Diane Von Fürstenberg on Her Influences and Leadership



May 4 2015, Published 3:30 a.m. ET

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As part of a New York Times series featuring women in leadership, “Corner Office” columnist Adam Bryant interviewed fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg.

In the interview Von Fürstenberg discusses many different topics, ranging from her childhood to what leadership means and eventually some words of advice to recent college graduates.

She starts by saying that her mother has always been her biggest influence in life.  Her mother was a holocaust survivor and endured 13 months in the concentration camps during World War II.  These experiences taught Von Fürstenberg “that fear is not an option. And no matter what happens, never be a victim. Life is a journey, and when you face obstacles the only thing you can do is accept them and embrace the reality.”

Von Fürstenberg says that she never really learned to manage people, she doesn’t see herself as a leader in business, but more as someone who inspires others.

“I am not a good C.E.O., but I have the passion and the force of a founder, and therefore I can make things happen. I can inspire people and motivate people.”

She continues by saying that her leadership skills are determined by her instinct. “always use your instinct, its probably my biggest quality,” von Fürstenberg said. “and my biggest fault.”

Her advice for recent college graduates is to “do something you like and to stay true to yourself.” By doing so, its easier to learn and accept mistakes and grow from them to further improve yourself.

Von Fürstenberg adds that the most important relationship you have is the one you have with yourself. “If you figure that out,” she says. “every other relationship is a plus not a must.”

Bryant ends the interview by asking her to explain an excerpt from her book, in which she writes “I always wanted to live a man’s life in a woman’s body.”

Von Fürstenberg describes this as something she aspired when younger since it represented independence and the ability to pay her own bills and run her own life without having to depend on others.

However, as time has passed my, Von Fürstenberg realizes that “men and women are two entirely different animals, they don’t do anything the same, so why should they lead in the same way?”

She ends the discussion by clarifying that women shouldn’t try to be men.

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“As far as women in the boardroom, I don’t think women should try to be men. Men and women are two entirely different animals, they don’t do anything the same, so why should they lead in the same way?”

Watch the full interview below:

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