Closer relations between senior leaders engaged with an organisation’s business side and the creatives responsible for delivering its products will deliver critical advantages: that’s the message that emerges loud and clear from a 3 May Business Insider interview with British Vogue publisher Vanessa Kingori. 
In the piece, Kingori states that those two sides of her organisation “have to work really symbiotically”, noting: “Back in the day, editors and publishers were really church and state: they were guys in business suits and people who were ultra-creative and there was no sort of overlap.”
However, she stresses: “For me to do my job really well I need to be able to understand the creative process and give it a lot of respect, and sometimes do things that are counterintuitive – be supportive of covers that objectively might not seem like they’d raise lots of revenue, invest in areas that [editor Edward Enninful] feels really passionately about. A lot of my role is about cost control and so on, [but] sometimes you just have to spend, that’s what Vogue’s about.”
As a result of her closer collaboration with the creative team, Kingori says, the legendary magazine is taking a more courageous approach to risk – and it’s paying off. She explains: “The types of cover stars we’re putting on there … are sometimes complete unknowns, sometimes people who are just on the rise, which in magazine terms a few years ago you just wouldn’t do, it was all about only putting people on who are completely bankable because ‘we need to maximise every single sale.’”
She notes: “We’ve seen the sales of the magazine shoot up frankly since Edward took that point of view and came on board, and things like our online audience growing substantially because frankly we’re just connecting with our audiences better.”
Indeed, the piece points out, the first year of what Kingori terms as ‘new Vogue’ has been the most financially successful on record for Vogue.co.uk, which boosted its digital revenue in that period by 45%. At the same time, income from digital branded content has grown by 87%, while social media revenue has rocketed by 228%.
Kingori says that this is all down to how the business has tapped into and harnessed the skills of a diverse creative team. “From my perspective,” she says, “diversity is amazing for business, and I’m not just talking about diversity from the point of view of ethnicity, which I think is the most visible touchpoint of diversity – it’s just about having people who think about things differently. That can encompass class, physical ability, sexuality, religion.
“What I’ve seen in my time in 2018 is when we bring together a team who are forward-thinking, our revenues have increased.”
In the effort to be a better leader, what should bosses take away from Kingori’s account, in terms of how to interact with creatives in the most effective way and how to build a spirit of fruitful collaboration with artistically driven staff?
Institute of Leadership & Management head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “What’s really interesting about this is how Kingori frames creativity as thinking differently. It’s not just about dressing somewhat flamboyantly and firing off reams of ideas. If we embrace difference as it emerges from areas such as neurodiversity, ethnicity, gender and disability, we will find that everyone has a fresh and vital take on the world, and sees it from a compelling perspective. Harnessing all those perspectives will enable us, as leaders, to distil a real richness of captivating ideas. It’s about respecting the wisdom of difference.”
But more than that, she notes: “We must ensure that everyone we lead feels valued, on a cross-departmental basis. This means that our creatives, accountants, salespeople and product makers all feel equally respected and understand how their efforts work in concert to meet specific goals. This is the polar opposite of siloing. We must remove any sense of a hierarchy of contribution. Each department must be able to work under the assurance that it is needed on an equal footing to all the others. If you as a leader minimise, marginalise or trivialise any one of those contributions, you will be undermining your organisation’s standing – not just in the eyes of its staff, but its customers and shareholders, too.”
Cooper adds: “Departments work at their best when they are all trying to serve something larger than themselves. And indeed, Vogue is a terrific example, embodying a historic, long-lasting brand with a huge, taste-making role at the heart of the fashion industry. For all of Vogue’s employees, the objective is to be such a dedicated group of custodians that it will far outlast their own, particular tenures. So joining together in service of a unifying concept is the very ingredient that facilitates mutual respect between different parts of a business. Where there’s a high degree of self-interest and no bigger picture, you can see how easy it would be for a hierarchy of importance to emerge.”
For further insights on the themes raised in this blog, check out the Institute’s resources on creativity
For additional thoughts on working effectively with others, download our recent report Building Collaborative Capacity
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Image of Vogue cover courtesy of emka74, via Shutterstock