Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lessons to learn from Anna Wintour

I read this article some months back and thought I need to highlight it. It is about Anna Wintour. God bless, but in case you didn’t who she is, Anna Wintour is the editor-in-chief of fashion and lifestyle magazine – Vogue! (Remember that, please…)

Again, if you did not read my earlier posting or have not heard about the documentary film – The September Issue, Anna had allowed an acclaimed documentary film maker, R.J Cutler to follow her and her team at Vogue from January to August 2007. The significance was that the September 2007 Vogue magazine was the single largest magazine ever published to date – boosting a total of 840 pages.

Cutler shared his view about Anna Wintour in the article. He related somewhat dramatic his observation about Anna to his friend that “Well, you can make a film in Hollywood without Steven Spielberg's blessing, and you can publish software in Silicon Valley without Bill Gates' blessing, but it's pretty clear to me that you can't succeed in the fashion industry without Anna Wintour's blessing."

Interestingly, he wrote that his eight months experience with Anna Wintour could be summed up into four lessons of management.

  • Keep meetings short
  • Trust your instinct
  • Surround yourself with great talents
  • Don’t look back

Don’t want to be accused of plagiarizing content, thus please read his elaboration here. I find them all very valuable tips.

However, I do want to discuss about this point, “Surround Yourself with Great Talent”. He wrote “Anna Wintour knows that you're only as good as the people who work for you, that bad leaders are threatened by strong team members, and that success comes from surrounding yourself with the most talented people you can find.”

I must say a lot of “leaders” failed to realise the above point. Many times, you see them getting people who are more likely to follow their instructions rather than someone who could work independently. People are somewhat intimidated by “strong team members”. As a result, they have a team of followers, but with very few thinkers.

Feel free to rebut me if you don’t agree with my observation, but I attributed the above symptoms as them having low self-esteem and too much of an egoistic mentality.

Some lecturers in school for example have no problems of letting students shine in class (strangely they are mostly Aussies), but there are a few who could not stand students of being “too smart”. Like somehow students who knew too much facts would steal their show away.

Not sure if they meant it, but Aussie lecturers would tend to say things like while they try to enlighten students, students had also helped them to understand some things better. You will never hear that from a Singaporean lecturer - They teach and students are to learn, which is technically correct too.

Of course, this is an Asian and Western cultural difference thing. Not that one is more right than the other, but the greatest difference is that one method encourages more participation and discourses, the other is more passive.

My point is that – why can’t people accept that others might know more, or would be in better position to advise them on a certain issue? Why must they see themselves as so high and mighty that only their views are correct? One can insist on their views, but then learnt to take up the responsibilities as well.

Vogue, like they say is Anna Wintour’s magazine. Whether it makes profits or not, the magazine is produced under her direction. She will be responsible and held accountable for the magazine’s sales.

Regrettably, a lot of people just want the talk and not walk the talk. A lot of people can talk too, but it is the walk that make or break them.

At times, I wish I could be as decisive as Anna Wintour…

Please read:

R.J. Cutler – What I learned from Anna Wintour

Ps: To clarify, my hair style was not directly an influence from her…Although like her, I might not change it again. It is the only style that suits me…

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