For the last twenty years, Richard Branson has been a popular household name in the United Kingdom and a respected personality in the world of business. Branson is responsible for the Virgin Group as a founder who controls over $ 5 billion Empire comprising more than 200 companies. The fast growth of the business empire can be credited to his unique leadership style and character. However, the uniqueness of his abilities is based on his high risk taking motives and the trust he places on his army of employees.
Branson’s leadership style and its effectiveness of that style in the U.S. today
Democratic leader with contingency and situational leadership skills
Branson is a democratic leader with contingency and situational leadership skills based on how he values his staff. He is a considered prospector, with high contingency and situational leadership skills. His business empire operates on an equal and flat, non-hierarchical structure, made of different companies, which operate independently and are able to run with flexibility and without interference. Considering Fielder’s contingency theory, Branson belongs to the intermediate style leaders’ class as he is equally task motivated and embraces social independence.
What Branson calls a core value in his business endeavors, is an ability to listen to other people and respect their opinions as an input in his business. Branson is known for his frequent visits with a pen and a notebook and writing down the most important matters, which he shares with his staff and customers. Moreover, his democratic leadership is clearly portrayed in the way he treats the stakeholders in the business. Unlike most entrepreneurs, Branson prioritizes his employees more than customers and shareholders. Employees are able to communicate with him freely, either on e-mail, or confidentially.
Such openness in the work environment has enabled a free and hardworking team influencing company’s employee dynamics. Branson has proven his democratic style of leadership by actively listening to his staff members. He knows very well that one has to treat his workers like human beings in order to make his business grow well.
However, Branson will still make the top decisions concerning his companies and initiate high risk windows of opportunities if, in the end, he feels the decision is worthwhile even not relying on the stakeholders’ advice (Branson, 2009). Moreover, he emphasizes on the importance of making employees feel needed in realizing the organizational strategies and maintaining the high risk opportunities. He feels that criticism will never go far compared to praise. This is what makes him devoted to his staff. One of his democratic actions, which surprised his workers were $500,000 benefits. This was compensation from a law suit against British airlines that he shared amongst his employees. In driving his path, Branson has proved to be a good leader through his leadership approaches, which were a good example for the majority of other businessmen to follow.
Democratic leadership is an important management style that if adopted across the US can trigger aggregate company output, thus leading to the economic growth. This style encourages team members to share their thoughts, improves their creativity and enables an entrepreneurial culture. There are many benefits of democratic leadership towards the employees, investors and the entire economy. As for the team members, they tend to obtain high job satisfaction, therefore, increasing their productivity because they feel that their ideas can be heard and appreciated and they can influence the whole process of decision making. In addition, the style necessitates the development of skills.
However, most modern companies across the US operate in a market, where the customer’s tastes and preferences are dynamic. Democratic leadership is one of the strategies used by the managers in the service industry to satisfy the dynamic customer group. In this case, the workers are allowed to freely interact with the customers and report any customer’s feelings directly to the management. Thus, the level of customer satisfaction will increase as the employee has everything the customer needs at his disposal
Other Branson’s leadership styles
Charismatic leadership styles
However, Branson has demonstrated the ability to adhere to more than one leadership style. His unique ability to make the staff of his companies feels comfortable works because he knows how to make different decisions in the different work environments and situations. Apart from being democratic, Branson is also charismatic leader, who is open to transformations. It means that he is able to adapt quickly to the changes. By adopting the new businesses in the new sectors and creating different organizational structures, Branson shows his ability to get success and flexibility in the dynamic business world.
Literature indicates that transformational leadership has a positive correlation with supervisory appraisal or managerial performance, promotional recommendations and percentage of organizational objectives achieved in every strategic business unit. In addition, it is confirmed that there is a strong positive relationship between performances and transformational leadership. Dearlove (2009) argued that transformational leadership mostly reflects social values and emerges in cases of distress and change, whereas transactional leadership occurs in a steady environment, which is well ordered. Virgin is an organization that depends on change and continual growth, which makes it suited for the transformational style.
As an example of charismatic leadership, Branson gave his phone number to the employees and encouraged them to communicate on how the business can be improved by talking to him directly. In the Virgin Empire, Branson’s personality is everywhere throughout the organization. Therefore, his goals and values are driving every element in the organization. A review of the transformational and charismatic leadership shows that such leaders will have a huge impact on their organizations. There are many followers who will be personally identified with Branson’s skills and abilities to run a successful organization. Therefore, the transformational approach describes Branson in regards to his business empire in the best possible way (Wilson, 2006).
In conclusion, the renowned business leader charismatic leadership style stems from the transformational approach to influence his organization. He is able to read the emotions of others and adapt this ability to his business environment. However, the down side of charismatic leadership is that such leaders believe more in themselves than in their teams.
Therefore, the entire business empire may be in a problem or even a collapse in case the leader is no longer able to manage the company or leaves the business to a beneficiary. Some charismatic leaders, who believe only in their own rightness, end up killing the business by themselves.
Entrepreneurial and strategic leadership styles
Branson’s success was also reached by adhering to the entrepreneurial and strategic leadership styles. Branson believes that employees and companies should be led with freedom and lesser formalities (Branson, 2011). Every month Branson sends letters of encouragement to his employees in order to have a confidence to talk with each of them concerning any ideas or problems they face within an out of work. Further, in order to affect the entrepreneurial and strategic style, Branson uses his advisory board to avoid managerial responsibilities in his various companies. Thus, he gets enough time to deal with public relations, the thing he finds himself interested in and that helps him to succeed in businesses.
Branson is a self-driven person and the first entrepreneur who leads his team from the front. This is what many business leaders may lack and, therefore, fail to become successful in business. From blowing the Coca-Cola sign in the NY Times Square to supporting humanitarian works and new business opportunities, Branson has always been in the fore front. His launch of the Virgin Galactic, a world class commercial space flight, was another shock in the entrepreneurial world.
How Branson would develop and lead a global team working on a space tourism project
One of the strongest Branson’s abilities is the ability to build a solid team and make it work on his major projects just like he could do himself. As for the space tourism venture, it could the best opportunity as is it well-known that he has already traded in the space with his airlines. With Branson’s capability to capture and make big business from the scratch, he will use his art of delegation to create the business environment. Although the venture may seem risky because of anonymity in the space, Branson is a renowned risk taker and opportunist in this sphere. In developing a solid team to run the business, he, first of all, helps his employees to run it efficiently.
Once their learning curve is optimal, Branson is willing to leave the entire day to day operations to his well compact team. Branson will try to establish a flat ground for the workers and develop a willingness in them in order to comfortably run the business without his presence. He knows the companies that treat their staff in the best manner, give them freedom and room to share their ideas and problems in order to create a great team of people who respect and trust each other.
Just like the airline business, Branson will ensure that the tourism business is built beyond him by others. He personally took part only in the initial stages of its development. In the initial startup stages of the business, he will be fully involved in the business operations. However, once the revenues start generating, and the business is comfortable, he will try to move into making strategic decisions for business and developing new business ideas rather than spending time on managerial decisions that he can easily outsource. Branson ensures that he attentively listens to his staff and always agrees with them or at least appreciates all the new ideas from his employees. As Branson values each of them, he will be able to build a sound team of staff in order to effectively run the space business even in his absence.
Incorporation of Branson’s leadership qualities
Branson’s leadership abilities are applicable not only for business but also for different life situations. Leadership is a universal role that anybody can play. Team building is a key tool of the leadership. Some of the aspects that can be borrowed from Branson’s leadership are respect, humbleness, and ability to listen to others. Even in class, if one does not have the ability to listen to other students, then understanding of the lesson may be a real challenge.
Branson also points out that people should respect everybody despite their status at work or even at school. It is respect that will build the best rapport at work or school and make us achieve our objectives. For the bright future of the entrepreneurial culture, we must ensure that we are risk averse. It is the high time to learn from Branson that we have the potential to command the business industry by creating businesses and not getting employed. We need to follow the example of Branson, analyzing his skills at school, at home or even at work in order to achieve our aims in life.