Character Revealed: 3 Things I Learned From Oprah’s Sister

Character Revealed: 3 Things I Learned From Oprah’s Sister

What would you do if by researching your family history you discovered that one of the most powerful and wealthy people in the world was your half-sister? Moments like this reveal our true character.

As you’ve surely heard by now, while searching for the identity of her birth mother in 2007, Patricia Lloyd learned that she and Oprah Winfrey are half-sisters. When Oprah announced this family secret on her show, she said regardless of whether or not Patricia really was her sister, she had to meet this person who chose to seek resolution of the matter through family and not the media.

Pastor Andy Stanley defines character as “the will to do what’s right, even when it’s hard.” Patricia did the right thing, the hard thing. I learned three things from her example:

People of character exhibit perseverance. Patricia showed great resolve in her efforts to connect with her birth mother. Three attempts ended in rejection and hurt. Can you imagine the emotions she felt? I bet there were times she wondered if it was worth it to open those wounds again and again.

Still, she kept seeking a way to make the connection and eventually made contact with Oprah’s niece, beginning a chain of events that led to the validation of Patricia’s story and a reunion with her biological family.

If we want our leadership to reveal strong character, we must persevere through the disappointments and challenges we face. Obstacles are a given—maybe it’s a losing streak or relational tension within your team. Whatever you face today, resolve to not give up trying to improve the situation.

People of character put others’ interests before their own. Patricia could have approached the situation selfishly, wondering how she could profit from it. Instead, she kept Oprah’s best interest in mind. Rather than involving the media or seeking to sell the story, she stayed true to her original plan to contact the family privately. She showed great respect for Oprah as a person in how she handled the information—one of the things that touched Oprah most deeply.

It’s crucial that our leadership exhibit selflessness and a willingness to put the well-being of others before our own. Our decisions profoundly impact our players, co-workers or teammates. Taking a moment to put ourselves in their shoes or to consider their perspective keeps us mindful of their needs as we lead.

People of character understand the discipline of silence. Patricia showed amazing discipline in keeping her findings under wraps. Surely it was tempting to want to shout it from the mountaintops, “I’m Oprah’s sister!” Yet, she wisely shared only with those she trusted implicitly.

Leaders with strong character discern when to speak and when to remain silent. Those positioned to lead are privy to information that is not meant for others in the organization, department or team. Rather than using this as a source of pride (“I know something you don’t know!”), realize that with the information comes a higher level of responsibility to handle it appropriately.

In what ways does Patricia’s character speak to you? You may leave your comment below.