Oprah Winfrey: Initiator (DI)

Oprah Winfrey is a name that most people are familiar with. She is one of the most successful people in the world and one of the wealthiest self-made women in the US.

Oprah's Life

Oprah worked hard to become “arguably the world’s most powerful woman,” and “arguable the most influential woman in the world,” according to CNN and Time.com, respectively. 

She became a co-anchor for her local news at just 19 years old, making her both the youngest and the first black female news anchor for her station in Nashville. After moving to Baltimore and spending some time there, she relocated to Chicago in 1983 and hosted a morning talk show that quickly became the highest-rated talk show in Chicago in just a few months. Eventually, this show became the nation-broadcasted The Oprah Winfrey Show, which aired across the US from 1986-2011. While most people know her for her talk show, Oprah also co-founded the Oxygen television network in 1998 and created her own TV channel with Discovery Communications called OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, which launched in 2011.

However, there’s a reason Oprah has been called the “most influential woman” - she expanded her brand across different platforms and branched out in many other ways. Some of her other accolades include: 

  • Being nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple in 1985.
  • Authoring 5 books.
  • Purchasing $34 million worth of shares of Weight Watchers in 2015 that are now worth over $430 million.
  • Creating Oprah.com, which now gets millions of visitors each month.
  • Running her own radio channel from 2006-2015.
  • Becoming the wealthiest self-made woman in the US in 2014.
  • Starting Harpo Inc., a successful U.S. multimedia production company.

Despite being born into poverty and hardship, Oprah has been able to achieve unprecedented success and become an inspiration to people around the world. So what, exactly, has made Oprah so successful?

Her Personality

As an Initiator (DI), Oprah is confident, energetic, and optimistic. Throughout her career, Oprah has stayed true to herself. She knows her own strengths and uses them to her advantage, which is why she’s been able to find so much success in different ventures. Here are a few examples of how Oprah uses her strengths as an Initiator.

Intuition and Instinct

One of Oprah’s most evident Initiator strengths is trusting her own instincts. Her ability to grow her small Chicago morning show into a nationwide, genre-defining talk show revolved around her natural intuition. She brought something new to the table with her more casual, empathetic style, and rather than trying to adopt a more traditional journalistic approach, she trusted her gut and continued doing things her way, which ultimately helped her connect with millions around the world.


As her brand grew beyond her television show, Oprah’s instincts led to many new ideas and she pursued ventures that were out of the ordinary for someone who started in television. She has written books, opened her own multimedia production company, signed a contract for a radio channel, and invested heavily in Weight Watchers. By following her strong instincts, Oprah was able to set a standard for the daytime talk show genre and has found success in other avenues, as well.

Persuasive Charisma

As an Initiator, Oprah is also uniquely charismatic. Her charm, in fact, was so persuasive on her show, that many people refer to the success someone or something finds after Oprah expresses support for it as “The Oprah Effect”. Oprah’s charisma is believed by many to be responsible for the public success of Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Weight Watchers, and even Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. In 1996, after an interview about mad cow disease, in which Oprah said she wouldn’t eat another burger, beef producers in the US saw an $11 million loss in sales. After starting her book club in 1996, Oprah’s picks had a major impact on the publishing industry, with many of her book recommendations becoming #1 bestsellers. There’s even a 2009 documentary about Oprah’s power of persuasion.

Even after her show has ended, Oprah still continues to hold major influence over a lot of people. She continues to use her strengths to advocate for things she's passionate about, like the 2020 Wellness Tour she's doing now, in which she pushes her audience to be healthier through overall personal wellness. 

Persistent Optimism

Like many Initiators, Oprah credits much of her success to her positive thinking. Despite the many hardships she experienced in life, like facing abuse as a child, losing a child at 14 years old, and moving back and forth between separated parents’ houses, Oprah still managed to set her sights high and believe she could accomplish great things. When she faced judgement or failure, she continued to look on the bright side of the situation and trust that things would work out.

Her optimism became especially apparent on her show, as she constantly opted to feature uplifting, heartwarming stories. She showcased strong families, gifted children, and inspiring individuals to help people focus on what was good in the world. 

Oprah’s positivity continues even now. After struggling with horrible pneumonia last year, she channeled her experience into a positive-minded venture and now helps prevent others from finding themselves in the same position by advocating for healthy living through her Wellness tour and program. 

Understanding Herself

Ultimately, much of Oprah’s success stems from her self-awareness and her ability to utilize her own strengths. By taking advantage of her skills as an Initiator, rather than trying to work in areas that would’ve required responsibilities that don’t come as naturally to her, Oprah was able to find amazing success. She focused on being authentically herself and doing her part to pursue her goals, which, in the long run, has helped her set an example for others and leave a lasting impact on the world.

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