Anna Wintour — Business & Life Lessons
Anna Wintour is perhaps the most formidable force in fashion, the Editor-In-Chief of Vogue, and with that, her opinion holds a whole lot of value in the industry. But what does this inspirational woman attribute her success to? What lessons can we learn from her business and life?
Anna Wintour is not only synonymous with fashion and femininity, it’s the very crux of her power and influence.
For the past few decades, Anna Wintour has been a symbol of everything that any entrepreneur aspires to be. She’s strong, smart, and powerful; certainly not at the expense of her femininity. In fact, she was the inspiration for Miranda Priestly, Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada.
Anna Wintour is, without a doubt, the most respected, influential, and even feared person in the fashion industry.
She could claim that she’s the mastermind behind contemporary celebrity culture: she invented supermodels at a time when Hollywood wasn’t eager to be related to the fashion industry. She has become a powerful influence in fashion for being the one and true leader of an industry that has found a place in pop culture in the last thirty years.
As a leader, you may know she is more often than not portrayed in the negative context of being a “bitch” to work with.
Although Anna Wintour has been frequently criticized by people who worked or socialized with her, one must appreciate her leadership skills, creativity and intuitiveness. It takes a strength of character and high intelligence to head a global editorial fashion magazine like Vogue. She managed to sustain the magazine as one of the most authoritative editorials in fashion, society and culture.
Anna Wintour is one of the women I most admire, here is what I learned from her successful story.
So now that you understand my infatuation with Anna Wintour, let me share some of the key business and life lessons I’ve learned from her. Here are seven of her top tips on being a good boss.
Lesson #1: Be Decisive, Trust Your Gut
A trusted leader is often perceived as a hero with a vision who takes charge and ensures everyone is aligned and has a clear understanding of what is expected. But to earn the title, a leader must stand her ground, show confidence in her decisions, give credit to her team and take charge of the consequences. It’s about being true to your vision with clarify and conviction.
Don’t be afraid to make bold decisions even though not everyone is going to agree with you.
Anna Wintour believes that once you accept this and resolve to stay true to your own vision, you can be a better leader and manager. Having strength of conviction and communicating your point of view with clarity and decisiveness is the core component of Anna’s leadership style. Indecision can be worse than making the wrong decision.
Also called “Nuclear Wintour,” the fashion editor is famous for her strong sense of direction and guidance.
Don’t be afraid to state what you want and be coherent and committed to your dreams. Indecisiveness will lead you nowhere, so it is important for you to decide what you want to do and to commit to it. Decisiveness directly affects success.
The primary job of any leader is to make the tough calls that no one else wants to make.
Inevitably, tough calls are usually tough because they are controversial and have vocal opponents. Being decisive, rather than dragging your feet or overanalyzing the situation, is the key to getting a successful outcome; something Anna Wintour has been exceptionally good at in her position at Vogue.
If being willing to make hard choices merits being called a bitch, than any leader worth his salt should be breaking out his bitch skills on a regular basis.
In the book Winners, Anna Wintour explained why her ability to make decisions quickly and articulate them to others is key to her success as a leader. Or at least, fake-it-til-you-make-it! Even if you aren’t sure of yourself, pretend that you are because it makes it clearer for everyone else. Most people prevaricate. you must decide fast. The world we are in is about instinct and being fast and responding.
Taking risks and being fearless is of utmost importance in life, and sometimes you have to go with your instincts, too.
Not everyone knows everything and so sometimes, you have to trust your gut and take a risk. Sometimes the risk is worth it and sometimes it’s not, but the failure of that risk shapes you and in some ways, it makes you a smarter and stronger person.
Lesson #2: Build The Cream Team
Anna Wintour finds the right people to work at Vogue. Her success is supported by a talented group of people, like great writers, editors, and photographers. When it comes to building your business, your team should be as diverse as possible — different backgrounds, experiences, ages, and opinions.
The fact is that you are nothing without a good team.
Anna Wintour believes leaders should invest in their people. As well, give people the opportunity to be challenged and discourage settling in, to keep the pace moving. You can’t be a good leader by assuming you team is happy with a “stale” career even if they are great at what they do. Anna’s leadership approach has helped many people move up the ladder including renowned fashion designers such as John Galliano. Fostering the growth of a team is one of the most valued leadership qualities.
When hiring, Anna Wintour always looks for someone who is a self-starter and someone who is going to be a wonderful ambassador for not only the company but for her as well.
She also likes to hire people who can do things that she couldn’t possibly dream of doing, like leading big photo shoots and she likes to find people that “shock” her. Each person is born with an intrinsic talent and skill set. However, it takes time and dedication to discover one’s own talent and nourish it. Take the time to figure out your people’s true talent. Then build upon it until they achieve mastery.
No single individual can do all of the work on their own. That is why leaders must cultivate high-performing teams and lead them effectively.
When you understand that leadership is about people; inspiring people to believe that the impossible is possible, inspiring people to perform at heights they never imagine; When you recognize that leadership is all about people; great thing can happen and your company will be among the very best in the world.
Hiring people who can work autonomously and who are diverse in their way of thinking allowed Anna Wintour to delegate confidently, and trust those working for her.
If you trust your team, you can avoid micromanaging. This doesn’t mean you can’t be detail-oriented — Anna Wintour reads every word that goes into the magazine and approves every look for fashion stories, but she also empowers her editors to make decisions on her and the brand’s behalf.
As evidenced by her illustrious career at the head of the world’s most revered fashion magazine, her willingness to delegate has paid off over and over again.
By delegating, you give yourself more time to work on your skills and capacities. This will help you achieve your goals in less time and set up higher goals to reach. You will become more efficient as the stress will be less, which means that your vision will be wider.
That said, it’s important to see the departure of top talent as an exciting opportunity.
It is never easy to see a top employee leave Vogue for another job or retire, but Anna Wintour values a mix of veteran and new talent and takes advantage of a departure to find someone new with something different to offer, someone who might be able to teach her new things, too.
Lesson #3: Lead With Impact
Leaders pave the way for change and find better ways to connect with their audience. As we know, traditional leadership styles don’t fit the values of today’s workforce and consumers. Therefore, leaders must find new ways to create a purpose, a way and an impact by embracing important causes and pioneering the change.
Leaders should know when to make that impact or change, and people expect that of them.
Anna Wintour explained that when a leader wants change, she should stand up and declare things are different now. She has to engage the team and bring everyone into the process. But at the same time, allow the masters (the team) to take charge of executing the change. It boils down to leading from the heart and trusting your team.
Don’t be afraid to break the mold if needed.
Great leaders have their own point of view. They Trust and cultivate their taste. Trust yourself; otherwise, no one else will. There’s always something new that can be done in any field. Remember, leaders are those who are not afraid to think outside the box. You are unique and don’t need to fit in to make it. Being yourself, trusting your beauty and intelligence will open any door.
In particular, creativity is a distinctive feature in humans we use to solve problems, create art and invent new products to meet our desires.
In order to expand our creativity, Anna Wintour encourages us to expose ourselves to cultures, arts, and travel. The exposure to new cultures and arts expands our minds and creative abilities. Anna Wintour doesn’t think we lock ourselves in one path but rather have a sense of freedom to experiment and grow our portfolio of ingenuity.
Don’t be narrow-minded. Listen as much as you can, read as much as you’re able to, and always keep your eyes open.
Everybody is a mentor. Everybody has a story and a lesson to learn from. Experience new things and don’t specialize too much on one thing, but rather learn from different fields, so you develop a more complex way of thinking that will eventually make you more creative and self-sufficient.
Bring your ideas forward, the new ones, instead of following those of others, success also comes from uniqueness and innovation.
The first Vogue cover under Anna Wintour was a revolution, there were jeans from a non-luxury brand (Guess), on the cover mixed with high fashion garments. The cover marked a change in the world of fashion magazines. This teaches us always to distinguish ourselves, to not follow what people do, each of us should bring something new.
Strong leadership requires the ability to adapt to and be resilient in new situations while keeping an eye on the big picture.
Times will be tough. Stay true to your vision. Build a vision others can believe in. Own and be clear about your vision when communicating it to your team. Know how to successfully execute that vision to move your company in the right direction.
Lesson #4: Be Inspired By Failure
You may not know this, but Anna Wintour was fired from Harper’s Bazaar at the beginning of her career. Apparently, she was too bold and too ambitious for them, so after a few months in the British publication she was fired. She has stated that in a way, to lose a job is to gain a job. There’s no time for moping; instead, take every struggle as an opportunity to grow.
Anna Wintour may be strong and composed, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t experienced and embraced career setbacks.
Sometimes, for one reason or another, you get fired, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. You may have lost your job, but you can always get another one. You’re going to have to fall many times before you learn to stand up on your own, and that’s what life is about. You have to face the turmoil and the consequences and you have to face an imbalance before you reach an equilibrium. Sometimes, the things that seem the worst, such as getting fired, can actually help you find yourself and achieve your dreams.
In the first Vogue podcast, Anna brushed off a question about whether she had any regrets about her time at Vogue.
She stated: “Certainly we have made mistakes, but you try and learn from your mistakes. And the most important thing is always to move forward, and, I think empower people to do their best, and to lead.” That’s the thing about failure, it can be hard to take but you always learn something from it, get stronger and carry on!
Setbacks and criticism that can seem unfair can still be good opportunities to take a performance review of yourself and determine how to emerge stronger.
Getting fired is not the end of the world, does not affect your career, it happened to Anna Wintour, and now she is the editor-in-chief of Vogue. There are many other stories of successful women who got fired before their current successful job.
There’s no guarantee of success every time, and you’ll have to own your mistakes (and learn from them) when they happen.
However, when it turns out you’re correct, then you might just set a new trend. The best part about taking risks is you won’t be up at night regretting missed opportunities and dreaming about the what-ifs. When you are too far away from what you know is a good time to challenge yourself. You might get lost. But it’s worth it. Find your ground, push the limits, and draw conclusions out of your experience.
All leaders make mistakes. To be human means to mess up once in a while. But the difference between good leaders and great ones lies in how they handle those mistakes.
Never try to cover up or blame others for what went wrong. If you messed up, admit it and own it. It doesn’t have to be a big deal — simply acknowledge your responsibility and move on. Insecure leaders may be afraid of looking weak, but not admitting their mistake makes them look worse and costs them respect. In leadership, vulnerability is the ultimate strength. Admitting your mistakes earns you the respect of those you lead and makes your leadership human.
Lesson #5: Drive Is Everything
Anna Wintour advises fashion designers, who aspire to be leaders in this domain, to talk about their passion, what they believe in and share thoughts openly. This same advice applies to everyone else including entrepreneurs and women who are in pursuit of a vision and a dream. Opening up about your passions enables everyone around you and beyond to engage with your cause, relate to it and support it.
Having a passion for what you’re doing is always the right thing to do.
It’s only then that you hold all the cards to win. At the end of the day, you need to love what you’re doing or aiming for because that’s what motivates you and pushes you to do it. Even if you’re exhausted or generally fed up with it, you will do it because you love it. Just like self awareness, passion is a key characteristic of all successful people. You might know those people that are just passionate, they have a specific energy that gives a vibe to the people around them.
One of the challenges any company has is to communicate and live the company vision. Passion drives vision.
A company’s vision always looks nice printed on a brochure or painted on the wall, but to literally have it in the DNA of the team is a different story. Passion is a great tool to project the vision. If a leader wants to see their vision and goals being accomplished, then the leader’s passion is the fuel that drives the production and results of the vision.
Drawing out passion in employees begins at the top.
Leaders and managers must model passion if they ever hope to create passionate teams. Employees will always model the behavior of their managers, which is why it is so critical for leaders to be self-aware at all times and understand what they are projecting to their employees each day.
When talking about your passion, show the value it will bring to your audience.
People love relating to visions that have positive impact on society, the environment and ethics. Your passion can exude a sense of confidence which serves as an inspiration for others to support you and follow your lead.
The difference between being a passionate doer and a passionate leader is involving people in your passion instead of going it alone.
Passionate leaders know they must have faith in others for others to be passionate about what needs to be accomplished. Passionate leaders truly endorse people as their most valuable asset by not letting their ego get out of hand. They need people to buy-in to implement their passion. They need YOU.
Passion make the impossible…possible!
Humans are so made that whenever anything fires their soul, impossibilities vanish. A fire in the heart lifts everything in your life. A leader with great passion and few skills always outperforms a leader with great skills and no passion. So… as leaders… let’s not model leadership with no emotion… let’s develop leaders of passion.
Lesson #6: Get Up Early
Mediocrity is nothing but fear of success. As a remark, this is probably one of those things that Anna Wintour can’t state. If you think you can do better, then do so. Push yourself to new limits and always respect your own sense of creativity. Commit to what you do and always give that “extra” something.
Anna Wintour’s notoriety hasn’t gone to her head and she continues to work extremely hard for her goals.
Every time I look at Anna Wintour and read an article about her I cannot think of her excellent work ethic. Anna Wintour is one of the most powerful women in the world thanks to the various successes achieved in her career. She’s a hard worker.
Early birds are the ones who build empires, isn’t it?
Anna is not the only person who wakes up at 5 am, in fact, most successful people follow her same morning routine: she wakes up at 5 am, workouts (Anna regularly practice tennis) and then goes to office by 8 am. Waking up early in the morning is a practice we should all implement in our lives if we want to become successful. Tomorrow put your alarm an hour earlier, and you’ll see how many things you can do in that hour and how productive you’ll feel at the end of the day.
People with strong work ethics are responsible and reliable.
They are self-motivated. They don’t need anyone to push or make them work because they’re disciplined. They are dedicated to their job and they work hard. They are committed to helping their team succeed. They put in extra hours and go the extra mile to help out. They pay attention to detail and they are devoted to their job. Their passion shines through the excellent work they produce.
There are three key things leaders should consider to encourage a strong work ethic.
First of all, employee involvement — whenever possible, encourage employees to take part in the creative processes. They’ll feel a stronger sense of ownership and engagement with the work. Second, accountability — don’t play favorites. Treat everyone equally. Lastly, recognition — praise good work publicly and give constructive feedback privately. Make sure feedback is always constructive, not berating!
As told earlier, leadership is about drive and creating a vision. This is tightly coupled with work ethic.
It is about convincing others to do more or reach higher than they thought was possible. It is also about recognizing the achievements of superior workers and demanding improvement of those who do not meet set standards. Work to gain the trust and respect of your team by being an honest and open leader. If you do, a strong work ethic will follow.
Lesson #7: Live Your Life
The things that you experience will impact your life, be it a dinner with a creative individual or a trip down to the supermarket. With a bit of effort you can deliberately change how you experience the world. Which will in turn change and expand the kinds of ideas available to you.
Life is happening out there, right now.
Get out there, live, experience new things, get out of your comfort zone, and dare yourself to new experiences, places, even people. At a time when we are more eager to document our lives that to actually live them, it’s crucial that we go and shake hands, and really see people and what they’re doing. This will encourage your sensibility and creativity.
Many successful creative people have the same personality trait in common: they are open to new experiences.
The key is the layer of mind soil where ideas are able to take root. Steve Jobs once similarly spoke of the benefits of a tendency toward diverse inputs: the bigger your bag of experiences, the once-young Apple executive said, the more varied the connections you can make between things–like say, perhaps, technology and the liberal arts. This richness of input creates a corresponding richness of output.
Inspiration is what gives us desire, persistence and creativity.
If you do the same old thing week in week out you’re going to struggle to find inspiration more so than a person who goes to new places, explores the world and actively seeks inspiration in the form of experiences. All great ideas were inspired from experiencing something. If you want to turbocharge your creativity and inspiration, start by trying some new experiences.
Living your life means defending your own personality.
Anna Wintour has created herself a character recognizable anywhere. Each of us should have its own identifiable and unique personality that represents us. Pretending to be someone else will not let you stand out, and you’ll always be associated with that person. Make people remember you for something unique that distinguishes us and sets us apart from everyone else. Find what better fits you and stick with it.
What sets you apart can sometimes feel like a burden and it’s not. And a lot of the time, it’s what makes you great.
Unfortunately, we all have a tendency of comparing ourselves to others. We think that by using people we admire in some way as a standard, we will improve who we are and make ourselves better people. It is time to embrace your uniqueness, face the world with boldness and bring out the best in you. The world is waiting on the uniqueness that you have. Look inside you and bring out that which you have been trying to hold on for the longest time because you think it is not good enough for the world to see.
There are so many successful women in the fashion industry that there will probably never be a shortage of ladies to look up to. But among some of the most inspiring females in the business, there’s definitely one who reigns above them all: Vogue’s Anna Wintour.
Leading with impact, influence and ingenuity is a discipline many corporate executives seek to learn.
Anna Wintour’s lessons reflect a number of principle ideas in this discipline that can be adopted and utilized for effective leadership. You don’t have to be a corporate executive to learn how to lead with impact. Everyone should learn the principles of leading with impact and apply it in their daily lives.
You have to develop unwavering confidence that you can and you will, no matter what hurdles you have to jump.
Anna Wintour wasn’t the first female entrepreneur to leave her mark on the world, and she certainly won’t be the last. Now worth an estimated $35 million, she’s shown us that women can indeed rule the world — and they’ll do it any damn way they please.
Anna Wintour is the ultimate boss of the fashion industry.
She’s the eyes, heart, soul, and mind of a way of art that is finally respected in culture, and all thanks to her. You can agree or disagree with her way of doing business, but one thing is for sure: she’s not afraid of being herself and to work hard to get what she wants, which is something we should all do to become a better version of ourselves.
Like Anna, women aren’t “ice queens” or “masculine.” They’re women with a purpose. And so could you.
We live in a world of truly remarkable women that are smart, savvy and stylish. You can read more of our ‘Women’s Leadership’ series by clicking on the following link: Women’s Leadership. Are you ready to push forward and create your own fashion business? Drop me a line about your dreams and your goals in the comments section below!