Tim vs. Tony
Project Runway's Tim Gunn has a soft -- but effective -- touch. Tony Soprano is, well, a little more direct. Who's the better manager?
By Kate Bonamici, FORTUNE, and Paul R. La Monica, CNNMoney.com

NEW YORK (CNNMONEY.com) - If you're a big couch potato, this is a monumental week.

The season finale of Bravo's hit fashion reality show "Project Runway" airs on Wednesday night and this Sunday, "The Sopranos" make its long-awaited return on HBO.

Project Runway's Tim Gunn thinks a low-key management style works best.
Project Runway's Tim Gunn thinks a low-key management style works best.
Tony Soprano doesn't think...he does.
Tony Soprano doesn't think...he does.
Take the quiz: What kind of manager are you?

We realize that "Project Runway" fans can't wait to find out if love-him-or-hate-him designer Santino Rice actually wins. And that Sopranos-philes are eager to see who, if anybody, gets whacked to start off season six.

But we at CNNMoney.com and FORTUNE are more interested in something else. Who's the better manager of people? Is it Tim Gunn, the affable chair of the Department of Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design who serves as mentor for "Project Runway's" contestants? Or is it fictional New Jersey mob head Tony Soprano?

FORTUNE's Kate Bonamici, a big "Project Runway" fan, makes the case for Tim. CNNMoney.com's Paul R. La Monica, a "Sopranos" aficionado who, truth be told also enjoys watching Heidi Klum on "Project Runway," argues why Tony is the superior "boss."

Time and crisis management

Tony: It's true that crises often bring out the worst in Tony Sorpano. But after years of therapy, he's found a better way to cope with those panic attacks. It's hard to dispute Tony's time management skills. Whether it's dealing with a rat (RIP, Big Pussy and Adriana) or a loose cannon (so long, Ralphie C. and Tony Blundetto) Tony has always acted quickly and decisively. That's the hallmark of a good leader.

Tim:Tim Gunn has proven time and again that he's cool in a crisis. Missing models? It happens. Wrong color of fabric brought home from the store? Skirt isn't looking quite right? Running out of time? Tim's always practical advice: "Make it work."

He's also good at focusing his sometimes flighty designers. His guiding principle: "What are the things which, if I don't do them, I will be fired for?"

Handling a team/motivating people

Tony: Sure, Tony's had his problems keeping all his employees satisfied. But he's smart enough to know that a good way to keep people in line is by promoting loyal workers like Silvio and nephew Christopher Moltisanti.

He's also not afraid to listen to the sage advice of others, including the noted management expert Sun Tzu and to a lesser extent, "Prince Machiavelli."

Tim: "If you treat people like adults they act like adults. If you treat them like children they act like children." So says Gunn, and he has a point. What it comes down to, he says, is "having respect for the members of the team and believing in them, and if one doesn't, then maybe a member has to go."

Despite his soft touch, Tim's not afraid to give a little tough love. "You have to use a little bit of a slap, a shock system. Part of my role is to say, "Why are you here? Of course you want to be here, let's get with it, right now. Snap out of it!""

Making an impression

Tony: It certainly is crucial to make a good first impression in Tim Gunn's world of fashion. But it's important in Tony's milieu as well. When faced with troublesome clients who are delinquent on loans (apparently a big problem in the waste management consulting business), Tony often has to resort to drastic measures to get his point across. Who can forget the time when he had to take a drive to a particular customer's HMO office in order to negotiate a new payment plan?

Tim: Tim's persona is measured, thoughtful and wise -- he's frequently called Project Runway's Den Father. So how about his cubs? "It's one of the things I say to the designers," he says, referring to the contestants' own runway stylings for judging. "You look like a bunch of slobs -- I wish you would dress up for the occasion."

But it's not just about the look. Tim has this advice for anyone heading into a new situation: "Say something," he pleads. "Something that's at least somewhat intelligent, and capture the interest of whomever you're speaking with by being confident in what you're saying and by having a passion for your subject."

Communication skills

Tony: Tony doesn't need a catchy phrase like "Make it Work" to get the attention of his underlings, competitors or customers. He prefers a more "hands-on" approach when dealing with people.

Still, even though Tony longs to be the "strong silent type" like his hero Gary Cooper, therapy has helped Tony to open up and be more expressive with his feelings. And as one former business associate once said, "At least with Tony Soprano, you always know where you stand."

Tim: Faced with countless ego trips, temper tantrums and unfolding sartorial disasters, Tim manages to limit his most violent reactions to a slap of forehead into hand.

Of course, occasionally the self-control has to crack. He cites a challenge on Season Two in which the designers made party dresses for Nicky Hilton and one contestant was entirely off-base. "In cases like [that] I feel like it's more within my responsibilities to say 'Are you kidding? Let's get real!'" The design didn't change much, and Tim was right (isn't he always?) -- the designer in question was kicked off.

Fashion sense

Tony: Okay. Tony may not be the most stylish dresser but he is always attired appropriately: a classic black suit for the occasional funeral, tasteful polyester/cotton golf shirts for "meetings" at the Bada Bing and of course, a bathrobe and boxer shorts for days when you just want to sit on the couch, read "The Star-Ledger" and watch a good World War II documentary on the History Channel.

Tony knows that fashion is all about utilitarianism, not making a statement.

Tim: Let's just be clear: there's no question Tim is the winner in the looks departments: slim, silvery hair, quizzical eyes. And the man always has on a suit jacket. He also avoids those shiny ties that some TV personalities from northern New Jersey might favor.

All of Tim's clothes come from show sponsor Banana Republic, but it's not just a publicity stunt. He's been buying his clothes at Banana for about four years, ever since deciding that his move to the fashion department at Parson's was making his Brooks Brothers duds look a bit dowdy. "I love what Banana Republic does for men -- while still being conservative, it's got a little bit of an edge," says Tim. Plus, and you can't help but love someone this practical, "It fits me off the rack, and I can afford it."

Now carry on.


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