Movie: The First Monday in May: 2016 USA documentary giving a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2015 exhibition “China: Through the Looking Glass”, and its premiere courtesy of the Anna Wintour-spearheaded Met Gala. Film directed by Andrew Rossi.
Executive Coaching message: The power of presence
Since I decided to write this blog about images of leadership in movies, I quickly found out it is a lot easier to find male rather than female portrayals.
Even this film has as its ostensible subject a male, Andrew Bolton, Curator of the Costume Institute of the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is a worthy subject for sure. It is a really engrossing doc about the creation of a mega exhibition at the Met combining the Costume Institute discipline and aesthetic with that of the China collection in the museum, and the fund raiser that is the opening night dinner.
But it is Anna Wintour whose presence and leadership tower over the film. Many of us have seen The Devil Wore Prada and The September Issue. Each offers insights into the extraordinary leader she is. This film just adds to our understanding of her exceptional talent as a leader.
The first we see of AW – she is commonly known by her initials – in the film is in her governance role: She is a trustee of the Costume Institute and in true American fashion she sees her role as raising money for the institute. The Opening Night Gala is one of her vehicles. In her governance role she is generous, shining the light on the executive Andrew Bolton, whom AW describes as a “genius”.
AW could just as well have had the film focus on her because she is also a genius, if this means the ability to hold and successfully manipulate a vast amount of information simultaneously. The film shows us AW in her governance role and also in her role as CEO of Vogue in whose name the fundraising dinner is held. We see her move effortlessly between the two leadership modes; governor and executive.
As governor ( trustee) AW supports and challenges the leader (Andrew Bolton). As a leader herself, AW communicates the vision, empowers the team and holds them accountable. AW pays close attention to the budget and execution detail just as much as to all the personalities involved and her vision that art and commerce should meet as equals.
In both roles AW is true to her expressed value of “revelling in the human journey”.
AW is an exceptional leader:
- Powerful presence
- Master of diversified leadership
- Capable of harnessing extraordinary talents and egos ranging from filmmakers like Baz Luhrmann and Wong Kar Wai alongside fashion designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, co-chair Wendi Deng and a cast of stars headlined by Rihanna.
- Decisive: “I like to get things done quickly.”
They call her “The Dragon Lady”. No male would be referred to like this, of course. But maybe Anna Wintour would embrace it. Lady she is – elegant in manner and dress. Dragon? Mythic presence and firepower? Definitely.