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Monday, July 29, 2013

Richard Branson: What makes him a great leader?

Branson's leadership style motivates employees
Have you ever wondered about the student who couldn't seem to keep up with the class? The one who found reading difficult and was horrible at math? If you went to Stowe School in England in the 1960s, you don’t have to wonder. Richard Branson, despite being dyslexic and having trouble in school all of his life, has managed to thrive in adulthood. Starting multiple successful companies, he is now worth an estimated four billion dollars and is one of Britain’s wealthiest citizens. 

The rewards of risk

Richard Branson has always understood the power of being willing to take a risk. Perhaps because he did not succeed academically in school, he has never trusted facts and figures when running a business. Instead of looking at the accounting books, he prefers to rely on his gut feeling and past experience when making a big decision. If a person truly feels they have a good idea, they should believe in it regardless of what the accountants or bankers say, Branson feels. Trusting in himself has allowed him to lead many successful companies, even when the odds seem stacked against him.

Trusting in himself has been, at times, a truly courageous act for Branson. As a young business owner, he was charged with tax irregularities and had to put his mother’s house up as collateral. Though he ended up owing a large fine, he dedicated himself to learn how his business could bring in big profits, and was able to pay the entire fine off in just two years. That mail order record business that he opened when he was only 20 grew into Virgin, a music label where some of the world’s biggest musicians have recorded. 

Believing in employees

Branson also has a unique managerial style that encourages employee participation and everyone to be a leader in their own right. He insists that management has an open door policy, so that everybody can feel free to contribute their ideas. He also believes in employee independence. Give people an idea of what you want them to do, the tools to do it, and some general perimeters, and they will perform. According to Success Magazine, Branson feels that one of the reasons for his massive success is due to him surrounding himself with people who believe in his ideas. However, he also feels that debate is important and encourages employees who disagree to speak up. This questioning and discussing makes a good idea even better.

Branson told Inc. Magazine that company leaders should lead with the goal in mind that first of all their employees should be happy, next their customers should be happy, and then their investors should be happy. Keeping this order in mind is the best way to make sure that everybody is happy.

By believing in himself, believing in his ideas, and believing in the people he surrounds himself with, Richard Branson has transformed himself from a struggling student to one of the world's top business leaders.

About the author: Tom writes for a number of businesses including DLPROG a Leadership Program organisation based in Australia.

* Image attribution: David Shankbone; CC BY-SA 3.0