What most great leaders – and PR experts – know is that communication is key to bringing people together for a purpose. After Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, many people have called upon her to run for President of the United States in 2020. Whether or not someone supports her candidacy, it’s tough to deny that she is an expert communicator. And Oprah communicates through the most powerful method out there – storytelling.
Since the beginning of time, storytelling has been used to teach and connect people with others. Stories are usually made up of many pieces that a variety of individuals can relate to, and so people can’t help but make personal connections. Oprah has her own amazing story and yet, she has spent most of her career telling the stories of others, first as a journalist and later as a TV show host. She has reached out, amplified, advocated and united people with various backgrounds, experiences, hopes and dreams. By doing this, she has grown and strengthened her own voice, especially as a leader.
What can aspiring leaders learn from Oprah’s masterful communication? Here are three suggestions:
Listen. Taking pause and listening to others – especially those you may not want to hear from – shows everyone that you are genuine in your mission to understand others, and thus become a great leader. You also might be surprised at what you learn – about a social issue, business practice, whatever it is – maybe even yourself and your leadership. Keeping your ears open is the best way to broaden your horizons and assure others that they will be heard, no matter what. This builds trust not only with your current audience but also those who might be resistant to your message.
Amplify. You might have a very compelling story that maybe has even helped you stand out in your field or sell your product, service and expertise, but consider the bigger picture. Who are the people who might support or benefit from your words and actions, product, service or expertise? What are their stories? Would hearing their stories benefit or motivate other people like them? Telling a variety of relevant stories – and potentially how they connect to what you are offering – is a great way to build a strong and loyal audience and network.
Advocate. Someone ready to lead recognizes that once common ground has been found, meaningful action can really take off. So, what is the mission you and the people in your network and audience share? What would be most relatable to those in positions to help? A leader who is truly embraced and loved will push for everyone who is part of and believes in that shared mission. Especially when they come from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, many people joining together for a single purpose can be a very powerful force for getting results. And they often need a leader who recognizes that to lead them.
Oprah has done all of these things. She has maintained her humble demeanor while not wavering from her mission to be a facilitator for others to be heard and seen. She has found common ground with people and among groups of people from all kinds of backgrounds. She has listened to those who have not supported her in return. She has paved the way for social change and improvement for many underprivileged demographics. In return, she has garnered a trust, respect and appreciation that most leaders crave. And it was all enabled by her storytelling.