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Leadership lessons at an early age

Posted Oct 22 2008 9:30pm

I hesitate to compose a post referencing Oprah again so soon (see 10/23 “Keeping Hope Alive” post by Jim Kouzes) for fear that some may think we spend too much time watching daytime TV. However, Oprah’s presence in the news this week moved me to comment on the situation that confronts her and her choice of action.

Oprah started a Leadership School for Girls, a small academy focused on giving high potential young teenaged girls an education with a focus on leadership. Last week, it was revealed that there had been alleged sexual abuse from one of the house parents. Fifteen of the girls had bravely come forward to report the crime. Upon further investigation, the concerns appear validated. It is a sad situation.

However, the way Oprah has handled it is not sad, but commendable. The second commitment of the practice “Challenge the Process” is: Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience. Oprah experimented when she took on the project. Is there a small win in this bad situation? Certainly. The 15 girls who found the courage to come forward demonstrated their own maturation and strength. Is there learning that has taken place from the experience? Well, if Oprah’s press conference is any indication, yes. She and her team have learned the screening process for the house parent role was inadequate. They have put a plan in place to change that process.

Were mistakes made? Most definitely. But the mistakes have not stopped the program, and the vision that Oprah has for these girls appears stronger than ever in her heart. I commend her leadership and the “Challenge the Process” leadership spirit the brave young girls showed the world.

Posted by Beth High

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