“Some of you know me as Mr. Oprah,” said Stedman Graham standing in front of a packed room at a recent Thrive Global event. “And some of you know I’ve written 12 books,” he continued.

On this particular evening, Graham was fired up speaking to a crowded room about his new book Identity Leadership: To Lead Others You Must First Lead Yourself. The event also marked his new partnership with Thrive Global.

“This is a combination of years of work, of discovering the process of how you create self-mastery in your own life,” he said about the new project.

Identity Leadership is all about the mastery of self and how we can leverage our own unique talents as assets in our careers. In so many corporate spaces, where Black women frequently feel invisible or like we need to mold and adhere ourselves to an environment that works against us, it’s a much-needed reminder. Particularly in an era where Black women are still facing backlash for how they wear their hair.

When asked about how we can all maintain our own personal authenticity in our respective careers Graham kept it one hundred: “That’s an internal issue. If you really want to work on yourself you’ve got to go to the bottom of the pit. You’ve got to evaluate…What were your experiences like growing up? What was your shame like growing up? You’ve got to go back and revisit that and you’ve got to unpeel the onion and get rid of that negative energy.”

Self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and discipline are just a few of the topics Graham digs into throughout the 19 chapters of his book.

During the discussion, he also dug into his signature 9 Steps of Leadership, all of which are broken down in his book. There’s even a chapter titled, Oprah: A True Identity Leader, where he gushed over his longtime partner while sharing what makes her such a good leader and what we can all glean from her example.

Stedman Graham and Agapi Stassinopoulos of Thrive Global.

“Most of us will never be able to create self-mastery,” he said. “[Most people] essentially mimic and look for everyone else to lead them,” he said before digging into how we can break free of conditioned behavior.

For those who only know Stedman Graham in relation to his longtime relationship with Oprah, here are just a few receipts: Graham is an accomplished author with not one but two New York Times bestsellers to his name. He’s the chairman and CEO of Graham and Associates, a management and marketing consulting firm. Graham’s client roster includes Gulfstream Aerospace, Microsoft, CVS Pharmacy, the U.S. Departments of Labor, and beyond. He’s also an educator.

An enthusiastic Gayle King makes an appearance at Stedman Graham’s book launch.

Graham’s message about self-actualization was the golden thread that connected both his message to the small audience that evening and the larger audience that will soon read his book.

As he said in his introduction, “If you want your life to get better, then take control of it. It’s up to you and no one else. Don’t wait for others to define who you are or what your potential is.”


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