When the Going Gets Tough



Authors: Pradip Sinha, Sadhu Ramakrishna,
Associate Consultant, Research Associate
ICMR (IBS Center for Management Research).

The article talks about the amazing entrepreneurial journey of the legendary Oprah Winfrey. It brings to the fore a number of important lessons for all those who aspire to become entrepreneurs.

Are great leaders and entrepreneurs born the way they turn out to be or do they become what they are in the process of time? Going by the story of Oprah Winfrey the second option seems to be the obvious answer. In fact, a look at some of the successful entrepreneurs in the history reveals that success has often been commensurate with the hardships a particular leader faced during his/her formative years. Richard Branson, Dhirubhai Ambani, Karsanbhai Patel, Steve Case, Sandy Weill, Bill Gates, to name a few, have all achieved unprecedented success not just by mere fluke but by their hard work, dedication, determination and an attitude of standing against all odds.

So it is proved that not all the great leaders and entrepreneurs are born; they can be developed so, by setting goals and making transformation from within and moving with the changing needs and demands of the time. Oprah Winfrey is a classic example of how a person, despite of all types of odds, has made a mark for herself in this male-dominated world.

A look into her life reveals how she deals with her fame and fortune in her good as well as bad times, and how she realized her childhood dreams one after another. She has climbed the heights with good foresight, achieving one goal after another. Oprah, who started her career as a simple TV anchor, went on to become the hostess of a popular TV show named after her (the Oprah Winfrey show), to an actress, to a businesswomen to a producer and finally becoming the "the queen of the soul" of millions all over the world, crossing international, racial, and demographical barriers.

How many people have got the show, which they host named after them? Not many. She was criticized for being too tough with her employees. And the biggest criticism came when she expressed her views on the show of April 16, 1996, which was about the mad cow disease. But for great leaders and entrepreneurs, ups and downs are the part and parcel of life. They never get demotivated, and if they go down, they always come back with a bang. And Oprah did exactly the same thus proving all her critics wrong and their arguments baseless. She is unarguably the queen of the souls.

Oprah started her life with insurmountable troubles from her childhood. Her parents got divorced when she was very young. She was first sent to her grandmother, then to her mother and finally to her father. She was sexually assaulted by her very own cousins and uncles, which she even revealed in public. Not many would do that, which just reflects her determined approach towards life. But all this misfortunes could not stop her from thinking that life can be a better one than this. This is the key attitude most entrepreneurs have in them, the attitude to think that there is always a scope for improving things. Oprah had this habit of reading books and doing social activities from her early days. She knew from the beginning that life was always full of obstacles but loaded with opportunities. Her own life reflects this She has personally transformed herself from a kid to a teenager to a woman and now to the souls of over 26 million viewers all over the world. It speaks volumes of her will power and determination to succeed against all odds.

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