Leadership Paper: Richard Branson
Richard Branson has been practically a household name in the U.K. for the past 20 years and is also well respected in the business world. He is the founder of the Virgin Group, known for record labels, cellular phones, airlines, and many other business ventures. He is responsible for a $5 billion empire consisting of over 200 different companies around the world. (ICFAI, 2002) 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. He has said before, "Virgin Group is an organization driven on informality and information, one that is bottom heavy rather then strangled by top level management", (Wikpedia) giving the impression that he listens to his people well below the management level.
Branson will still ultimately make the top decision and loves to take high-risk decisions if in the end he feels it's worthwhile. He also stresses on the importance of being a regular guy and making your employees feel important. He feels that praise goes much farther than criticism and he likes to make sure his people that work with him are taken care of. One example of this was when he won a lawsuit against British Airlines and was awarded $500,000 he divided the compensation amongst his staff. (Wikpedia)
Branson is a very natural born leader and shows all the characteristics of the leadership trait theory. Battling dyslexia and struggling through school, he still managed to create this vast empire by adapting to his weakness and using it to his advantage. He was adaptable and knowing that in order to overcome his dyslexia, he decided to always keep things as simple as possible. He prefers to talk to people one on one and asks that things be broken down to the most straightforward and basic form. He says the simpler for him to understand, the easier for him to explain to others and the clearer his vision becomes. His charismatic behavior and excellent people skills tied into this have also made him an exceptional negotiator.
His extreme sense of adventure is also a behavior that he is well known for. He is not afraid of failure but also has the attitude of "you don't know until you try". This has been reflected in some of his personal and business adventures that he has become famous for. In 1987 he was the first to successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean in a hot air balloon and also was the lead sponsor for the GlobalFlyer, the first aircraft to fly non-stop around the world. He created Virgin Airways and Virgin Records, and after words he sought to join the railway business which many thought was a risky adventure. Still he persevered against odds and was able to keep Virgin Trains alive in a struggling industry. His most recent "risky business" is a deal he made to start Virgin Galactic, offering to take passengers into orbital space by 2007.
So Branson could definitely be considered a revolutionary out of the box thinker. He knows the value of not being afraid to leave your comfort zone but also knows that he needs to rely on others to be successful. I admire his social prowess and persuasive traits the most, he really listens to people and makes those follow him feel good about it. He even writes all 5,000
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