She upended an empire when King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne to marry her. Madonna has just premiered a movie — W./E. — about her life with the subsequently titled Duke of Windsor. She wasn’t movie star gorgeous…but was a style icon anointed in the International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame.
So….what kind of va-va-voom did Wallis Warfield Simpson have going for her? It’s still a controversial and gossipy subject for debate.
What’s certain is that she had some very effective managerial and leadership skills. She was famous for her sense of style and hospitality. Her housekeeping skills were par excellence.
She was a style mentor to Winston Churchill’s daughter-in-law who later became U.S. Ambassador to France, Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman.
Here’s a key tenet — the underpinning of the Duchess of Windsor’s managerial success — something we can all follow in personal/professional/community endeavors.
In running a spectacular operation, you don’t have to do the cooking yourself, she told Harriman, but you must understand the process. In other words…as per Christopher Ogden’s Life of the Party:
“You can’t say to a cook no matter how much you are paying him, that you don’t like something. You must be able to say, ‘I want it done this way.’”
Be informed about what you are overseeing. Give specific input. Then let the experts deliver what you want.
Granted, the shrill and scandalous divorcee from Baltimore is not an obvious “best practices” leadership icon. But keep this in mind. She got a King to follow her.
January 25, 2012