After decades at the helm of the luxury lifestyle brand she founded and years at the head of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Diane von Furstenberg is used to leading. To her, it’s simply “having clarity and tracing a path.” Even so, she says that she’s not perfect at it. “My problem is that I find the good in everything and everyone, and I am an enabler—not great for a leader,” von Furstenberg says.
Still, the fashion designer and icon, who recently entrusted a first-ever chief creative officer with the reins to her eponymous company so she could devote more time to women’s causes, knows a great deal about managing and inspiring people. Here, her advice on how to be an effective boss.
ON HOLDING YOUR FIRST BIG MEETING
“Confidence is the most important thing. Wear something that makes you feel like the best version of yourself. Also, prepare: know what you are going to say. If you are prepared and you have confidence, you will be great.”
HER SECRETS TO INSPIRING INNOVATIVE THINKING
“Listen. I think when you listen and understand what someone is trying to accomplish or the problem they are trying to solve, you can say just the right thing. So I like to inspire through words, and of course, by example. I really became the woman I wanted to be and that is the only reason I feel comfortable trying to tell other women how to do that.
“Also, talk about your mistakes—they are your best lessons—and encourage mistakes. My mother taught me that fear is not an option, and that is particularly true if you are trying to do anything creative.”
ON GIVING CRITICAL FEEDBACK
“With criticism, it is important to be direct. I like to say what isn’t working and then move on.”
ON MAKING TOUGH DECISIONS
“I have learned to follow my instincts and to make my own decisions. That way, if I make a decision and it turns out to be the wrong one, I am okay with it. I can learn from that. But if I make the wrong decision because I listened to someone else, that is much harder to deal with.”
THE BEST CAREER ADVICE SHE EVER HEARD
“In your career, as in your life, you have to know who you are and stay true to that.”