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Leadership of Richard Branson Essay

Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group has been a household name in the United Kingdom for over twenty years. He is well respected in the business world. He is the founder of the Virgin Group, which is known for many different things such as cell phones, record labels, airlines and many more. “Branson is also known for his unique character and leadership styles, one who is not afraid to take risks, and believes that people are the foundation to his company’s success. If I were to first characterize his leadership style I would say he is definitely a democratic leader. He truly feels that getting other peoples input and listening to what people have to say are a core value to him. He carries a notebook in his pocket all the time just in case he hears something interesting from people that he interacts with on any level. Whether it be an employee, friend, business partner or complete stranger, for him he knows that good ideas can come from anywhere and anytime (Leadership Styles, 2006).” According to Psychologist Kurt Lewin, democratic leaders make the final decisions, but they include team members in the decision-making process.

They encourage creativity, and people are often highly engaged in projects and decisions. As a result, team members tend to have high job satisfaction and high productivity. This is not always an effective style to use, though, when you need to make a quick decision. The business dictionary website corresponds in its meaning of a democratic leadership style stating that the style involves a team where all persons are included in the decision-making process as well as the procedural course of action. According to an article in Entrepreneur, there is almost nothing Richard Branson won’t do to promote his company. As eccentric as this plights may be, they have made Virgin one of the best-known and most popular brand names in the world. The article goes on to explain how his strange business and managerial strategies have created a $5 billion empire. Richard Branson has also been referred to as a visionary leader. The visionary leadership style is described as “a big-picture thinker who sets clear standards and inspires with a sense of shared mission, the visionary leader can be overbearing (Blustein, 2013).”

When asked about his leadership style, Richard Branson says he makes sure he is surrounded by team builders who can make sure that the needs of individual employees do not get lost in the pursuit of a grand vision. He also says to think twice before showing the smart people who work for you how much smarter you are (Blustein, 2013).” Emotional Intelligence is defined as “skill in perceiving, understanding, and managing emotions and feelings, awareness of one’s own emotions and moods and those of others, especially in managing people, an awareness of and ability to manage emotions and create motivation (Dictionary.com, 2014).” Richard Branson is an example of emotional intelligence in practice. In 2003, the commercial successes in the highly competitive and volatile Australian Aviation Industry, with the launch of Virgin Blue’s corporate existence, the company has achieved 30% market share of the Australian domestic air travel market and is due to float on the Australian stock exchange at a capitalization of billions. Branson’s leadership capability characterized by emotional intelligence, has been evident through his ability to relate to motivate and unify staff from this industry at a time when many airline employees were disillusioned and skeptical in a third airline’s ability to successfully operate in the Australian market (Carlson, Voola,& West, 2004).”

This shows how the unique aspects of Richard Branson’s leadership style mesh successfully with the particular attributes of the multifaceted organization that is Virgin. Richard Branson is known to motivate employees by encouraging all employees to apply for jobs at other Virgin companies that they find interesting. In recent years, a few Virgin companies have provoked as a result; we often refer to them as our “shot in the arm” companies. They show customers and employees what our business stands for, and often inspire our teams at other businesses to try new challenges. Another way Branson keeps employees engaged is by inviting them to take part in company events, like the Virgin Mobile Live Free fest, a free music festival held every year to raise money (through donations) for homeless young people. Along with giving employees a chance to give something back to the community, the festival allows an opportunity to say thank you to customers and staff by providing them with the chance to enjoy themselves for free. The sense of fun unites the businesses reminds employees of what the company stands for. In some ways it’s easier for a large organization like Virgin to embark on such projects, but with a little inventiveness and resourceful thinking, other business owners might come up with shot-in-the-arm schemes of their own (Entrepreneur, 2012).

Maintaining a focused and motivated staff can be a difficult task for employers to master, especially during harsh economic times and with stretched resources. Branson recently held a series of talks for employees, where they were encouraged to engage and debate different subjects. The exercises were held on a tropical island in the Caribbean. Every company does not have the luxury of taking their employees off to a tropical island, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to get minds focused and engaged. If one is trying to grow a diverse, creative team, it is not necessary to take employees to the Caribbean to keep them learning. Branson has suggested inviting guest speakers to the office. “Go to events focusing on topics that are not strictly related to your industry and bring some of your employees along. He advises, one of the best ways to learn is by taking team members out of their comfort zone and embracing new ideas, results will yield. Focusing on a topic out of the norm can bring renewed vigor to everyday activities (Preston, 2013). My assessment of Richard Branson’s ability to articulate and communicate his vision for his company to employees and other stakeholders in the traditional sense of writing a mission statement, he has failed.

However, I believe that actions speak louder than words, and with that said, Richard Branson has done an outstanding job in showing his mission statement. In an interview with Entrepreneur Branson says, “Many business management experts would argue that a mission statement should be your company’s cornerstone, inspiring and informing your employees in the years ahead. I can’t agree. The Virgin Group does have a mission statement — one that is brief and to the point. In general, there is too much importance being placed on such statements, but it is interesting to see how they reflect common missteps in business, for example Enron. Before the giant energy company went bankrupt in 2001, ruining the lives of tens of thousands of employees and investors, its vision and values statement was “Respect, integrity, communication and excellence.”

While some mission statements consist of one vague statement, others are too long, which may reflect management’s lack of understanding of what a company really does. Branson goes on to say that if Virgin had to put their mission statement on a coat of arms, it would probably say something like, “Ipsum sine timore, consector,” which very loosely translated from the Latin means, “Screw it, let’s do it (Entrepreneur, 2013)!” There are four steps to evaluate whether Richard Branson’s leadership style is a good fit for me as a manager: Determine my leadership style

Assess the organization’s culture
Define my expectations in a leader
Learn about Richard Branson’s leadership style and whether or not it meshes. Asking the following questions about the organizational culture can help clarify what type of work environment the organization offers: Work style:

How does our work done? Collaboratively? Independently? A combination? How are decisions made? Consensus-driven? Authoritatively?
How is communication? Verbally or in written form? Directly or indirectly? Voicemail, email, or in person? What are meetings like? Serious? Lighthearted? Tightly or loosely structured? Professional opportunities and advancement:

What types of people tend to do well here? Individual contributors? Team players? People who are proactive or more responsive? How is the structure? Hierarchical or flat? Centralized or decentralized authority? Clear reporting structures or matrix? How people who do well rewarded?

What happens when people don’t perform well?
I conclude that I would be successful working under this type of leader. William George, a Professor of Management Practice, Henry B. Arthur Fellow of Ethics, at Harvard Business School says the most successful leaders will not necessarily be those with the highest IQ. He says they will need to be intelligent, cultured, and emotionally intelligent. “According to George, additional characteristics of a successful global leader include: An intellectual understanding of the global business context. The capacity to simultaneously develop a global and local perspective. Being able to overcome the dominant thinking at headquarters. A knack for cross-boundary partnering.

A self-awareness and self-assurance when it comes to one’s values and sense of purpose The ability to develop networks that are internal and external to the organization. George goes on to say, “Ultimately, a global organization is measured by how well the diversity of its leadership reflects the diversity of its customer base and well that leadership can leverage the skills of teams working around the world (Hanna, 2012).” In my opinion, Richard Branson fits the bill as a global leader. “Sir Richard Branson is among the latest crop of billionaires who have promised to donate at least half their fortune to charity. The Virgin Group founder, who is worth more than $4bn, has added his name to the Giving Pledge campaign set up by U.S. investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. In their pledge letter, Sir Richard and his wife Joan said they wanted to use cash from the company to create ‘a healthy, equitable and peaceful world for future generations to enjoy (Tomlinson, 2013).” My prediction is Richard Branson will be an even bigger success than he is now. He has pledged to give away half his Virgin fortune to make a difference in the world. It takes a real leader to make such a sacrifice for others.


(2006, 05). Leadership Styles: Richard Branson. StudyMode.com. Retrieved 05, 2006, from http://www.studymode.com/essays/Leadership-Styles-Richard-Branson-88459.htmlBlustein, A. (2013). What kind of leader are you?. Inc, 35(8), 58-59. Carlson, J. Ranjui, V. & West, A. (2004). Emotional intelligence and competitive advantage: examining the relationship from a resource-based view. Retrieved September 6, 2014 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jsc.664/abstract Hanna, J. (2012). Developing the global leader. Working knowledge the thinking that leads. Harvard Business School. Retrieved September 6, 2014 from http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6967.html Kets de Vries, M.R. (1998). Charisma in action: the transformational abilities of Virgin’s Richard Branson and ABB’s Percy Barnevik. Organizational Dynamics, 26(3), 7-21 Tomlinson, S. (2013). Stuff does not bring happiness’: Sir Richard Branson pledges to give away half his Virgin fortune to make a difference in the world. Retrieved September 6, 2014 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2281792/Sir-Richard-Branson-pledges-a

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