Inside USD

Stedman Graham: A Value-Driven Experience

Thursday, February 13, 2014

With an easy smile and a booming voice full of passion, educator, author and businessman Stedman Graham filled Warren Auditorium Monday with eager students, staff and faculty. Perhaps best known as Oprah Winfrey’s partner, Stedman Graham is a world-renown educator and author who focuses on mentoring emerging leaders and fighting for educational opportunities for all regardless of race, gender or economic status.

After being introduced by School of Leadership and Education Sciences’ Scott Himelstein, Graham immediately left the podium and joined the audience. He began by sharing about his personal background and the racial “box” he grew up in as a poor black youth in the South. His early experiences, he explained, helped him become who he is today and provided the motivation he needed to become successful. “It is difficult to become a leader if you don’t know who you are,” he expounded. How “can you co-create with the world?”

Graham, author of eleven books to date, believes that in order to be a true leader, you must be filled with love, as love translates into passion and meaning in one’s work. First and foremost he stressed, a person must know who they are and how they define themselves, as with that comes power. “When you turn your power over to someone else, they will define you. Take your power back.” The great equalizer, he simplified, is that we all have 24 hours in a day. It is what we do with those hours that define us.

Graham’s passion for identity development and meaningful work culminated in a process he teaches around the world. Graham stressed that knowing oneself is the foundation and the most important step. From there, he underscored, a leader needs to have a vision, have a plan to make that vision a reality, and to be true to one’s value system. He also stressed that a leader must surround him or herself with a team that builds upon the strengths and weaknesses of each other. Building a dream, making concrete plans to make it happen, doing your homework and staying motivated can make a follower a leader. “Start with the belief. Then figure out the how,” he emphasized.

Finding value in one’s life and work is an underlying theme in Graham’s approach to living a successful life. “The value you give yourself,” he explained, “is the value the world gives you.”

To learn more about Stedman Graham’s approach to leadership, please visit

– Melissa Wagoner

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