Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, is one of the most well-known names in modern business. While some would argue that it is his irreverent approach to business management that has garnered him fame, it is only one half of the story. His unique leadership style as a manager has allowed his company to experience incredible success, horizontal and vertical business integration, and has ensure that the Virgin Group will remain a significant business for years to come. By examining the leadership styles that are embodied by Richard Branson, a more complete understanding of his management and successes can be illustrated and used to justify the global presence of Virgin Group.
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While there are many different facets of leadership style that are being embodied by Richard Branson, one of the most prominent styles that are discussed in regards to him is called Authentic Leadership. This aspect of leadership has been discussed more often in recent years as the tenets of this style have become clearer. According to Goffee and Jones, authentic leadership is characterized by authenticity, significance, and excitement (2009, p. 1). Authenticity refers to the ability of the leader to modify their own behavior so that they are able to respond to the needs that are posed by their workers. It is not the appearance of caring, it is taking action to show that the employee’s needs are being met (Goffee & Jones, 2009). Richard Branson often leads the way when it comes to innovative means of helping employees including benefits packages that include paid time off and tuition reimbursement. The significance aspect of the leadership style means that the leader takes time to make the work of each employee seem significant. This is often done by Richard Branson through innovative employee relations such as the aforementioned business programs and ongoing dedication to happy employees. The final area of this leadership style is that of excitement: using one’s personal passion to convince others to pursue theirs. Richard Branson is known as being an effusive, happy, passionate individual, and he passes this ideology onto his workers in a variety of different ways.
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Being that the Virgin Group is a multi-faceted organization that is constantly growing to add new divisions to itself, Branson’s particular leadership style is all but a necessity in this case. One of the aspects of the leadership style that has been espoused by Branson is authentic leadership. As it was previously discussed, this form of leadership relies on an individual to be highly active within the company and present a feeling of excitement as it pertains to their business. With his “never quit” personality, Branson would be able to infuse a sense of importance in each one of the new facets of the business. As a result, each of the different parts of the company, from communications to airports, would be able to feel as though it belonged as one part of the whole. Overall, this has produced a company that Branson oversees personally and is effusive and positive about all aspects of the company.
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There are many different ways that Branson has acted like a motivational leader within his company. However, according to information that has been provided through interviews with him, Branson believes that there is a single key aspect of being able to motivate his employees. He says the one thing that every manager needs to do is to inspire the workers within the company (Gollow, 2011). While this may seem like something that is a basic goal of every manager, inspiration needs to reach each and every worker on a personal level. He works to find out the passion of the managers in his own organization so that he can allow them to utilize this in their management styles. By finding a way to inspire the individuals at the top of the organization and installing people who follow this belief in authentic leadership, Branson is able to motivate employees to follow the company’s direction and remain loyal.
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Another method that Branson uses to help motivate the employees at Virgin is through making his employees happy. As simple as it sounds, Branson has made it so that Virgin offers a wide variety of different measures that keep employees happy and, as a result, motivated to perform their best. Research has shown that employees who are happy are at least 12% more productive (Vries, 1998). According to Branson, it is the small things such as giving employees the proper lighting, larger office spaces, and a rewards system that will ultimately motivate them to perform better. Both of these approaches to helping the workers remain motivated in the business could be introduced at just about any business model and be met with a high level of success.
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One of the things that have made Richard Branson one of the most noteworthy names in the modern business world is the simple fact that he has been able to communicate his company’s goals and success with confidence. No matter what form of publicity he is attempting to get, he does so in a loud and flashy manner so as to turn every meeting into a way of discussing his company’s goals and successes.
One of the ways that he has gotten a great deal of publicity in recent years was from dressing up as a woman on his airline and serving as a hostess on a flight due to a lost bet. Naturally, the fact that a knighted individual was willing to appear in public in such a way garnered a fair amount of attention from the media. Instead of putting on a smile and bearing the treatment, Branson embraced it and used it as a chance of talking about the benefits of flying using his Air Asia brand (Argenti, 2004). The result was that he was able to use some self-deprecating humor as a means of showcasing the latest changes to his company, thereby generating interest in the company and showing that he is willing to still perform the tasks that other CEOs would consider beneath them.
After examining the different aspects of the company that is led by Richard Branson, I believe that this is a company that I would like to work at. The leadership style of Branson is often described as one that is Authentic. The best way to contextualize this is by looking at the expectations and rewards that are ultimately offered by the company. The articles that have been previously explored in the context of Branson show that he has very high expectations of his managers and workers in general. However, the fact remains that he is able to offer them better rewards and opportunities than just about any other business.
Moreover, his belief in giving the smaller aspects of a work environment a boost such as the lighting and office space is a benefit that many other companies simply will not offer. Overall, the work hard, play hard mentality of the authentic leadership style is one that would suit me well, and I believe that taking the job as a manager would be incredibly challenging, but would ultimately prove to be a valuable experience for me. Aside from gaining monetary benefits to working with the Virgin group, it would be beneficial to work under the tutelage of an individual that could teach me a great deal about this leadership style.
After thoroughly examining the different aspects of the leadership style and successes that were used by Richard Branson throughout his time as a CEO, it is clear that he is a global leader. In fact, he is representative of everything for which a global leader stands. Branson has been able to establish a company from the group up, and has successfully infiltrated a number of markets around the world. Through his cunning and ability to win people over instead of running them over, Branson’s Virgin Group has become a company that has reached all areas of the world with its image.
Another reason to consider Branson a global leader, aside from the fact that he is literally
in charge of a global company, is that he has managed to work together to establish separate divisions of his company in a variety of different markets. In fact, with the introduction of his line of Air Asia, the Virgin company has become a part of one of the most difficult-to-enter markets for a western company. The fact that these markets of the Virgin Group have been so successful shows that Branson’s leadership has allowed the company to flourish in these markets and will most likely continue to do so. By looking at the projections for the future of Richard Branson a conclusive look at his overall style can be viewed.
The future of the Virgin Group, which has a new addition that is being dubbed Virgin Galactic, has gotten off to a very difficult start. With some areas of the Virgin Group not faring so well, such as the cellular phone division, the company has had to innovate in order to keep moving forward. It seems as though Branson has always been one to push forward, as he has not taken in the company in a bold new direction: straight into space. The Virgin Group has decided that it will fund a space program since there has been little funding for new rockets and other forms of technology coming from NASA. It has not been easy for the Virgin Group to establish their place in this area of the business world, as they have already lost a test pilot due to an anomaly with the rocket (Fuchs, 2015). However, with the spirit of exploration still holding firm in Virgin Headquarters, Branson has decided to push forward with the rocket plans and flights so that they will be one of the first groups that are able to offer space flights to civilians. Not only is this being done to get an edge the in the market, but Branson is pushing the boundaries of his business in order to keep the spirit of exploration alive and well in the 21st century, when war and economic troubles continually hold back development of explorers. Due to the indomitable will of Richard Branson and his willingness to take calculated risks, I believe that Virgin will experience financial and scientific success over the next five years.
Fuchs, E. (2014, November 1). Here’s What Richard Branson Had To Say One Day After His Spacecraft Crashed. Retrieved June 23, 2015, from http://www.businessinsider.com/richard-branson-speaks-about-future-of-virgin-galactic-2014-11
Goffee, R., & Jones, G. (2009, August 1). Authentic Leadership: Excite others to exceptional performance. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
Gollow, C. (2011, January 29). Richard Branson: The One Skill Leaders Need to Learn. Retrieved June 23, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2011/06/29/richard-branson-the-one-skill-leaders-need-to-learn
Vries, M. (1998). Charisma in action: The transformational abilities of Virgin’s Richard
Branson and ABB’s Percy Barnevik. Organizational Dynamics, 26(2), 7-21.