Broadcast journalist and TV host Tamron Hall proves that connecting with people on a deeper level not only engages and entertains—it’s also at the core of turning pain into purpose.
“I have always been a part of a team sport with a coach. And when I worked in network news, I was part of the team and answered to the news director, or [the] president of the news division was the coach,” Hall recalls. “Suddenly, with this show, I am a team member, but I’m also the coach. I’m the leader, and I’m a player. I’m all of these things wrapped up in one, and I had to recognize that shift.”
Tamron Hall’s long road to success
When it comes to leading with purpose, Tamron Hall has it down to a science—but she says it hasn’t always felt that way. Hall made history as the first Black woman to co-host an hour of NBC’s Today show. But when news broke that she was abruptly leaving the show in February 2017 after losing her time slot amid the network’s programming restructure, the veteran broadcast journalist took the opportunity to focus on her family, her self-care and her next step.
Hall worked at NBCUniversal for 10 years, having first joined MSNBC and later Today alongside Al Roker in 2014. After leaving Today, she pitched the idea of her own one-hour show.
“When I was building the show, I was off for a 12- to 18-month span, which proved very beneficial personally and professionally,” she says. “I’ve been a journalist [for] over 30 years and now have my own talk show that’s starting its fifth season. I’m also a mom and a wife, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Finding her purpose
Hall realizes now that a person’s purpose inherently changes over time—and that’s OK. We all have a purpose inside, but it shifts naturally in the spirit of reinventing yourself. “Everything that you are is there, and everything you are showing people is there. It’s always there. It’s just coming out when it’s supposed to,” she explains.
“This side of me as a leader came out when it was supposed to come out—when we were all in the middle of all of the uncertainty of a global pandemic, which required a fast study,” she says. “I knew that if I was going to keep this show on, make it successful and keep my team engaged and inspired, I had to step up and lead. Some of the best TV we did as a team was up against the most challenging moment for the world. And nothing can take that away.”
Inevitably, Tamron Hall is a culmination of what represents purpose in her life—the joy of doing what you love and the responsibility of creating a legacy. “More than ever, […] I recognize and understand the importance of purpose,” she says. “Purpose is focus. It’s the ability, as a leader, to explain my vision more clearly to my team and live up to the standards in which I put on myself to be the best I can be.”
Her confidence and stamina stem from her childhood. Hall’s mother was a 19-year-old single mom who worked multiple jobs to get her daughter into the best schools and provide the best she could. Her stepfather was a 30-year veteran of the Army, where he served as a master sergeant.
Hall learned to appreciate the value of a dollar and garnered a strong work ethic at a young age. “My first job was at Toys R Us when I was 14 years old. I worked my way up from the stuffed animals department to cashier,” she remembers, thinking about the various roles she’s held over the years.
“I had never lost a job in my life. I’ve always moved into different positions and climbed the ladder on my own merit. That’s why losing a job [at Today] publicly in my adult years, [and in the way] in which it played out in my life, was a real eye-opener.”
Knowing who you are, bouncing back, taking all the punches and learning from an experience can create something beautiful. “Where I am in my life now is a reminder that your purpose evolves,” Hall says. “And where it is now may not be where it is later.”
Tamron Hall’s secret? A purposeful platform
ABC News produces Tamron Hall, which is nationally syndicated through Disney Entertainment. Millions of viewers tune in to her engaging conversations each day with a plethora of admirable guests who all have a purpose outside of their “known-for” gigs. From Neil Patrick Harris and Vanessa Williams to Billy Porter, Janelle Monáe and Usher, every guest brings experiences ranging from the deeply moving to the purely fun.
At 53, Hall is a mom (to 4-year-old Moses), a wife (to music executive Steven Greener) and an executive producer determined to produce “refreshing and relatable content” on her self-titled show. Hall—a huge fan of waking up happy and living a life that is open to change and unexpected detours—wants to bring thought-provoking conversations and a positive mindset to her audience.
There’s been an uptick of interest in purpose-driven leadership in recent years. According to a 2021 study by McKinsey & Company, “70% of employees said that their sense of purpose is defined by their work. So, like it or not, as a company leader you play an important part in helping your employees find their purpose and live it.” Hall’s leadership style exemplifies this sentiment. Her passion for people and building relationships is at the core of her work.
As someone who makes a living with her words, Hall sees her work as more than just a TV job, but as a leadership role that allows people to connect with one another in a nonjudgmental and positive manner. She thrives on giving people a voice.
“There’s no doubt that I’ve had to step into leadership in a way that I had not known before,” she says. “I ran track as a kid, and I have always been a part of a team sport with a coach. And when I worked in network news, I was part of the team and answered to the news director, or [the] president of the news division was the coach. Suddenly, with this show, I am a team member, but I’m also the coach. I’m the leader, and I’m a player. I’m all of these things wrapped up in one, and I had to recognize that shift. It took a global pandemic to realize the impact and the accountability.”
Leadership cause and effect
During the pandemic, Hall still taped episodes and managed to keep her show on air. “There I was with a camera in my home and my team on the phone—talk about multitasking. I was having to turn the camera right, turn the camera left and get the iPad positioning right. It was at that point where I had to realize that I wasn’t just talent. Now, I’m an executive producer and leader,” Hall says. “When I am stressed, I can’t [always] show that emotional side. I can’t commiserate at the water cooler. I’m the leader and have to shore up the troops, and I have to inspire.”
As a result, Hall started talking to a number of coaches who allow her to be vulnerable enough to go to other leaders and ask, “How do you do this?” Learning those skills of feedback and getting support when needed is what she says makes the product better. “As a leader, I just want my team to know that I am invested. I want them to know I have skin in the game. So, if I’m giving you my opinion or my feedback, I am watching it and investing in it—and the same for the viewers.”
A leader and a brand
Throughout it all, Hall was determined to keep her eye on the prize. She found ways to instill a positive mindset amongst her team. “I’m lucky that we have a big group of creatives. They’re all different ages, but I’m a big proponent of, ‘let’s bring my 30 years of experience and your five and your 10 together and let’s make magic,’ and that’s a part of what I had to step into as a leader of this brand that matters. I had to be very honest with them, and if there’s something wrong, if the script is wrong, it comes out of my mouth, so I have to protect the brand at all matters.”
After all, everyone has a story, and her show’s mission is to help people through the messiness to come out on the other side lighter and brighter. “We reveal the most challenging parts of people’s lives, so there has to be a sense of caring and advocacy,” Hall says. “We’ve had people talk about being rejected by their parents because they’re LGBTQ+. We’ve talked about discovering parts of your life and the secrets, and the audience is there—and if this person is trusting me with their story, I have to take care of it until it comes out of my mouth. And that’s a part of recognizing that my name matters and the trust and relationship with the guests matter.”
Building a resilient brand identity
Hall has worked hard to establish her own identity outside of her profession. Her job had always been her identity—and losing a job in such a public manner was obviously disorienting—but it was necessary for her to push her brand to the next level. Hall also learned that you have to learn to ignore the naysayers.
“There were people who wanted Tamron Hall, but they wanted a show that was unlike what I saw as my purpose in returning to the media landscape,” Hall says. “There was a direction of a hot topics-style show, which is phenomenal, and it’s why The View, for example, is a huge hit, but it wasn’t me. I didn’t want to focus on stories that were coming in and out of the world and only offering my view. I wanted to hear from other people. I had this idea that every person has a story, so let’s talk about it. Not ‘everybody has an opinion, and here’s mine.’”
Hall has also found herself asking: “Am I a title? Am I a journalist? Or, am I Tamron, no matter what my occupation is?” Being able to answer those questions honestly led her to pitching and creating her show. “There I was with, I thought, no identity, and I was reminded of a quote that I had come across when I was 18: ‘Who are you if there’s no title on your business card? If it’s just your name, are you the same person?’ I was challenged to answer that question. Today, I lean into the positive and ask myself, ‘Who am I?’”
Hall encourages others to do the same.
Making a difference matters to Tamron Hall
Hall instills a sense of purpose in everything she touches—from running her show as a small business owner to becoming a mother later in life. Being a mom has changed her perspective on why holding your ground and being self-confident is paramount. She knows that your name matters in the entertainment business, and how you use your name and platform is essential to helping others.
“My name Tamron is ‘Mom’ to my son,” she says. “And I want him to be proud of that and inspired by it and empowered by it. And to eventually recognize what it means to have that responsibility. My son is my life test audience.”
Hall is also an advocate for domestic abuse survivors. Nearly two decades ago, she lost her sister Renate after years of abusive relationships. As a result, Hall launched the “Shine a Light” campaign, which encourages people to be a light for others going through similar situations. Today, she is dedicated to making sure other women don’t experience the same fate as her sister. (Detectives were never able to solve her sister’s murder.)
She has also launched the Purple Leash Project, a nationally recognized initiative to increase the number of pet-friendly domestic abuse shelters in the U.S. To date, the dog food brand Purina has donated more than $1 million toward the initiative. Hall believes the heartache and experiences we face in life bolster our empathy toward others and the community at large. This drives her commitment to helping others share their stories.
Defying the odds
Moving forward, Hall feels more confident than ever that her success and the success of others around her is rooted in the idea of defying the odds. “My mom defied the odds of her youth and worked multiple jobs and helped me feel empowered […] to get out there and write and do things. But defying the odds can be the template for others because most of us are the underdogs,” she says.
With a plethora of projects on the horizon, including a few scripted shows in the works, a children’s book and the release of her new cookbook, inspired by her stepfather who was a “culinary genius” growing up, Hall is not stopping anytime soon. If anything, she knows that, as a leader, the more confident you can make others feel, the better the relationship will grow and prosper—no matter what you’re up against.
“You don’t want to be an energy vampire,” she concludes. “The most gratifying feeling is when you know you’ve touched someone and made an impact on someone’s life.” Hall hopes that the ability to defy the odds will serve as an inspiration for others. From the kid growing up in a small, rural town to the woman who has been told over and over that she’s too old to have children or change her career focus, this heartfelt host knows it’s in everyone to get out there and take on the world.
This article originally appeared in the November/December issue 2023 of SUCCESS magazine. Photography by Stephanie Diani.