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Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership and Change Competency


The paper discusses global leader’s competencies with the focus on the Change competency demonstrated by Oprah Winfrey in her activities. While referring to Winfrey’s experience in leading projects and maintaining the change, the basic principles of the development program for global leaders are formulated to contribute to the leaders’ personal and professional growth.

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Global leadership competencies are important to be obtained not only by leaders working in multicultural environments and organizations but also by leaders who work as role models for the public. Oprah Winfrey is one of such leaders, who influence the public globally; therefore, this media person is expected to exhibit the competencies associated with the intercultural leadership. In her practice, Winfrey usually demonstrates such global leader’s competency as the Change, while referring to the leadership model and competencies identified by Wibbeke (2013). From this perspective, focusing on Oprah Winfrey’s experience in maintaining the change, it is possible to formulate the basic principles of the development program for global leaders.

The Change as the Leadership Competency of Oprah Winfrey

In her interview to CNBC Africa, Oprah Winfrey analyzed her personal leadership philosophy in terms of focusing on making a difference and leading a change in the world. Referring to the context of the work of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa and to the accomplishments of the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, Winfrey noted that the Change is the main component of any leadership. The reason is in the necessity to accumulate resources in the certain cultural environment and educate the public to follow the leader while adapting to the new situation (CNBC Africa, 2012). According to Winfrey, she is a global leader who aims to demonstrate the target audience how they can use their resources in order to learn more and promote the change in their environment.

In this context, Winfrey is not limited to working only in the US contexts, but she aims to overcome the cultural barriers and work as an intercultural leader in such environments as South Africa among others. In her speech, Winfrey refers to the idea of the Change several times while speaking about the ways to accumulate the potential of the public and stimulate them to accept and further lead the change. Winfrey notes that the world changes rapidly, and the society of such countries as South Africa also changes, but young persons in this society need the additional support to make a difference in the future. In this case, Winfrey combines the competencies of Consciousness, Change, and Care (Wibbeke, 2013).

The Development Program for Global Leaders

In global organizations, it is possible to use the experience and approach of Oprah Winfrey to training the leadership competency, as well as her focus on the Change principle. The specific leadership development program oriented to addressing the aspects of the global leadership should include such components as the creation of the global leadership vision, the formation of the awareness of intercultural leadership competencies, training, and practice.

The first step is focused on creating the global leadership vision. Following Winfrey’s experience, it is important to note that intercultural leaders need to understand the basic principles of working in multicultural environments. Leaders need to focus not on the multicultural communication and cooperation barriers, but on advantages of this process to share the experience and leverage talents (Bird, Mendenhall, Stevens, & Oddou, 2010, p. 812). The second step is based on helping employees become aware of the role of intercultural leadership competencies. The intercultural Care, Communication, focus of Contexts and Change, Capability, Contrasts, and Consciousness are important to assist leaders on their path to building the multicultural teams (Wibbeke, 2013). In this case, the focus on the Change competency and on the associated learning is significant to achieve high results in diverse environments.

Therefore, the training of the Change competency should include the following elements: (1) lectures on the role of the change in the multicultural environments; (2) building of teams to lead the change and adapt to the new environments; (3) exercises to train leaders to involve the emotional component in activities to stimulate the change in the organization; (4) and simulations to help leaders practice in creating the need for the multicultural personnel to change according to the certain vision (Caligiuri & Tarique, 2012). In her project, Winfrey refers to the whole society as the object that can be modified and improved with references to the education and focus on changes. In the context of the multicultural organization, the focus is on changing the corporate culture (Li, Mobley, & Kelly, 2013, p. 33). Such training for global leaders is important to make them more flexible while responding to dynamically changed environments and make them more responsive to needs and expectations of employees (Mendenhall, Reiche, Bird, & Osland, 2012).

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Oprah Winfrey’s experience demonstrates that the Change is one of the main competencies of global leaders because there are many environments where leaders need to make a difference. However, an effective global leader is also good in helping the multicultural personnel adapt to changes and become oriented to the personal and professional development. The program for global leaders should include the training with the help of which leaders can be educated and empowered to lead the change in the certain context.


Bird, A., Mendenhall, M., Stevens, M. J., & Oddou, G. (2010). Defining the content domain of intercultural competence for global leaders. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 25(8), 810-828.

Caligiuri, P., & Tarique, I. (2012). Dynamic cross-cultural competencies and global leadership effectiveness. Journal of World Business, 47(4), 612-622.

CNBC Africa. (2012). Oprah Winfrey: Exclusive Interview, Part 1. Web.

Li, M., Mobley, W. H., & Kelly, A. (2013). When do global leaders learn best to develop cultural intelligence? An investigation of the moderating role of experiential learning style. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 12(1), 32-50.

Mendenhall, M. E., Reiche, B. S., Bird, A., & Osland, J. S. (2012). Defining the “global” in global leadership. Journal of World Business, 47(4), 493-503.

Wibbeke, E. (2013). Global business leadership. Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

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