Oprah Winfrey As A Leader
1. Summarize Oprah’s early years in her career and the obstacles she overcame to become the successful businessperson she is today.
On January 29, 1954, Oprah was born out of wedlock between Vernita Lee and Vernon Winfrey. The first five years of her life were spent with her poor grandmother who taught her how to read while her mother had gone to Milwaukee. Even at an earlier age, she had been taught to recite speeches in church and this gave her the self-confidence she needed. Her mother took her in when she was six years old but could not afford to raise her so she was sent to her father in Nashville, Tennessee. Her father was a businessman and could better afford to raise her. He was a disciplinarian. Her fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan, became her inspiration and made her believe in her self. After fourth grade, she was again sent to her mother with whom she could not get along. Although she was doing well academically, at nine year old, she was sexually abused by a cousin. This followed a series of molestations by other members of the family until she left her mother at the age of fourteen. She came back to her father when she got pregnant and gave birth to a premature baby who failed to survive after two weeks.
At seventeen, she got hooked joining beauty contests and in one such activity, had to profess her career goal. Knowing that being a nurse or teacher would not merit her enough points, she decided to say she wanted to become a broadcast journalist. When she was collecting her prize from the radio station sponsor, she was offered a newscasting job. At nineteen, she took her first television job while juggling career with school work. Instead of graduating college, she took an evening news job at Baltimore’s biggest tv station. After awhile, she got transferred into a morning interview show where she realized her true passion. The show top-rated and in 1984, she moved to Chicago to host AM Chicago which won her the first of her Emmy awards. By 1986, the Oprah Winfrey Show was already a big hit and was considered for national broadcast. She then bought the show and founded Harpo for her production requirements. She diversified into the magazine industry with O, The Oprah Magazine, the literary arena with Oprah’s Book Club, and philantrophy in Oprah’s Angel Network. She has been given many awards and was cited by Time Magazine as part of the 100 Most Influential People In the 20th Century.
2. John Maxwell describes the true measure of leadership as influence. Whether you like or dislike Oprah, she has become a very influential person in our country. Why has she become so influential?
Oprah’s influence is because of her leadership qualities. She is known to be outspoken, committed to being a hundred percent true to her self, and very professional at work.
3. How would you describe Oprah’s leadership style? ? Refer to Leadership 101 and Maxwell’s levels of leadership to help you talk about Oprah’s leadership style.
Oprah leads by example. She personifies Maxwell’s five levels of leadership. Her “position” in the broadcasting industry makes people follow her as the “boss.” She can be commanding without overwhelming and this makes it easy for the audience grant her “permission” to do what she asks of them. She works very hard and is transparent to the public eye so her contributions to “production” not only in broadcasting but in the society itself is appreciated by the public. Her daily advice on how to cope and nurture the best in other women have made her a champion for “people development.” Her strengths as a woman who can honestly deal with life’s heavy challenges (and succeed over them) has brought her the “reputation.” of a leader.
4. What impresses you the most about Oprah? What fails to impress you about Oprah?
I am impressed with the way she has been able to overcome the horrible things that have happened to her in the past. Her honesty in dealing with these unfortunate events takes great courage. I just do not agree with having to follow your instincts all the time. I believe that can lead to wrong decisions.
5. Let’s turn the tables – it is your turn to interview Oprah. List four questions that you would like to ask her during your interview to help you understand her leadership skills and background.
My questions would be: Who are the three most influential people in your life and why? How do you manage conflict within yourself? How do you assess your own success? How do you view yourself as a leader?
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