Richard Branson is arguably one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time. Other great business leaders in his class include, but they are not limited to, Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, and Donald Trump. Although all have been hugely successful in their respective areas of operation, all the three leaders I have mentioned above have different leadership styles. This text concerns itself with the leadership of Richard Branson. In so doing, it will amongst other things take into consideration his leadership style and success at the helm of one of the world's most recognizable business brands, the Virgin Group.
The Leadership of Richard Branson
From the onset, it should be noted that Richard Branson is a charismatic leader. Charismatic leadership according to Lussier (2011, p. 337) "is a leadership style that inspires loyalty, enthusiasm, and high levels of performance." In that regard, therefore, a charismatic leader is likely to not only motivate, but also inspire team members. Close scrutiny of Richard Branson's leadership style reveals that he gathers followers and is able to inspire royalty by dint of his charm and personality. According to Griffin (2007, p. 340), "there are three elements of charismatic leadership in organizations that most experts acknowledge today." The first element the author identifies is the ability of the leader to not only envision the future, but also develop or formulate expectations, while at the same time modeling behaviors that are largely consistent with the accomplishment of the said expectations. For instance, whenever he establishes new operations, Branson, according to Walenius and Wasterstal (2010) is known to spend a lot of time "drawing the big picture and helping the management setting the business plan and the way forward." The second element of charismatic leadership, according to Griffin (2007, p. 340) is the ability to energize followers "through a demonstration of personal excitement, personal confidence, and patters of success." For instance, when Branson launched Virgin Cola back in 1994, he arrived at Times Square with a battle Tank. This symbolic move to set in motion a 'beverage battle' with well-established beverage makers like Coca-Cola is indicative of a confident business leader with enough courage to engage in that which is likely to stick into people's minds (Walenius and Wasterstal, 2010). It is this unique ability to energize followers by doing that which seems unusual that has seen Branson succeed where others would have failed. Lastly, yet another element of charismatic leadership is the ability to empower others by empathizing with them, offering them the necessary support, and demonstrating utmost confidence in their abilities (Griffin, 2007). In a well-written piece that appears on the website of the Virgin Group, Preston (2014) points out that it would be hard to find an employee who has ever seen Richard Branson raise his voice even in those situations that appear tough or challenging for an average manager. This is indicative of an individual who does not lose his cool and is, hence, able to share the feelings of others.
Virgin Group could easily be described as a fast-growing business entity whose more than 400 diverse business ventures spanning across various sectors have been largely successful. Being a multifaceted organization, the Virgin Group requires a custom approach to leadership -- which Richard Branson has successfully provided. One unique aspect of Branson is the ability to delegate work (Walenius and Wasterstal, 2010). As I have already pointed out elsewhere in this text, Branson has been known to spend a lot of his time in the active management of a newly established outfit. However, after he is done setting-up a clear path for the management to follow, "he takes a step back and lets the management get a stake in the business and drive it forward" (Walenius and Wasterstal, 2010). Next, it is also important to note that Branson is well adept at managing his time well. The relevance of effective time management for a leader at the helm of a multifaceted organization cannot be overstated. Indeed, as Walenius and Wasterstal (2010) point out, most of his efforts are put into the effective management of time -- most times equally dividing his time between promoting ongoing businesses, seeing through new projects, and solving emerging or existing problems. The ability to not only hire capable employees but also relate well with them is another unique aspect of Richard Branson that has seen him successfully lead the Virgin Group. As Walenius and Wasterstal (2010) put it, Branson "is very thorough in hiring the right people…he is known for bringing in good managers and getting them to stay." He seldom fires people -- instead choosing to transfer them to other ventures where they can perform better, when it becomes clear that they are having challenges in their current work station. His ability to relate well with his employees comes from his humble, down-to-earth, and friendly nature -- which can often times be discerned from his TV appearances.
There are many ways via which Richard Branson motivates his employees. These include, but they are not limited to, demonstrating confidence in their abilities and creating an organizational culture that promotes the feeling of togetherness and prioritizes the interests of employees. When it comes to demonstrating confidence in their abilities, it is important to note that in addition to rarely firing employees, Branson also lets his managers freely run their divisions without undue interferences (Walenius and Wasterstal, 2010). Those who for one reason or another fail to perform in one division are given other responsibilities within the company, thus effectively motivating them by giving them another chance to demonstrate their abilities. On organizational culture, Morschett, Schramm-Klein and Zentes (2011, p. 218) point out that "one of the most important activities regarding the corporate culture as a coordination mechanism is that the employees' interests are always given the highest priority in the Virgin Group…" This promotes the feeling of being part of a big family, thus motivating employees towards the achievement of the goals of the group. In my opinion, Branson's approach has a high likelihood of working in a different organization setting. Regardless of the setting, employees are likely to perform better, in an attempt to prove themselves, if their skills are recognized and further enhanced. However, before delegating functions, there is need to ensure that employees charged with overseeing the implementation of various projects are well qualified. It is also important to note that when employees feel that their interests are catered for, they are likely to be more motivated in the implementation of the company agenda. Such employees are also likely to reciprocate by acting in the best interests of the company. It is for this reason that I remain convinced that Branson's approach to employee motivation could be successfully applied in a different organizational setting.
Upon further scrutiny of Branson's approach to leadership, another factor that comes out clearly is his ability to communicate and articulate the vision he has for the Virgin Group. According to Preston (2014), Branson is one person who never shies away from getting his hands dirty. He not only talks the talk but also walks the talk -- and thus succeeds in communicating his vision for the company. As Richard himself further explains, of key importance is setting an example for employees to follow (Preston, 2014). Further, as it has been pointed out elsewhere, Branson routinely "spends a lot of time in the early days of a new business, drawing the big picture and helping the management setting the business plan and the way forward" (Walenius and Wasterstal, 2010). He only leaves the management to 'do their thing' after taking them through his plan for the division and ensuring that their vision is similar to his. It is this ability to effectively put across his vision that has seen the Virgin Group grow and significantly increase its portfolio. It is also this same ability that has seen the group maintain an extremely low employee turnover rate over the years.
Prior to commencing employment as a manager with Virgin Group, I would first assess the company and its top leadership so as to determine how satisfied I would be working for the said company. Amongst those I would assess is Richard Branson -- particularly with regard to how his leadership style fits with my approach to management. In my assessment, I would gauge how Branson relates with other managers in his employ, his personality and approach to conflict resolution, and lastly, his preferred mode of consultation. Later on, I would conduct an evaluation of my strengths and weaknesses as a manager so as to determine what ought to be modified. From my readings about the leader, it is clear that in addition to allowing his managers to run the show, he also prefers maintaining an open-door policy as far as consultations are concerned. He is also not combative in his approach to conflict, instead preferring a conciliatory approach. Personally, I tend to relate well with others and prefer group…