The Onion CEO has a unique tip for being a boss: It's called 'anti-management'

'Area man' learns micro-managing creatives is basically pointless

Michael McAvoy, president and CEO of the the satirical online newspaper The Onion, has learned to embrace a very specific management style in which essentially less is more.

He calls it "anti-management" and says that it is the best way for leaders to manage creative professionals.

Mike McAvoy
Abel Uribe | Chicago Tribune via AP

"I think you have to let creativity breathe," said McAvoy, who oversees a team of comedic writers. "You still need to have a process, and you still need to make sure that you're creating stuff, but you need to give people the autonomy to do what they think is best."

Before rising through the ranks at the site, McAvoy was a financial analyst at TCF Bank and Capella Education Company.

When a friend told him about a job opening in finance at the newspaper, McAvoy jumped on the opportunity to work at a place he'd grown up reading.

Since joining The Onion in 2005, McAvoy has gone from being financial controller to chief financial officer to president and CEO. Along the way, he's learned how to let innovation grow.

"I've made this mistake in the past where you want certain things done and then you focus on the end, instead of the means to the end," McAvoy said.

With creatives in particular, they do their best work when you leave them alone
Michael McAvoy
The Onion president and CEO

Instead, the president and CEO of arguably one of the most popular satire websites out there, has learned how to guide, not control talent.

"With creatives in particular, they do their best work when you leave them alone," he said.

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