Michael Kors’ Anna Bakst Talks Leadership & Company Culture

Anna Bakst, president of shoes and accessories at Michael Kors, recently discussed the importance of company culture and leadership. “There’s a culture [at Michael Kors] where you’re expected to take risks,” she said in a talk at Two Ten Footwear Foundation.

For Bakst, culture is huge — it’s something that “feeds the passion.” She noted that when people are looking for new endeavors, they should put culture high up on the list.

Communication and teamwork are also key.

“We are a big company, but we are actually fairly lean,” said the executive. “The advantage of being lean is that it’s easier to communicate.”

She added, “Culture is something you see and feel from the top leaders, so obviously Michael [Kors] and John [D. Idol] have a lot to do with the culture. It’s how they set priorities. Words like ’empathy’ — you’ll hear that from Michael all the time. They both roll up their sleeves.”

When it comes to leading her division, empathy and heart influence her leadership style. She said, “I’m trying to understand that person and gain that person’s trust and their belief in me, and for them to feel my belief in them.”

“All successful leaders flex their styles depending on the situation,” said Bakst. “There’s a part of my leadership style that feels a sense of urgency. Pace matters.”

Bakst, who serves as a member of Two Ten’s board of directors, head of its communications committee and a mentor and adviser to the WIFI program, had some advice to those starting out in the industry.

“Pursue experiences. Take chances. Do not move forward with fear. Move forward with optimism,” she said.

Next up: Two Ten’s WIFI program will hold a conversation with DSW’s Debbie Ferrée in Las Vegas during FN Platform on Aug. 16 to discuss career highlights, consumer trends and being a successful woman in the footwear industry.

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