Few leaders so overtly and ostentatiously embody the concept of transformational leadership as Sir Richard Branson. Branson heads the mega company Virgin Group. The leader's unconventional personality has been described as "vocal and flamboyant," ("Management and Leadership of Richard Branson at Virgin Group Ltd.," 2010). Although Branson is known for his personal charisma, he does not limit himself to a charismatic leadership style. Charismatic leaders operate on the assumption that "Charm and grace are all that is needed to create followers," ("Leadership Styles," Changing Minds).
From his charismatic character flows a natural leadership style that encourages personal freedom of choice at the managerial level. Thus, Richard Branson can be best appreciated as a transformational leader, and one who has extraordinary vision. Transformational leadership is characterized by the empowerment of workers to make decisions that promote organizational goals, visions, and values. Transformational leaders aim "to achieve an articulated vision of the organization, leading to increases in productivity, employee morale, and job satisfaction as well as greater personal and professional growth," ("Leadership" n.d.). Within the transformational leadership rubric, Richard Branson also exhibits a notably and surprisingly laissez-faire approach towards management.
Branson is a leader who de-emphasizes managerial control. Branson demonstrates qualities of both participative and delegative styles, with greater emphasis on the latter. With a delegative style of leadership, "the leader allows the employees to make the decisions. However, the leader is still responsible for the decisions that are made," ("Leadership Styles" n.d.). Branson emphasizes the freedom of all managers, which "allows them to excel without the need for micromanagement," ("Management and Leadership of Richard Branson at Virgin Group Ltd.," n.d.). In fact, Richard Branson is frequently "criticized" for being a leader but not a manager; he "holds no regular board meetings, has no business headquarters, and has no idea how to operate a computer," ("Lesson #1: Be A Good Leader" n.d.).
Another reason why Richard Branson's leadership style is primarily transformational rather than purely charismatic is that he establishes "common goals for the company to achieve as a whole," including goals as ambitious as expanding into the space travel market. Branson may be a media gem, but he does not bank on his charisma as what motivates employees.
Likewise, Richard Branson's vision for Virgin Group does not stop at globalization. The Virgin Group has made remarkable inroads into every possible global marketplace in a number of seemingly disparate sectors ranging from bridal stores to airplanes and telecommunications. To have such an ambitious vision and yet still be able to execute it requires total trust in the managers who operate each division of the Virgin Group. This also means working beyond the limited cultural frameworks of Branson's native UK and allowing for different managerial styles of manifest in different regional offices. Even beyond the global marketplace, Branson is already expanding markets beyond the Earth as Virgin is set to offer space travel options for consumers by the year 2012.
As far as styles of leadership are concerned, Richard Branson exhibits visionary and affiliative traits (Murray n.d.). "Visionary leaders articulate where a group is going, but not how it will get there -- setting people free to innovate, experiment, take calculated risks," (Murray, n.d.). Richard Branson fits this description to a T, as the Virgin Group is highly diversified. Each division is run differently, reflecting Branson's willingness and ability to let each manager shine. Branson "believes that employees should have a certain amount of freedom to make choices for the good of the organization," ("Management and Leadership of Richard Branson at Virgin Group Ltd.," n.d.). This is not to…
Sources Used in Document:
"Management and Leadership of Richard Branson at Virgin Group Ltd." (2010). UPX Success. Retrieved online: http://www.upxsuccess.com/leadership_richard_branson.html