Servant Leadership: Oprah Winfrey

Servant Leadership: Oprah Winfrey

MGT 321 Assessing Leadership Skills

Servant Leadership: Oprah Winfrey


There are various styles of leadership that have been studied by theorists. Servant leadership is one of these styles. Servant leaders lead by serving others. They place the interest and the needs of their followers first instead of their own needs and in general they value the development of their followers. With this essay we will look at what a servant leader is, look at the characteristics that make up this leadership style, as well look at a current day example of a servant leader today, Orpah Winfrey.

Servant Leadership

Leadership can be defined as the ability to influence or guide others either individually or as a team, to achieve their goals as well as the common goal of the organization by motivation in various forms (Weiss, J. W. 2018). A servant leader is an example of a leadership style that was first introduced by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970. He believed that servant leaders had the desire to please the needs of others above their own needs and desires (Mazzei, M. 2016). Greenleaf determined that there were ten characteristics that made up a servant leader; empathy, healing, active listening, self-awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment of growth of your followers, and the act of building a community. Each of these characteristics are important for a leader to be effective.

Empathy – An empathetic leader has the ability to empathize with their followers and understand their emotions and feelings. By being empathetic, the leader is able to help a struggling employ and empower them to succeed.

Healing – Servant leaders have the ability to create a sense of well-being and help to heal both themselves and their followers. By taking responsibility for your followers you are able assist when someone is emotionally hurt. While it should not be the bottom line reason to do this, an emotionally hurt follower can perform less than other followers. It is important to the health of the team to make sure everyone is performing equally by ensuring that they have the knowledge, support and resources they need to do their jobs effectively. This will encourage a healthy workplace.

Active Listening – Active listening in a leader is a method of communication in which the leader listens to the follower and provides feedback ensuring the speaker that they are listening and understanding what is being communicated. Active listening establishes a connection between the leader and the follower easing interaction and developing a stronger relationship.

Self-awareness – By being self-aware you are demonstrating an understanding of how you are aware of the world around you. This is an important characteristic of a leader because it allows the leader to be aware of their environment and what is effective the organization and their followers.

Persuasion This is the ability to influence by convincing them to do what you want. A servant leader influences other through persuasion rather than exercising their authority or using coercion. When you are able to influence someone, you are able to achieve a state of conversion. Conversion is powerful as a leader because it allows you to change their belief as opposed to compliance, in which they will do what you want just to be compliant.

Conceptualization – In a servant leader this is the ability to conceptualize or visualize possibilities and the future of the organization. This ability helps the leader to visualize a brighter future for the organization and the followers and take the necessary steps to achieve it.

Foresight In generally everything is connected – the past, present and the future. A servant leader has the ability to predict the future of the organization based on the present and the past. This foresight allows the leader to plan ahead to ensure success.

Stewardship Stewardship is defined as when someone is given full responsibility of someone’s valuables. In an organization as a servant leader you are steward of the organization’s resources. To an organization these are a valuable asset and the leader assumes full responsibility to plan, manage, and develop these resources.

Commitment of growth of your followers – A servant leader is committed to their followers and their growth and development. They take it upon themselves to groom and develop their followers by helping them develop a career path or a path to a successful life. Servant leaders will also assist in this by helping their followers get the resources they need to succeed.

Building a community Under the leadership of a servant leader, the followers come together for a common purpose. The servant leader helps to create a sense of belonging within the group, fostering a sense of community. The servant leader also cares deeply and take pride in the community that they have built.

Example of a Servant Leader

When thinking of a successful leader in today’s society, especially one who demonstrates the characteristics of servant leadership, Orpah Winfrey is an example that comes to mind. Some may associate her as an entertainer, however what they may not see is that she is strong presence in the community and has one of the most lucrative brands in the world estimated at over $4 billion dollars. Oprah Winfrey has built her success from the ground up and demonstrated how a servant leadership style can be a success. As a leader, she pushes her followers to be the best they can be. She demonstrates many of the characteristics of a servant leader, such as listening, empathy, persuasion, and building a community. She has a loyal following as well as loyal employees with one of the lowest turnover rates in the US. She has also been quoted as saying the following: “My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment” (www.achievement .org) and has stated this is the key to her success. Additionally, she has been known to develop her employees to become successful leaders and brands. A few examples of these are; Gayle King, Dr. Phil McGraw, Nate Berkus, and Dr. Mehmet Oz.


In conclusion a servant leader is someone who puts the needs of others before their own. By demonstrating such characteristics such as empathy, active listening, healing, self-awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment, and building a community, they have the ingredients needed for a successful organization. As an American success story herself, Orpah Winfrey be a prime example of how successful the servant leadership style can be.


Mazzei, M. (2016). Servant leadership. Salem Press Encyclopedia

Oprah Winfrey. Academy of Achievement. Retrieved April 2014. From

Weiss, J. W. (2015). An introduction to leadership. (2nd ed.) San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

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