Power Players

How to be a boss like Vogue's Anna Wintour, according to Anna Wintour

Vogue editor Anna Wintour in New York City in January 2017
Melodie Jeng/Getty Images

Vogue's editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, is one of the most famous — and infamous — bosses in the world of fashion.

In 2017, Forbes named Wintour, who also serves as artistic director of publishing company Condé Nast, the most powerful woman in media and entertainment, topping even Beyonce, who scored the fourth spot.

At the same time, Wintour has a reputation for being tough: She reportedly inspired the main character in the 2003 book "The Devil Wears Prada," written by a former assistant at Vogue. The book, and later the film, depict a fashion editor (played by Meryl Streep in the movie) as an icy and unreasonably demanding boss.

Still, Wintour, 69, has been leading Vogue for more than 30 years. She tells Masterclass.com that much of her success is due to a management style that has taken her decades to perfect.

Here are three of her top tips on being a good boss.

You are nothing without a good team

Wintour says investing in the right people has been one of the keys to her success as a leader. When interviewing candidates, she says she 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.

"You are nothing, nothing, without a good team. So 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," Wintour tells Masterclass.com in a 12-part series teaching her management techniques.

She says she also likes to hire people who can do things that she couldn't possibly dream of doing, like leading big photo shoots (she says she was also terrible at them) and she likes to find people that "shock" her.

"I have learned to love a surprise. However much you might talk to an editor about what a shoot or a piece might be when it comes in, it could be something completely different and sometimes, that's completely okay," Wintour says.

She adds that she also looks for someone loyal. "It's great to have a team that stays with you and you grow together and you become, like second nature to each other."

Have a strong vision and give feedback quickly

Wintour says being a boss means having a strong vision while also understanding and responding to criticism.

"Being a leader means making tough decisions and taking full responsibility for them," she says.

Part of achieving that is by giving feedback as quickly and as direct as possible.

"People work so much better when the feedback is fast, it's direct, it's honest and they know where they are," Wintour says in the video series.

She says if the atmosphere is the opposite — slow and lazy — people will lose confidence and energy. What's more, workers will lose that sense that "anything is possible."

"I've worked for other people in my career that have been, to say the least, a little bit vague or are unable to make a decision. And that was very, very frustrating to me because I'm a goal-oriented person and I want to know A-B-C-D and how I get to Z. And I think most people function much better when they're given clarity."

For example, she urges managers not to sugarcoat feedback but rather be very direct.

"Just say, 'No. It isn't gonna work. Let's move on.' And they know where they are and they're not gonna waste their time or anyone else's time," Wintour says.

Micromanaging will suffocate everyone

Wintour says she is not a micromanager and does not encourage her executive team to lead that way.

"I actually feel very strongly it's important to empower those that are working with you," she tells Masterclass.com.

She says that she has found that people will work much more effectively if they feel that they can make leadership decisions on their own and not have to run every single little detail by her or other fashion editors.

"I think it's a far more effective way of achieving the best results of making people feel that they are self-starters."

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