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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Chen

Lessons from Anna: A Guide to Leadership

Labeled by Forbes as “the most powerful woman in media and entertainment,” Anna Wintour is an infamous name in the fashion industry. As the current and longest-running editor-in-Chief of American Vogue Magazine and a fashion revolutionary and icon, Wintour has changed the landscape of high fashion. Yet at the same time, Anna Wintour has a reputation of being a demanding, decisive and tough boss. Previous employees have often nicknamed her “Nuclear Wintour” and Anna Wintour’s former assistant-turned-author used her as inspiration for the antagonist in her famous novel “The Devil Wears Prada.” However, despite the controversy over Anna Wintour and her leadership style, there is no dispute that she remains a fashion authority and is a leader who can deliver results. So how does she do it? In her new MasterClass, Anna Wintour lets us privy to a few tips that she uses in business and in life:

  1. Build a strong team Wintour constantly stresses the importance she puts on finding strong and talented individuals to work at Vogue - after all, “you are nothing - nothing without a good team.” Moreover, it is important to build as diverse a team as possible and incorporate the strengths that different backgrounds, experiences and ages can bring to the table. As Anna Wintour puts it, “I have always tried to surround myself with people that I enjoy — people whose opinions I respect, whose minds I respect, whose taste I respect, that isn’t always in line with mine.” In fact, Wintour encourages individuals to seek out others who are unafraid to argue against her own ideas: “I don’t like people who’ll say yes to everything I might bring up. I want people who can argue and disagree and have a point of view that’s reflected in the magazine.”

  2. Avoid micromanaging Surrounding yourself with strong individuals and opinions is good and all, but even the most creative individual can be stied by an overbearing boss. Knowing how to delegate tasks and who to delegate tasks to avoid micromanaging is an important skill that every leader should have. It is important to trust and inspire your team rather than force your vision onto them. That way, individuals feel comfortable voicing their thoughts and expressing themselves creatively. As Anna says, “I actually feel very strongly it’s important to empower those that are working with you.” By giving individuals more creative freedom and a say in leadership decisions, people will work much more efficiently and effectively since they do not have to run every single little detail by you. Moreover, employees will become personally invested in the project at hand rather than treating it as a regular job: “People work better when they have responsibility.”

  3. Be inspired by failure Many people tend not to dwell on their failures in fear of missing future opportunities. However, it is important to make time to take a step back and examine and learn from them. “I think everyone should get sacked at least once," says Wintour. “It forces you to look at yourself." Although it may not seem like it, setbacks and criticism can be good opportunities to review your decisions and can help you emerge stronger from the ashes. Anna recalls a time where she was red from Harper's Bazaar because they believed she didn’t have a grasp of American fashion: “It didn't feel like it at the time,” Anna acknowledges, “but it was definitely a good thing for what it taught me. It is important to have setbacks because that is the reality of life.”

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