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In a business world characterized by perpetual competition, business rivalry and other challenges, Oprah Winfrey has managed to build a business empire with various interests in the entertainment industry. In the process she has also managed to amass a sizable fortune. Though Oprah's success as an entrepreneur is hardly unique given the number of entrepreneurs who have over time scaled corporate heights, she continues to be seen as one of the most talked about business leader based on not only her actions but also her philosophy and success as an entrepreneur in the entertainment industry.
Oprah's Primary Businesses
Born in 1954 in a Mississippi town, Oprah Winfrey's story is a typical from rags-to-riches story. Surviving various odds, Oprah started off her well documented career in the broadcasting field. By then, she was only 17 years old. However, by the time she was hitting 19, Oprah already had a role in WTFV-TV as a news anchor. Soon, she was hosting talk shows with the very first one she hosted being People Are Talking. Later on in Chicago, Oprah was hired as a host in AM Chicago where within a period of less than 30 days, the talk show rated as number 1 surpassing even well-established talk shows like Donahue. AM Chicago continued using its brand name even after Oprah took over as host and it was not until a year later that it became renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show. Soon after, the program based on its high ranking and popularity was considered for national syndication. Consequently, the program became TV history's most popular talk show based on the record rating it attracted at the time. Soon after, all its ownership rights were acquired by HARPO sometimes in 1988.
It is however important to note that Oprah Winfrey's entrepreneurial spirit was sparked off earlier on when she established her very own production facility which she named HARPO Studios. This was back in 1988. Today, this company is known as HARPO Inc. with an employee base of over 250 individuals. This company mainly concerns itself with online media, publishing of magazines as well as film and television production. HARPO has within it two further branches including HARPO Radio and HARPO Films. While the firm's film production projects are undertaken by HARPO Films, its TV production initiatives are handled by HARPO Film which also happens to be HARPO Studio's largest division.
Another of Oprah's primary business is O. Magazine. Launched sometimes in the year 2000, this magazine has come to be regarded as one of the most popular publications focusing on women lifestyle. Currently, the magazine has a larger circulation than vogue. This is perhaps one of the reasons why O. Magazine was ranked "the most successful start-up ever in the industry" (Sellers, 2002). OWN can also be taken to be yet another primary business of Oprah. This channel which in full means Oprah Winfrey Network airs a wide range of movies (acquired), documentaries as well as other specials and strips.
When it comes to challenges, it can be noted that just like any other entrepreneur when starting out, Oprah experienced quite a number of challenges while laying the foundation for her business empire. For instance, in 1998, Oprah and her show were sued for libel by a group of cattle owners in Texas (Sadler, 2005). What brought about this lawsuit were some comments made during Oprah's show regarding the mad cow disease. However, she successfully withered this legal hiccup. Oprah's other challenges on the business front have included funding issues and sourcing for a talented cast of executives to run her businesses.
Oprah's Leadership Style
According to Goudreau (2010), Oprah's "leadership style is unparalleled and incredibly effective." Goudreau (2010) further notes that in regard to leadership, Oprah's philosophy is largely founded on three branches. These branches as they are spelled in this text include "her team, vision and values" (Goudreau 2010). Therefore, based on this, it is clear that Oprah is largely an all inclusive leader who takes into consideration the various concerns of employees. Her leadership approach or style can hence be described as being rather participative. According to Pride, Hughes & Kapoor (2011), leaders can be considered participative if indeed they do consult their workers prior to making important decisions. Hence Oprah's participative leadership is generally underscored by her concern for "the team" as one of the components of her philosophy's three branches. In regard to the adaption to cultural differences and global leadership, it can be noted that Oprah has largely succeeded in the competitive global business arena by mapping out the way to be followed by her employees and communicating the same message effectively across the whole organization. According to Goudreau (2010), one of Oprah's main strengths remains the ability to come up with a vision and communicate the same to all those critical to its successful implementation. The author in this case also notes that Oprah is rather "resolute" when it comes to the execution of such a vision. Hence in my opinion, these are the key characteristics that have made Oprah highly successful in the global arena. Goudreau (2010) also notes that Oprah possesses that rare ability of inspiring others. Thus with this ability and charm, people are invariably drawn to her. This in my view is what enables her to adapt to cultural differences.
Oprah's Theory of Business Leadership, Management and Motivation Methods
According to Goudreau (2010), the business strategy employed by Oprah is simple. She seeks to attract and maintain top talent. Further, Oprah has the backing of mentors who are considered smart in one way or another. Some of the people Oprah closely relates to include but are of course not limited to Maya Angelou and Maria Shriver. By surrounding herself with the best people i.e. employees and those with whom she relates to, Oprah has managed to better herself both at a personal and professional level. Indeed, Goudreau (2010) puts its best by noting that "like every great leader, Oprah has become the best by surrounding herself with the best." It can also be noted that Oprah dearly values her clients.
When it comes to group and individual behavior motivation methods, Oprah's leadership style has a lot to tell. By adopting the participative leadership style, Oprah is able to ensure that her employees 'own' initiatives. In this case, though she still retains her leadership role and can indeed be loosely referred to as the team leader, she has some of the authority passed over to the team. In most cases, individuals feel motivated once they feel they are part of a process. In this regard, a directive leadership style cannot be counted on when it comes to employee motivation.
Oprah's Impact on the World
As Goudreau (2010) notes, Oprah has an ability to inspire individuals. Over time, she has recounted her real life experiences to others in a way that it becomes apparent that her success today is founded on the pillars of hard work and sheer determination. As Illouz (2003) notes, it was back in 1986 that Oprah first confessed of having been a victim of sexual abuse. I am convinced that with her revelation and the fact that she is today rated one of the richest women in the world, she does inspire so many individuals faced with challenges to pick themselves up and pursue success; be it in business or otherwise. Further, I am also convinced that Oprah remains a luminary in black enterprise. Through her success as a black woman, she effectively dismisses all the stereotypes relating to race and success in business.
Another area in which Oprah has made a lasting impact on the world is philanthropy. For instance, in the late 90s, Oprah established a charitable organization which was basically charged with the provision of…[continue]
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