all at once. The lack of instant success is not failure.
Strive For Significance
Oprah was born in rural Mississippi with the odds of success overwhelmingly stacked against her, but her dream was never to become a millionaire. She understood from an early age that she was responsible for her own life and that her purpose was to pursue the fullest expression of her true self.
Strive for significance and success will follow. All of her success came as a by-product of that humble vision.
ImportantAs a leader, if you’re able to align your dreams with your values, you can inspire the people around you and move your organization towards success. Your customers will also be able to sense your authenticity and will be more receptive towards you.
Winfrey’s extraordinary success can be partly attributed to how she has managed to align her values with her dreams.
She is a strong proponent of having a positive mindset and being your best self, and she believes that living in alignment with your values will put you on the life path you should be on.
Living a life of service isn’t servitude. It’s understanding that when you lend your light to one person, they’ll shine it on another and another and another.
Excellent service to customers and colleagues is not just about what you do. The story you tell about who you are and why you do what you do is the narrative that really matters, that really moves people and deepens your engagement with them.
Is there a plan, or are you just driving? You want to be in the driver’s seat of your own life, or life will just drive you.
ImportantYou must have some kind of vision for your life. Even if you don’t have a plan, you have to have a direction of where you want to go.
Martin Luther King said that not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness comes from serving. The real truth is that it takes service and significance.
Every one of us is born with a purpose. I’m talking about a supreme moment of destiny, the reason you are here on earth.
No matter who you are, or how far you think you have to go, you have been tapped by a force greater than yourself to step into your God-given calling. This goes far beyond what you do to earn your living.
Don't Believe In Failure
Oprah realized that failing is a part of succeeding and that much can be learned when plans go awry. In her words, “So go ahead. Fall down. The world looks different from the ground.”
You can never fail if you refuse to lose, especially if you have the necessary self-awareness to turn your wounds into wisdom. Don’t be afraid to fail.
What Oprah has is a unique combination of empathy, determination, and the ability to keep moving forward when all else had fallen apart. Moral of the story? Have passion, believe in your dreams, believe in yourself even when no one else does, and keep going when hope is lost.
If you’ve never failed at something, how do you know when you’re succeeding?
ImportantThe thing is, when you don’t fail, you don’t allow yourself to become stronger in that process, resulting in more resilience — which is a key part of being a successful leader.
While we may not share Oprah’s original challenges, we can all relate to the fear of not being good enough.
We can tell ourselves that it’s a terrible idea, it will never work, and that we need to save ourselves from the pain and embarrassment the idea represents. Or, we can tell ourselves that’s just a story, and it doesn’t have to be our story.
Failure is part of the journey you’re on, and no matter how much you would like to avoid it, you cannot. Instead, you must learn how to better handle it and overcome it.
ImportantWhen failure strikes, there is always a lot of things you can do, but often only ONE that you should. Successful leaders are those who remain focused on this ONE solution that will turn failure into success. Don’t get distracted by what you could do.
Failure ultimately shapes you as a leader. Failure is the most powerful source for know-how and understanding. It teaches you about survival, renewal and reinvention of yourself and the organization you are leading.
If we never take risks, then we never grow. As leaders, we cannot lead quiet, mouse-like existences.
Our teams and our organizations are depending upon us to make decisions that help the organization be successful. We absolutely cannot allow the fear of failed outcome to prevent us from taking risks.
📚 Additional reading
Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire.
A true leader acknowledges the fact that success need not be a solo endeavor. When forming a team, however, Oprah Winfrey only hires and supports talented people that she believes in.
Winfrey knows that it is necessary to value two important sets of people: her team and her audience.
She surrounded herself with the best people based on their skills and compatibility with organizational values. She inspired them with her vision and rewarded them for their hard work and loyalty (she once gave her 1,000+ employees and their families an all-expenses trip to Hawaii to thank them for their service).
When you take care of your employees, you get people who are willing to lie on the tracks for you. Put people first.
ImportantLeaders must gain and sustain loyalty from their own team as well as from the community. Oprah demonstrates universally applauded values like self-improvement, positivity and charity.
If customers bring in the profit, employees are the lifeblood of a company. They make the wheels turn, so business operation goes smoothly.
As a way of thanking them for their efforts, Oprah has been known to lavish her team praises and vacations. She even give handpicked gifts to top staff members. Who doesn’t want a leader like that?
It would not be hard to imagine the efforts that her staff put in to ensure she succeeds, which definitely works to her advantage.
ImportantPutting people first is a philosophy backed up by a set of actions which prioritizes the people of an organization above all else including shareholder value and profits, even if it means that leaders must make personal sacrifices.
Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. Help your employees grow by giving them the vision, respect, and autonomy they need to contribute at their full potential.
A people-centric organization explicitly values the happiness and well-being of its people.
It does this not just through slogans or catchphrases, but through developing programs that support employee success. The leaders of people-centric companies understand that it’s people who make their company successful.
📚 Additional reading
Treat your people like people. This strengthens an organization with trusting, mature and inspired employees.
Oprah truly believes that if we want to make changes — be it for ourselves or the world — then we shouldn’t wonder or talk about it; instead, we should work to make it happen.
If one thing characterizes the pioneering leadership of Oprah Winfrey, it’s her absolute willingness to go after whatever she wants, and to manifest her vision.
She not only dreams up a vision, but also communicates it with her team with clarity and then inspires them to help her see it through. Motivating her staff comes naturally for her, and this is one ability that is often considered the best in her list of best leadership practices.
Oprah Winfrey walks the talk, and this alignment of her values with her dreams has attracted like-minded people to work in her organization to great success.
ImportantHer authenticity is also how she has built such a massive audience. People believe her words and ideas because she clearly believes in them. Your audience can sense if you’re being “real” versus just saying something to sell more product.
Oprah has unique leadership skills in terms of compassion, ethics, inspiration and justice. She has the ability inspire people because she conforms to what is right and she fights for it.
ImportantAlthough she is unable to help everybody, she has the effort to back it up. So, no wonder she is so loved by the people who consider her as a blessing to others.
Organizational change always has to start inside the minds of your people. Once you get people to change the way they think, they’ll start doing things differently and your business strategy comes to life.
As a leader, you must be able to navigate in the inevitable uncertainty that encompasses change, and ensure that your people are not only able but also willing to buy in on your vision. Therefore, driving change is to a large extent about emotions.
Leaders either move actively through an organization or unconsciously. When an unconscious leader attempts to fake their way through culture change they will not create the necessary experiences required to instill the correct beliefs. Without the needed cultural beliefs, actions will not achieve results.
Successful change leaders are willing to set the purpose and direction for the work of others, and clearly identify objectives and deadlines.
They don’t shy away from using forceful speech and setting high demands whenever required, even if it means being tough and assertive, putting people under pressure. But in order to drive change, leaders must also be open and inclusive and ask others for alternative ideas to secure their active involvement.
📚 Additional reading
By empowering others and stimulating personal and professional growth, successful leaders also act as talent magnets, ensuring an efficient leadership pipeline in the organization.
Oprah Winfrey has been acknowledged as one of the most influential women of her time. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 by President Obama.
Anybody can be an instant celebrity simply by just catching the attention of followers around the globe.
ImportantHowever, being a leader is a different concept because it requires total dedication to the things that you believe. This popularity will last, unlike those who are put in oblivion because they don’t have the leadership qualities that are only bestowed on deserving individuals like Oprah Winfrey.
Oprah is an inspirational figure to many, as a great deal can be learned from her successes.
The road to her vast wealth and influence has not been full of triumphs, her trials were just as essential a part in the making of her successful entrepreneurial career. She is the epitome of success because she never gives up, she always picks back up and is always trying something new, and giving her all to everything she puts her name on.
In Oprah, one can see many of the traits that all leaders strive to acquire.
An integral trait of entrepreneurs is to never be complacent, as someone else is always working twice as hard as you are, and for more hours in the day. You can never stop trying to reach your potential, and when you do, you have to strive further, as Oprah has.
Lead like Oprah Winfrey and you are likely to write your own success story.
Let’s work to be better versions of ourselves each day and keep spreading the joy of belief to everyone around us! Be a leader! Share your thoughts in the comments section below!