Richard Branson's Leadership Style
The ending of the last century has witnessed a remarkable transformation of organizational structures all over the world. It has prompted immediate responses within cross-cultural and mixed cultural teams. According to Lawler, Mohrman, & Ledford (1995), “One of its compelling driving forces has been an ongoing shift from work organized around individual jobs to team-based work structures, nourished by charismatic leadership in addition to the technological, strategical, political or even economical imperatives driving this transformation. A leader ought to be ready for all these changes and challenges” (p. 8).
According to Daft (2002), leadership is a result of successful influence. It occurs among people, those people intentionally desire significant changes, and the changes reflect purposes shared by leaders and followers. DuBrin (2010) states that a leader is a figurehead of any organization, who entertains clients and serves as a spokesperson. Leadership of effective nature exemplifies passion and courage, respects the importance of teams, their dignity as well as rights. It has positive effects on both individuals within a team and organizational efficiency. It creates an environment of mutual respect.
There are several theories of leadership in modern times. Great man theory claims that great leaders are born with great potential. People will not develop leadership characteristics, if they do not have natural intentions to be leaders. Almost similar to this is Trait theory, which assumes that people inherit certain qualities and traits that make them better suited to leadership. Contingency theory assumes that success depends upon a number of variables, including the leadership style, qualities of the teams and the situation. Situational theory proposes that leaders, different in styles they may be, choose the best course of action based upon the situation. Behavioral theory is based on Behaviourism.
It is opposite to Great Man theory and based upon the belief that people become leaders in the process of their development. They accumulate knowledge, experience, which help to develop and improve leadership characteristics. People can learn to become leaders through teaching and observation. For Participative theory regards the ideal leadership style as one that takes the input of others into account, encourages participation and contributions from teams. Management theory or transactional theory focuses on the role of supervision, organization and group performance. They call for rewards and punishments depending on performances. Relationship theory focuses upon the connections formed between leaders and teams. Here, leaders motivate and inspire people and focus on the performance of group members, but also want each person to fulfill his or her potential.
There are numerous leaders who may or may not necessarily be in the line of the abovementioned theories. Richard Branson is described as one of the world’s most intriguing, successful and enduring entrepreneurial business leaders out there. As the founder of the Virgin Group, he has established a very interesting background and approach to run his business, and control all things concerning company’s resources to work effectively. He has a very interesting and exciting leadership style, seemingly not picked out of any regular handbook in management styles. The steady string of successes that Richard Branson has achieved must be attributed to his personal leadership and entrepreneurial business style, especially in light of his decision to form Virgin Atlantic, which represented a business he did not have any expertise in and one where he had to faced the risks, financial investment and doing battle with entrenched major competitors.
Analysis of Sir Richard Branson’s Style of Leadership
Sir Richard Branson’s first business venture was a student paper, which he started at the age of 16 after having decided to drop out of school due to some personal reasons. He is said to be diagnosed of dyslectic and performed poorly in school. Then, in the 1970s, Branson started a mail-order business and later a record label. Two years later the business was expanded with record stores named Virgin Records. Through his company, he has created a unique business phenomenon. Today, he is the driving force at the centre of around companies, employing almost ten thousand people in more than 25 countries. He claimed that his company is based on developing good ideas through excellent management principles.
Sir Richard Branson’s parents practically taught him to take care of himself since he was a small child. The fact of being a school dropout could result either in developing bitter persona or resourceful and sell-sufficient persona. Sir Richard Branson had chosen to be the latter. He has never appeared to be hardened and bitter leader. He is a very caring and involved leader, who listens to everyone who approaches him. He is closely engaged with environmental cause. He is also a driving and trusted force in the companies he’s invested.
Sir Richard Branson belied the compulsory of taking management courses for business success. Inspite of taking management courses he seems to fit pretty well into the business world and the management theories and nothing less. Branson believes in keeping things simple and that people are the foundations of the corporation’s success. His philosophy of business is to do the right things and to create something he is proud. He honestly admitted that he never went into any business purely to make money. The name Richard Branson is mostly associated with a leader who is creative, fun, fast moving, opportunist, adventurer, risk taker, warm, friendly, competitive, workaholic and tough negotiator. His thoughts on how to define good leadership and management style are based on the idea of genuinely respecting people, staying humble, friendly. While being involved integrally in the structure setting at the start of a new business, he is always ready for his teams to offer emotional support and encouragement.
Sir Richard Branson believes in himself and his ideas, employees and colleagues. He preached the importance of fun at work and that a smile is very important quality of a leader as everything gets much easier if one shows a friendly face. Branson also believes that time management and hiring the right people and putting them in the right place is one inevitable basic to success. He is known for bringing in good managers and getting them to stay by pre-researching and putting them where each employee is more likely to perform best according to his capabilities.
Another important factor of leadership is to know the business and the existing competition in this competitive world. The success of Branson here is credited to his creativity and insight, his passion and courage, which means loving and holding the company close to one’s heart and taking risks and initiatives for it. Sometimes, the business choices he made are extremely courageous and risky. Branson’s venture Scaled Composites to develop a tourism spacecraftis one example. He admits that it was a very risky act that could have gone totally wrong. However, it is important to know that without risks, he would not be what he is and in where he is today. He is known to start out small and shares the risk with other investors.
With a personality like this, Branson would no doubt easily handle all types of projects, great and small, with an air of confidence and gaiety. This explains his past success story and those successes he would achieve in the future. Depending on the situation or the people they are dealing with, there exist certain approaches to the explanation of a person’s leadership style, or a leader’s combination of styles. Looking at Branson, his leadership and his skills as an influencer and ability to create a common purpose among his followers are renowned. Branson’s core values and beliefs include helping people to achieve things they did not know they were capable of, as well as being a catalyst for the success of others, while constantly learning along the way.
Branson’s Leadership and its Effectiveness
People seek guidance and listen to others in the vicinity that seemingly have experience and can teach and give advice. That brings good thoughts on how to handle different situations. Sir Richard Branson portrays a persona that one should look up and learn upon. Persons and characters like him continue to become famous in the world, not only in the rapidly growing global business and competitions, but in all spheres and sections of life, i.e, in classrooms, groups, unions, society and even states. Leadership acquired by useful experiences through his life taught Sir Richard numerous minute lessons, which blueblood would not acquire. He knows the need of the lowest to the highest levels of society and he is at one time or the other, apart of it. This helps in understanding consumers, markets, teams of his colleagues and even his competitors.
DuBrin(2010) listed the characters that good leaders should possess, such as, a leader is a figurehead for an organization, should be an effective, have a passion for task accomplishment, have the courage to take taking risks and initiatives, know the business you are in and the competition your company is facing should portray creativity and insight into situations. All these characters can be directly attributed to Branson. There are features of his character which he developed in the ups and downs of his life and in the process of his business experience. What Sir Richard Branson had used effectively that should be followed in order to succeed in all processes of life is to know his teams and be ready to decentralized authority. His sensitivity to team’s needs and the willingness and ability to listen to others and seek to learn their opinions and feelings allows him to be what he is today. Teamwork should be the driving force of everything.
The notions of effective leadership skills and influence are subjects of continuing debates. Scholars research the nature of leadership, its roots, and factors of development. Everybody, not only businessmen should be aware that inspite of one’s excellent credentials and learning, people will never have the power to know everything. Traits of character help to predict people’s behavior and influence interaction with colleagues, partners, and friends. Although not born with high social status, he created it for himself by many of his daring exploits. Unrelated to business they may seem, these acts provide publicity, even if not for the company but certainly for its leader. But for this leader it makes a big difference, for his status and reputation is elevated on all sides, including the people he leads in his company. No one should feel so small to become great. Each one of us should take our experiences as a lesson and make the best use of what we had in our hands.
Sir Richard Branson poses practical lessons for his colleagues, his countrymen and his country itself as he shows the basic concepts of business. He started from the root and reminds people whose business is still growing and is far from reaching the top. What the USA should learn from Sir Richard Branson is that globalization has made the world a global village and hence, everything (like Benson), even though its starting may be small, are important as they have the capability to succeed inside them. Branson is a living example as he shows the importance of businessman as a person, business as a unit, leadership as a theory and life as a lesson.
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