The Four Types of Women in Leadership

Oprah Winfrey, A Leader in Every Way

Oprah Winfrey at Kennedy Center Honorees, 2010. Oprah demonstrates all four types of leadership.
Oprah Winfrey at Kennedy Center Honorees, 2010. Oprah demonstrates all four types of leadership. | Source

Women Leading in All Fields

This article is a companion to The Four Types of Leaders. There, I identified four different leadership styles according to the DISC personality model. I chose people who were well-known, even iconic examples of each role. Only after I wrote the article did I realize an accidental omission: All of the leaders I chose as examples were men.

Yet women lead in politics, in diplomacy, in science, in transforming our relationship with the Earth, and in peacemaking. They also lead in business, though they are rarely recognized for their efforts. So I've returned to re-introduce the four types of leaders, this time showing stellar women who exemplify and inspire the best in all of us.

The DISC personality theory recognized four basic personality types:

  • Dominant, or Visionary people are the classic leaders with a vision for change who call others to follow and help. Marie Curie and Golda Meir will lead the way.
  • Influencers, that is, Peacemakers who transform not through their own agenda, but through bringing others together. We will look at Jane Goodall and several winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Steady leaders in challenging times lead the country or the company in the face of adversity. In my first article, I chose Winston Churchill. Now, I turn again to the job of Prime Minister of England, as I am also inspired by Margaret Thatcher.
  • Cooperative people who are Problem-Solvers, working well with others. We will look at First Lady of the United States and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Women are leaders across all fields of human endeavor. Let's allow ourselves to be inspired by them and learn the many ways to lead.

DISC Personality and Leadership Style

Type of Leader
Decision Style
People Style
Quick, Decisive
Introvert - Focuses on Information
Quick, Decisive
Extravert - Guides People
Steady in Difficulty
Slow, Cautious
Extravert - Guides People
Slow, Cautious
Introvert - Focuses on Information

Marie Curie: Scientific Discovery and Advances in Medicine

Marie Curie, ca. 1920. I like this image because it shows her determination.
Marie Curie, ca. 1920. I like this image because it shows her determination. | Source

Visionary Leadership: Marie Curie

Most people who hear the name Marie Curie think of the discovery of the radioactive element radium, and picture a scientist. And, indeed, Madame Curie was a profound scientist, the first ever to win two Nobel Prizes, and the only ever to win her prizes in two different scientific fields. Her discoveries about the nature of radiation earned her a Nobel Prize in physics; her discovery of two radioactive elements, radium and polonium, earned her the prize in chemistry.

Marie Curie, though, was far more than a scientist. Her influence, like Albert Einstein's, affected society in many ways. Einstein theoretically demonstrated that matter could turn into energy. Curie found the elements that were actually transforming matter into energy before our very eyes through the agency she named "radioactivity."

Mme. Curie was a pioneer in the medical uses of uranium. The treatment program she developed during World War I helped prevent infection for over a million wounded soldiers. She founded the Radium Institute, later renamed the Curie Institute, in Paris. This organization is still a pioneer in radiological medicine today, and has produced four more Nobel Prize winners. She founded a similar institute in Poland, also a leader in radiological medicine.

Mme. Curie was a leader in other ways, as well. Long before feminism had any popularity at all, she overcame prejudice and bore long and costly delays to become a professor and receive funding for her work. She worked unceasingly even when she received little support. Indeed, even after she won the Nobel Prize and many other international honors, France was slow to recognize her achievements and contributions simply because she was a woman. She was devoted to research, humble, and not corrupted by money. Albert Einstein is reported to have said that she was probably the only person not corrupted by fame.

Marie Curie was, undoubtedly, a brilliant scientist. Her life work was based on a moment of scientific insight: She saw that, if pitchblende (uranium ore) was more radioactive than the uranium metal in its pure form, then it must contain other, more radioactive, elements yet unknown. But her vision went beyond scientific insight: She envisioned the medical uses of radiation and brought them into being by constant action and dedicated, lifelong effort. She published quickly to ensure her place in the world, and also to ensure that the value of her work would benefit the world. And she established intitutes of radiological mediciine that have continued her visionary, pioneering, and beneficient work for over 90 years and generated four more winners of the Nobel Prize.

My grandfather, a physicist from the 1920s through the 1970s, was inspired by Marie Curie for his entire life. As a role model, she helped him be open-minded, endlessly curious, and dedicated to helping others. May we all be inspired by her example to take an idea and bring its benefits to humanity.

Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel

Golda Meir, Israeli Prime Minister, in 1973, at age 74.
Golda Meir, Israeli Prime Minister, in 1973, at age 74. | Source

A Political Visionary: Golda Meir

Scientists are not usually thought of as visionary leaders, so I thought I would include a national leader as well: Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974. What is most interesting about Ms. Meir is that she was a leader her entire life, even in childhood. In grade school in the United States, she organized a fundraiser to pay for her classmate's textbooks. She was valedictorian at her elementary school graduation. She rebelled against her mother's idea that she should marry and, instead, moved to Denver to be with her married sister. There, as a teenager, she entered the world of activism and politics.

She always had an independent mind. She would only marry her fiancé if he agreed to make Aliyah, that is to move what was then the British Protectorate of Palestine, which later became the State of Israel.

In Israel, she and her husband settled on a kibbutz, a communal farm. But her leadership was quickly recognized, and the kibbutz chose her as it's representative to the General Federation of Labor. Her international work began when she came to the United States from 1932 to 1934 as a representaitive of the Working Women's Council. By 1938, she was at an international conferencce called by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the fate of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. The unwillingness of nations to accept refugees strengthened her commitment to the creation of the State of Israel.

Golda Meir Celebrated on an Israeli Bank Note

Portrait of Golda Meir on the back of Israeli currency, 1992.
Portrait of Golda Meir on the back of Israeli currency, 1992. | Source

The year before Israel was founded, Golda Meir raised $50 million for the new country.

After she signed Israel's Declaration of Independence, she received the first passport ever issued by the new nation and went off to Moscow as the Israeli Ambassador to the Soviet Union. She went on to be Labor Minister and Foreign Minister before becoming Prime Minister at the age of 71 and leading the nation for five years until her retirement due to illness and political changes.

Golda Meir lived a life dedicated to a single vision: "There is only one thing I hope to see before I die and that is that my people should not need expressions of sympathy any more." She did as much as anyone alive to make that vision a reality with the founding and success of the State of Israel.

Jane Goodall at the Womens' Conference, 2010
Jane Goodall at the Women's Conference, 2010 | Source
Jane Goodall giving a TED Global talk  in 2007
Jane Goodall giving a TED Global talk in 2007 | Source
Jane Goodall as Grand Marshall at the Tournament of Roses Parade, in 2012.
Jane Goodall as Grand Marshall at the Tournament of Roses Parade, in 2012. | Source
Jane Goodall (left) with children on Martha's Vineyard in 2006
Jane Goodall (left) with children on Martha's Vineyard in 2006 | Source

Jane Goodall: Global Peacemaker

Our example of a peacemaker also began life as a scientist, and took one set of discoveries and went on to change the way we live in the world. In the early 1960s, Jane Goodall discovered two things about chimpanzees. First, they make tools. Second, they have emotional lives with relationships, affection, and aggression that are remarkably similar to the emotional lives of human beings.

Before Dame Goodall's work, the anthropological definition of humanity was "the toolmaker." Reknowned primatologist Louis Leakey responded to Dame Goodall's research by saying, "We must now redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzees as human."

With regard to emotional lives, Jane Goodall reported, "it isn't only human beings who have personality, who are capable of rational thought [and] emotions like joy and sorrow." She observed that chimpanzees hug, kiss, pat one another on the back, and tickle each other, too. And they do this in the context of lifelong relationships.

Changing What It Means to be Human

These discoveries have deep implications that are hard to recognize. For at least 150 years prior to Dame Goodall's work, Western science proposed that human beings were fundamentally unlike any other animal. Since her work and publication, our views have begun to change. We are now much more open to seeing that we are part of the animal kingdom - a part of it, to be sure, with unusual linguistic and technological skills - but still a part of it. And, therefore, we are part of the natural world. This change of perspective is key to the development of an ecological worldview.

Jane Goodall's insights into the way humanity is part of nature and the way aggression is part of the natural world and human life have inspired a life dedicated to helping humanity make peace with itself and with nature.

Making Peace Between People and Nature

In 1977, Dame Goodall established the Jane Goodall Institute, a global organization that supports people working in cooperative community and being good stewards of natural habitats and endangered species. It's youth program, Roots & Shoots, began in 1991.

I heard Jane Goodall speak at Florida Atlantic University in 2012. Her vision of communities of people living in harmony with each other and with nature is profound. She lives this harmonious life and leads by example. And she has dedicated over half of her life to sharing this vision around the world and, most recently, with future generations.

Many Other Women Peacemakers

Dame Jane Goodall is a UN Messenger of Peace, one of very few who have held the position for over a decade. Another way to find peacemakers is to look at winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mother Theresa in Bonn, Germany, 1986
Mother Theresa in Bonn, Germany, 1986 | Source

Mother Theresa is world famous for her work with the poorest of the poor. There is some controversy surrounding her methods, but no one questions her vision or her lifelong dedication to helping the neediest people on the planet. And she created an order of over 4,000 nuns and monks who contiue the her work. She and her sisters and brothers have saved tens of thousands of lives.

Mairead Corrigan speaking at a Free Gaza press conference in 2009.
Mairead Corrigan speaking at a Free Gaza press conference in 2009. | Source

Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in shifting the fundamental thinking of both the Irish and the British about the conflict that had gone on for over 100 years. Betty Williams, a Catholic, witnessed the accidental death of three children in a clash between an Irish freedom fighter and the police. Mairead Corrigan was aunt to the children. The two of them came together with Ciaran McKeown to form Peace People and shifted the focus away from the fighting and onto the victims of violence. This ushered in a new era of peace. Since then, Mairead has gone on to be a global proponent of non-violence and an anti-nuclear activist. Betty Williams speaks out for peace, global understanding, and the safety of children.

Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to supporters in Yangon, Myanmar, on 17 November 2011
Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to supporters in Yangon, Myanmar, on 17 November 2011 | Source

Aung Sahn Suu Kyi is a Burmese political leader, advocate of democracy, and pacifist. The core of her message is: "It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who weild it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it." In a position to become Prime Minister of Burma due to democratic elections in 1988, she instead was held under house arrest, and sometimes in prison, for over 15 years by the military junta who took control of Burma (also called Myanmar). Her pacifism is rooted in the Buddhist tradition and inspired by Mahatma Gandi's work in India.

Since 2008, political and economic oppression in Burma has eased. The military is still in control, but some civilian government has been restored and international relations are improving. Many political prisoners, including Aung Sahn Suu Kyi, have been released, and she has been a member of the Burmese parlaiment since 2012.

Jane Addams in 1914
Jane Addams in 1914 | Source

Jane Addams engaged in lifelong, worldwide efforts for social reforms and world peace centered at Hull House in Chicago, a center (called a Settlement House) to help people in poverty improve their lives. Direct support (such as food and childcare) was at the core of the daily program. But social research into the root causes of disease and social ills was also central. Her efforts quickly grew national and international. Her fundamental goal was that all people be free of the scourges of poverty, illness, and war. Her pacifism during World War I was controversial and led her to being labelled "unpatriotic," but she stood her ground. Emily Balch wrote this of her: "Miss Addams shines, so respectful of everyone's views, so eager to understand and sympathize, so patient of anarchy and even ego, yet always there, strong, wise and in the lead. No 'managing', no keeping dark and bringing things subtly to pass, just radiating wisdom and power of judgment."

These woman are all world leaders for peace and social justice. They inspire us all by showing the key attributes of a peacemaker - the willingness to relate, to listen, and to care for all. Mother Theresa and Jane Addams also showed themselves to be visioinary leaders.

As we continue our exploration of women leaders, we will look at how a single person can embody qualities that, according to the DISC personality model, are somewhat contradictory. In fact, great leaders all do this. But before we go there, let's take a look at women leaders who express the qualities of perseverance and problem-solving.

Margaret Thatcher in 1990.
Margaret Thatcher in 1990. | Source

Steady Leadership in Challenging Times: Margaret Thatcher

To find a woman leader who represents the quality of steady leadership in challenging times, I turn to the job of Prime Minister of England and find Margaret Thatcher. In my first article on leadership, where I used men as examples, I chose a conservative Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill. Now, I choose another conservative Prime Minister.

England's Post-War Consensus

Between World War I and World War II, England began to lose its empire and also experimented with the choices of a more liberal economic policy with government ownership of many industries, and a more conservative approach with private industry and less regulation. During World War II, embargoes brought risk of starvation and severe rationing kept the country alive. Things did not improve quickly after the war. First, all of war-torn Europe had to be fed. Then the British Empire shrunk rapidly, losing India, Palestine, and more. England survived by formulating the post-war consensus, in which the Labor Party's agenda governed Britain with little opposition from the Conservatives even when the Conservatives held the majority in Parliament and ran the country. It's greatest success, possibly, was England's National Health Plan. Major industries were nationalized, and England took on some qualities of a welfare state. By the early 1970s, this solution was starting to fall apart. International economic events, such as the 1973 Oil Crisis created high unemployment combined with high inflation.

Margaret Thatcher began her political career in 1959 as a member of the Conservative party. When Labor was in power, she was highly respected in the shadow government, but weilded little power. Whenever the Conservatives held power, she rose in the ranks. She also demonstrated clearly that she was a woman who thought for herself and didn't always follow party lines. She believed in strict criminal punishment, including corporal punishment and capital punishment. But she was liberal on issues of abortion, seeking to make it more accessible; and with regard to bans on hunting, which she favored. She also took an unusual position as a conservative supporter of the State of Israel.

Margaret Thatcher as a Minister and Leader of the Opposition

The Conservatives ran the government from 1970 to 1974, and Margaret Thatcher was Education Secretary. Then when the Labor party won again in 1975, due to issues over oil and union demands, she became the leader of the opposition party.

Margaret Thatcher was an outspoken political leader. Her challenge to the Soviet Union earned her the nickname "The Iron Lady." Then, in late 1987, Prime Minister James Callaghan delayed a national election and Thatcher lead a political assault, calling the Labour Party "chickens" and campaigning under the slogan "Labor Doesn't Work." Her campaign was successful, and she became Prime Minister in early 1979.

Dame Margaret Thatcher in a formal portrait
Dame Margaret Thatcher in a formal portrait | Source

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

In the early 1980s, England continued to suffer from economic hardship as a result of the policies of the last 35 years. The turnaround was slow, but Ms. Thatcher remained in power. This is where her leadership skills stood forth. Just as Winston Churchill remained steadily in command during the Battle of Britain, so Ms. Thatcher remained strong at the tiller through economic adversity and popular unrest.

By the mid-1980s, as a result of conservative policies, especially privatization of industry, the English economy began to recover. Margaret Thatcher remained in power, but was never as popular as her party.

Margaret Thatcher's legacy is in her personality more than in her policies. She was an independent woman who led through difficult times, and encouraged this in others, as she said in 1987:

I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand "I have a problem, it is the Government's job to cope with it" or . . . "I am homeless, the government must house me!" and so they cast their problems on society, and who is society? There is no such thing. There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through those people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbor.

Margaret Thatcher, Model of Steady Leadership

Margaret Thatcher is a role model for tough individualism, lifelong independence, and service to society through higher ideals. She embodies these British conservative ideals in very much the same way as her conservative predecessor, Winston Churchill. Even those who disagree with her policies can admire and emulate these qualities of independence, service, and resilience through troubled times.

Hilary Rodham Clinton: The Cooperative Problem-Solver

Early Activism: Hilary Clinton Makes a Difference Wherever She Goes

Hilary Clinton, like Golda Meir, is a lifelong leader. In 1968, she was in college, and she organized peaceful protests around the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a result of advocacy by other students, she became the first student at Wellesley College ever to deliver the commencement address. And by 1974, she was on the advisory team to the House Committee on the Judiciary during the Watergate scandal. Her work on impeachment procedures and grounds for impeachment culminated in the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. Little did she know then that she would be on the other side of similar proceedings years later as First Lady.

Whatever Ms. Clinton focuses on, she does excellent work. In addition to impeachment, she turned her attention to the legal rights of children and did seminal work in the field. A chair of the American Bar Association said, "Her articles were very important, not because they were radically new but because they helped formulate something that had been inchoate." Historian Gary Wills described her as "one of the more important scholar-activists of the last two decades."

Hilary Clinton combined her legal background and national political agendas once again when President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation, a federally-funded not-for-profit that helps ensure equal access to justice. She became chair, redefined the organization and convinced Congress to increase funding from $90 million to $300 million. When her husband Bill Clinton became governor of Arkansas, she took an active role in the politics of medicine for the first time as chair of the Rural Health Advisory Committee. She secured federal funds to expand medical services in the poorest areas of Arkansas without reducing doctors fees.

First Lady Hillary Clinton in 1992.
First Lady Hillary Clinton in 1992. | Source

First Lady Hilary Clinton

In the 1990s, the skyrocketing cost of medical services in the United States and the lack of health insurance coverage for many people became a national issue. It was a legacy of a World War II policy in which companies were legally blocked from granting raises, and so came up with competing medical coverage plans to attract top employees. Since that time, during times of high employment, almost all Americans had medical insurance coverage through their employment, and spouses and children were covered under an employee's plans. As a result, a national health plan was not a major issue. A series of recessions in the 1970s and 1980s changed all that, and, by 1990, there were many Americans, including children, who did not have health insurance and could not afford health care.

The issue was extremely complex and partisan from its outset. Vested interests included medical insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies with billions of dollars at stake and very strong congressional lobbies. It was also a politically partisan issue, with Republicans seeing national health coverage as too socialist.

President Bill Clinton put Hilary Clinton in charge of this political football, and she lead a task force that created the Clinton Health Care Plan. Although that plan bogged down in a filibuster in Congress, it began a national debate that lasted for 20 years. The issue was, at last, no longer being brushed aside. And, in 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was enacted to achieve many of the goals that the Clintons were aiming for two decades earlier.

Senator Hilary Clinton

This is Hilary Clinton's official portrait for the US Senate.
This is Hilary Clinton's official portrait for the US Senate. | Source

Senator Hilary Clinton

Hilary Clinton recovered from her husband's downfall by becoming a US Senator from the State of New York. The fact that she moved to New York to run for the Senate was a matter of some controversy. But, in classic problem-solving mode, she visited every county in New York and was welcomed - and elected - by its citizens.

Similar to Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Clinton spoke her own mind. Remaining a Democrat, she nonetheless took a conservative line on issues of the military and terrorism. She continued her advocacy for the safety and well-being of children by introducing the Family Entertainment Protection Act and supported the free choice of states with regard to same-sex marriage.

Remaining an intellectual while continuing as a politician, she supported the creation of the Center for American Progress and the work of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Senator Hilary Clinton made her bid for the Oval Office in 2008. She lost the Democratic Primary and Barack Obama went on to win the Presidency. At this point, one of Hilary Clinton's greatest strengths - her willingness to be a team player - came to benefit her and the entire world. Although she and Obama were political opponents, they share very similar views on a majority of the issues facing the United States today. Obama asked Clinton to serve as the US Secretary of State. After some hesitation, she found within herself a very traditional view. Her President asked her to serve, and she served.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with her husband, being sworn into office, in 2009.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with her husband, being sworn into office, in 2009. | Source
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Munich in 2011.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Munich in 2011. | Source

Hilary Clinton, Secretary of State

As Secretary of State, Hilary Rodham Clinton pulled together a lifetime of leadership and problem-solving experience to reinvent the Department of State and launch a renewal of US diplomatic policy that has been needed for over 30 years. Ever since the end of the Vietnam War, the US has had a very weak State Department and has been able to achieve little through diplomatic channels. As a result, the US has had to rely on costly, violent military solutions to a very large degree. By strengthening the Department of State, Hilary Clinton has opened up US foreign policy to the possibility of a multi-faceted approach called "smart power" which uses diplomatic, economic, military, legal, and cultural power to influence change.

Clinton also used her experience campaigning for the Senate in New York State. Just as she visited every county in New York on the way to becoming a senator, Hilary Clinton visited 79 different nations during her tenure as Secretary of State.

Clinton is a brilliant thinker, able to see connections that many others cannot see or choose to ignore. She sees the rights of women and girls as an essential issue of global security in the entire 21st century because the same cultures that quelch women tend to extremism that opens the door to terrorist attacks on civil society.

Unlike most American politicians, who think primarily about election and four-year political strategies, Hilary Rodham Clinton has evolved from a cooperative problem-solver to a visionary leader. As of 2013, she has stepped down as Secretary of State. But democrats in America see things differently: In polls, she is the front-runner for Democratic candidate for the Presidency in 2016.

Many Women Leaders, Four Leadership Styles

We have seen many women leaders exemplifying the four different leadership styles:

  • Visionary: Marie Curie and Golda Meir
  • Peacemaking: Dame Jane Goodall and many winners of the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Steady in Difficult Times: Margaret Thatcher
  • Problem-Solving: Hilary Rodham Clinton

I chose familiar, world-famous examples in part to show that women can have a world-changing role even in the face of prejudice and oppression.

But true leadership is in all walks of life. Every successful mother and father is a visionary for her or his children; a peacemaker among siblings; a support in difficult times; and a resourceful problem-solver. In business, in the creative arts, and in every aspect of society, these four human skills support success and leadership.

DISC personality theory says that each person tends to behave in one, or at most two, of the four behavioral types. It also indicates that it is difficult to change type.

My research and experience show this is not entirely true. Marie Curie, as a scientist, was a problem-solver, and as a woman changing society, a visionary. Mother Theresa was a peacemaker and a visionary leader her entire life. Hilary Clinton has grown from a problem-solver working on committees to a global leader with a vision for the future.

I encourage everyone to do three things:

  • Discover your own primary leadership style
  • Surround yourself with people of all the other styles and create an effective team.
  • Develop your abilities in the areas where you are not as strong as you might be

I will celebrate leadership by closing with a woman who has displayed all four leadership styles throughout her entire life, and who many consider to be the most influential woman alive today: Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah Winfrey: In Many Ways, a Leader

More and more, American leadership is coming from the media. We have Ronald Reagan, a movie actor turned President and Arnold Schwartznegger, who went from Terminator to Governor. American movies are a tremendous cultural influence around the world, often, unfortunately, in violent ways. Movie stars and other media heroes and heroines have often taken lifelong political and social stances, from the liberal work of Jane Fonda and Robert Redford to the conservative message of Mel Gibson.

One woman, though, is seen as changing the world right through her work in popular media: Oprah Winfrey. Born in poverty and subject to sexual abuse as a teen, she grew into an agent for social change through television, radio, movies, and the internet.

Oprah's National Debut

Oprah rose quickly as a local news anchor to co-host of a talk show in Baltimore. Then, in 1983, she took over a low-rated talk show in Chicago and quickly turned it around to beat the father of all talk shows, Donahue. She went to a full hour and national syndication with The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986 and never looked back. It quickly became the #1 talk show in America, with double the viewers of the #2 Donahue show. Donahue had a tough journalistic style and was able to probe with excellent investigative questions. But America prefered what Time magazine described as Oprah's "plainspoken curiosity, robust humor, and, above all, empathy."

As a genuinely caring person, Oprah got her interviewees to open up and share with the nation things that they might have been hesitant to tell a therapist. And she kept doing it every day for twenty years.

In the early years, her show was seen as a tabloid talk show. In the mid-1990s, she opened to a more issues-oriented approach. She addressed issues people need to know about and some that people don't want to talk about: heart disease; geopolitics; and spirituality and meditation. Her celebrity interviews focused on their causes: charity work; cancer; substance abuse; and more.

She developed many other forms of media expression: She co-founded the Oxygen network and was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Sofia in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple. She brought other great literature by black women such as Toni Morrison and Zora Neal Hurston into the movie theaters, as well.

Oprah Winfrey at her 50th birthday party in 2004
Oprah Winfrey at her 50th birthday party in 2004 | Source

Scandal Survivor

Oprah has spoken openly about her long-term emotional addictions and brief episodes of drug addiciton, and her battle with weight loss has been the most visible in the history of the world. She has also brought these and other taboo subjects, such as alternative sexual preferences, into mainstream discussion. The open willingness to talk about anything is, for Oprah, part of the process of social acceptance and personal healing into greatness.

Wealth and Philanthropy

Success has made Oprah a billionaire, and she has shared it wisely and well. She has donated about $400 million to educational causes.

Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama & Michelle Obama in 2007.
Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama & Michelle Obama in 2007. | Source


The "Oprah Effect" is a term that has been coined for Oprah's ability to turn a book into a best-seller just by adding it to her book club. But it is more than that. By one estimate, she delivered one million votes to Barack Obama in the close 2008 Democratic primary race.

What Makes a Great Leader?

I'm going to suggest that the truly great corporate, national, and global leaders use all four leadership styles. Either they have all four themselves, which is rare, or they create a team with all the skills.

We can see this in Oprah Winfrey:

  • Visionary: She is more than a talk-show host. She is a founder and owner of several innovative companies.
  • Peacemaker: The underlying skill of the peacemaker is personal, emotional influence. This is Oprah's strongest skill, and she uses it in every interview. As a result, she has brought a new type of peace - a willingness to openly discuss former taboo issues so that people with alternate lifestyles have more safety and greater choices.
  • Steady through difficult times: As rich as she may be, Oprah is, and always will be, an abuse survivor and recovering addict. She has used the strength she used to survive her childhood many times in her career.
  • Problem-solver: Oprah probably relies on many assistants to get through the work of TV production. But good TV production is about preventing and solving one problem after another. And she's been doing it ever since she became a professional newscaster.

It is the ability to be many types of leader - or the ability to build a diverse team of leaders - that makes the truly great global leader.

See Yourself as a Leader

You are a leader, even if you haven't shown the whole world yet. What kind of leader are you?

  • Visionary: I have my own vision or message or art to share with the world.
  • Peacemaker: I listen to others and bring them together.
  • Steady: People always come to me for support.
  • Problem-solver: I'm Mr. / Ms. fix it. I work behind the scenes, but I get it done.
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Learn More About Leadership

The information and quotes in this article came from the biography pages for each woman on, plus related linked pages, such as the Post-War Consensus and HIlary Clinton's term as Secretary of State.

If you want to see a larger list of women leaders, check out A&E Biography's list of Notable Female Leaders.

To learn more about the DISC profile system and how it relates to leadership, read my hub The Four Types of Leaders. You'll also meet some pretty impressive men!

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Comments 45 comments

pramodgokhale profile image

pramodgokhale 3 years ago from Pune( India)


Sir ,after long break i am getting to you and of course your nice article. I appreciate if you are unbiased or impartial.Indira Gandhi is not mentioned .she made india strong and elected again after defeat.She stood against super powers rivlary. Development got momentum during her regime.

Your article mentioned women are mostly from developed and democratic nations, except Aung San Suu Kui, she is still fighting for democracy in Mynamar.

thank you for recollections.

pramod gokhale

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thank you for your thoughts, Pramode. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is certainly a powerful woman, and worthy of consideration. I would like to know more about her. She was one of about 20 women I considered, all of whom might have been appropriate to my article. I chose not to include her for a reason unrelated to her not being Western. Many women who might have reached positions of leadership on their own did so, in fact, because of family connections. In Indira Gandhi's case, her father, Jawaharilal Nehru, was India's first Prime Minister. I chose women with no strong leaders in the family as much as possible, as I did not want people with prejudices to be able to say that their success was due to their family ties.

pramodgokhale profile image

pramodgokhale 3 years ago from Pune( India)


I agree with parameters you set for women leaders.Yes Indira was daughter of our first prime minster Nehru, Indira was practical and she always said i want results. Congress earlier under old leaders was never pragmatic.

She said finances should be provided to poor , to come up and subsidies to continue, otherwise people will not able to prosper.

She emphasized inclusive growth and to some extent she succeed.

She never succumbed to super powers pressure and Bangladesh was

created and defeated evil designs of Nixon-Kissinger duo, that was her glorious period in her political life.

She was autocratic. Her charisma and 'aura" was the magic.

Thank you sir.

pramod gokhale

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thank you, Pramode. It is good for everyone to know more about leaders - women and men - around the world. Wikipedia was very useful on some leaders, but weak on Indira Gandhi. I couldn't really get a sense of what she was like. Is there a biography you would recommend?

Also, I am a pacifist. I do present people who's views I disagree with. But my very mixed feelings about two things Prime Minister Indira Gandhi did made me hesitate. One was turning India into a nuclear power. The other was remaining in office after the courts had ruled her election illegal. I am not saying these things are bad, merely that they left me questioning the nature of her power, and uncertain as to whether I wanted to present her as an example of healthy leadership.

jainismus profile image

jainismus 3 years ago from Pune, India

Great Hub, but you have not mentioned Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India who was a great leader.

Voted up and shared with followers.

sanjay-sonawani profile image

sanjay-sonawani 3 years ago from Pune, India.

Great and inspiring article! Tribute to these and other women leading in almost every sector of life. Thanks.

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Hi Jainismus. If you look at the comments, you'll see a discussion of Indira Gandhi, and why she was not in the main article. Enjoy!

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thank you, Sanjay! May you be inspired to be a leader.

Sharon E Welch 3 years ago

Excellent group of women to show the broad range of women leaders we have been blessed with throughout history. You extensive research and detail in showing us the many types of leaders helps the young girl in me reinvest in the dreams of leadership I hide and hold dear to my heart. I can be the astronaut I was meant to be.

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Hi Sharon! Fly! You Go Girl!

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

This is impressive. You wrote of women who really have made a huge difference. Hull House I know well. I had two Aunts who worked there for years.

Too often women's contributions are overlooked even today. thank you so much for this well researched and carefully presented article.

I will be back

Sending Angels once again today :) ps Voted up+++

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thank you, Pstraubie. The huge difference makes a good example. More deeply, though, we can each make a profound difference in one life or a few lives.

Jessica Noel 3 years ago

Wow, what a great Hub! I enjoyed the wide variety of women you showcased here, many of whom I was only slightly familiar with. You've got me wondering what my own type of leadership style is.

Voted up, and Interesting!

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Hi Jessica - Thanks. You might look up "free DISC profile online" and check it out.

Faith A Mullen profile image

Faith A Mullen 3 years ago

Hi Sid, this is such an interesting hub! I appreciate your respect for all the different leadership styles. I can see myself in two of the styles, so am curious to look up the free DISC profile test to see which is my true style! Thanks for posting. Voted up and shared.

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Hi Faith! Thank you. It's really neat that you are taking this beyond just reading and taking a step in learning more about yourself. Leadership begins with self-leadership, and self-leadership begins with getting to know who we are. You're on your way! Please keep in touch as you grow.

LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

Great hub. I can see it being the foundation of many young students' assignments, and an inspiration to young women.

When I lived in the UK after the Thatcher years, residents were not very flattering about her time in office. She was however, as you point out, a significant leader who made her mark.

Voted up.

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thank you, Long Time Mother! I'm thinking maybe I should add your story into this hub. You are a leader, and it is a pleasure to meet you!

PaoloJpm profile image

PaoloJpm 3 years ago from Philippine

Great hub! yes, women are also great leader. As what I saw in the leadership of my Country's former President Gloria Arroyo, which I think has succeed a great achievement in her Country though, at the last part of her career begun worse, yet, I believe it was cause by the influence from the surroundings of her power. But, I know, from within her, she is a great leader.

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thank you, Paolo. I'll need to learn more about Gloria Arroyo. When a leader starts out in a bad environment, it is really excellent when they reform and grow - excellent for all of us!

LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

lol. You charmer, SidKemp!

I certainly don't come close to the women in your hub, but thank you for the compliment. :)

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

LongTimeMother, my appreciation is sincere. We don't choose how famous we become. We do choose how loving we are. Thank you for being you, and for all the good you are bringing to those in your life and through HubPages.

PaoloJpm profile image

PaoloJpm 3 years ago from Philippine

I'm sure you'll find a lot of things about her, sadly on her recent career in politics it's a bit of negativity.

LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

Thanks again, Sid. The pressure's on me now. :)

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

No pressure! Just be yourself - and shine! :-)

LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

Okay, thanks. By the way, I trust PaolJpm was still talking about Gloria Arroyo, not me. lol.

thetravelgal profile image

thetravelgal 3 years ago

Really liked your selection of women in leadership. Whether I like each one or not, I cannot help but admire their accomplishments, and they are definitely leaders.

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thanks, TravelGal. Leaders are people, too. And I don't think anyone ever fully liked everything about another person. Let's appreciate - and emulate - the positive, and forgive the negative. People who live public lives like this face strains we can't really imagine.

thetravelgal profile image

thetravelgal 3 years ago

lol, that's for sure, better them than me.

smallbusinessblog profile image

smallbusinessblog 3 years ago from Sydney

Enjoyed reading your article. Cheers.

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thanks, SmallBusinessBlog. Good to meet you. Any women leaders from Down Under I should know about?

rambansal profile image

rambansal 3 years ago from India

Women prove better leaders for their having more sincerity to purpose. Your exhaustive dealing with the subject is highly appreciated.

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thank you Rambansal! What you say about women leaders is often true.

ZipperConstantine profile image

ZipperConstantine 3 years ago from United States

I was and still am a Margaret Thatcher fan. She was a remarkable woman. Great article very informative.


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thank you, Zipper, for stopping by.

manatita44 profile image

manatita44 3 years ago from london

Extremely useful article and different slant. Refreshing. Lots of work there, I guess. Some are favourites of mines and also at least two met Sri Chinmoy. Jane Goodall and Mother Theresa. They were great friends. Happy that you did not forget women. Mary Magdalene was exemplary and the Buddha accepted his wife as a disciple. He was a sort of pioneer in this.

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Yes, Manatita. The Buddha actually accepted his stepmother this wife, and several hundred women as his disciples. He hesitated, but when they re-petitiioned, he accepted the. He foresaw, correctly, that cultural prejudice would bring Buddhism to an end quickly in India if he did. But he decided the full opportunity for the women of his day to follow the Way was more important than the future men and women, not yet born. Fortunately, Buddhism spread beyond India before it faltered there.

DFW TEEN VOICE profile image

DFW TEEN VOICE 3 years ago from Richardson, Texas

You have brought life to your written words on the hub!Enjoyed reading!Much Success!

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thanks, Teen Voice. I hope, through you, this article might inspire many teens!

Kate Mc Bride profile image

Kate Mc Bride 3 years ago from Donegal Ireland

Good leaders are people who inspire whether they are men or women and you have comprehensively covered both in your articles about leaders- it is just a pity that there is such a story about whether they are men or women-good leaders are just good people-end of story

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

I agree! I was actually surprised at myself when I finished the first article and realized my omission.

ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Love that Margaret Thatcher is on this list!

drsykasa profile image

drsykasa 2 years ago from Bethesda, Maryland

Sid, I enjoyed your article a lot. I hope many girls, including boys will get an inspiration from what you wrote. Again thanks.

Dr. Sy

grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

What a wonderful range of women leaders you have selected. They are so different, but they have all changed the world. They are admirable in so many ways. Well done!

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 21 months ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thank you, Christy, Dr. Sy, and Grand Old Lady. Yes, the range of ways these women have changed the world - and the range of ways any of us can change the world - is truly wonderful!

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