Leadership and Richard Branson
Richard Branson is one of the most popular and well known individuals in the world of business today because of what the man has managed to accomplish as a business leader and as a person inside and outside of the corporate world. He is a business leader because of his contribution to the world of business, trade, finance and economics. His successful business ventures impacted the financial world in a significant manner. But Richard Branson and his leadership is more than business because of how Richard Branson re-created a new, different image to the word “leader.” For example, he participates in the success of other endeavors like saving the planet and mankind even if this relegates him to a mere team player, like his role in The Elders (Sorkin, 2008, p. 1). Richard Branson’s face is a common fixture in newspaper articles and magazine features, as well as in books and research journals that tackle issues like leadership and successful business style.
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He has displayed a kind of leadership that can be emulated by other aspiring business leaders. His particular style allowed for many things: number one, of course, is success in his field of endeavor, including his success in the hospitality industry; second, the appreciation of life side by side competing savagely against competitors in the world of business; and third, the ability of Richard Branson to extend his involvement outside and branch out consistently while maintaining the same winning formula that he applies in the businesses that he handles. All of these are hinged significantly in his leadership style. While there is the belief that everyone can be leaders, Richard Branson and his leadership style is proof that every once in a while, there are those who will display a unique style of leadership all his own which is effective and worth the attention of the people especially those who wishes to study the paradigm of successful leadership styles. To be able to do that, one need to investigate Richard Branson and his life for the individual to get a glimpse of how Richard Branson created, molded and handled leadership as how he applied it to his daily life.
II. Richard Branson: Why He is Important?
There are many reasons why Richard Branson is important. First, Richard Branson is important as a businessman; second, Richard Branson is important because of his participation in socio-civic work designed to generate help and assistance to target recipients which is an endeavor completely removed from his usual business of profit and income earning; and lastly, Richard Branson is important because he serves as a modern day icon because of how he mixes the accomplishment of the desires of his personal life side by side his accomplishment as a businessman that he does not abandon one for the other. These three reasons explain why Richard Branson is important. All of these three reasons illustrate the presence of Richard Branson’s leadership qualities that allowed him to accomplish his business goals. These goals directly involves the hospitality industry, as well as his altruistic goals, like helping the planet by dealing with climate change and global warming, protesting inhumane conditions in Africa, and assisting British prisoners who are locked in prison(s) outside of the United Kingdom, among others. Richard Branson is important because his leadership in business and in socio-civic actions resulted in positive outcomes and generate the necessary catalyst that can augur to change for the better. His significance to the society he lives in and to the rest of the world is something that is acknowledge by reputable individuals as well as agencies.
Richard Branson is important because of the effect of the success of his business ventures. From his record labels to his airline company and everything in between, he gave jobs to hundreds of thousands of individuals. The governments where his businesses operate benefit from what resulting effects of the success of Richard Branson’s businesses, like the tax that he pays to the government and the role of the businesses in helping the local and international economic and trade sphere health, competitive and alive. By being the one responsible for the success of brand “Virgin” and the success of different “Virgin” products like airlines and music label, drinks, beverage and refreshment, media and communication and other products and services that he managed to tap into, Richard Branson deserves the credit for being a capable business leader. His success was something the he was able to sustain even if there are numerous times that his businesses faced trouble (which is normal in the unstable and unpredictable world of business). His business ventures and the successes it registered were significant, particularly in the hospitality industry. Many of Richard Branson’s business ventures were involved directly or indirectly to the hospitality industry (i.e. Branson’s different airlines around the world, the creation of Virgin beverages and drinks, etc).
Richard Branson is also important because of his role and participation in socio-civic work. If there is one thing that Richard Branson is known for, it is his image of a successful balancing act in balancing his business ventures and his socio-civic projects. He deals with businessmen about buy-outs and shares and the acquisition of new assets and business entities and properties. He still manages to have time to sit down with Al Gore and discuss climate change, meet with Nelson Mandela and discuss the creation of a new group that can help and influence in tackling global social issues and problems affecting the people around the world. He even goes on a three day fasting to show his support by protesting through a hunger strike (Herman, 2008, p. 47). He may be a far cry from the typical businessman, but he gets the job done inside and outside his office, or at least, he gets them started anyway.
Lastly, Richard Branson is important because he serves as a modern day icon and an inspiration to several people. Richard Branson is a reminder to the rest of the world that successful leadership inside a realm as competitive and highly charged as business and trade need not transform an individual into something that is very much tied inside the office; the typical archetype of the persona of the top executive who spends long days inside the office, who is never without the coat and tie and leather shoes outfit, who is always stressed and absorbed in business management and negotiations and as someone who barely has time for something else. He illustrates that one can be a successful leader even without these stereotypical features commonly attributed to the successful business leader and working man; that on the contrary, a successful leader reflects more success if he or she can achieve a sense of balance in life – work and play, earning money, giving it away to charitable institutions and endeavors and basically, living a life inside the office and outside of it. Doing all of this and being all of these things without failing as a leader in every sense of the word, denotes that a successful leader can be an adventurer also at the same time like himself (Ford, Thompson, Shaywitz, 2007, p. 228).
III. Review of Literature
Richard Branson’s name and face has been immortalized by the media. Television, radio, the internet and the print media has all featured Richard Branson, especially during the time when he and his business ventures started to rise and when he started to make a name for himself and his companies. Countless television interviews, as well as appearances in shows in television, film and several different articles found in the Internet, helped popularized his name and made Richard Branson-related information more accessible and available to more and more people. This made Richard Branson’s life nearly an open book story. Throughout this research paper, notes and features of the different aspects of Richard Branson’s life will be supported by credible related literature, particularly information lifted from credible information sources in the print world like world-renowned and highly respected media entities like Forbes Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, as well as TIME Magazine. Besides referring to feature articles about Richard Branson found in credible magazines, the research paper also considered the input of several different reliable books that helped in describing Richard Branson and contributed necessary information and input so that the research paper can effectively see the important aspects and details of the life of Richard Branson pertinent to the discussions found in the paper, especially those which discusses and describes Richard Branson and his life as a leader and businessman. Several different research articles which were published from credible journals were also reviewed, used and referenced in the different parts of this research paper. This is to add credence and to make the paper possess useful and validated information that can help in profiling Richard Branson and discussing and analysing some of the important aspects of his life particularly his business style and leadership approach. It is something that can be very conveniently done largely because of the fact that Richard Branson is a very popular individual and has earned the status of a celebrity because of what he has done and what he has accomplished.
There are two different important aspects of Richard Branson that is crucial to the research paper: the assessment of Richard Branson’s leadership style and Richard Branson’s behavior. These two aspects contributed significantly towards how the businesses, which he ventured into, succeeded. These two aspects are important so that the research paper can ascertain Richard Branson’s model and paradigm in leadership so that other people can benefit from the information that this paper can provide about this particular topic.
a. Leadership style
A careful analysis of Richard Branson would result to the conclusion that while he may have shared certain similar traits with other leaders, it is without doubt that the leadership style of Richard Branson is also a style uniquely his own. His technique is flavored with different approaches that were heavily influenced by the other aspects of Richard Branson’s life (i.e. his passion for adventure, his penchant for creating and overcoming challenges he sets for himself, etc). More importantly, “Richard Branson is successful because he continuously checks his passion with reason (Segil, Goldsmith, Belasco, 2003, p. 211).” As a leader, critics and analysts see him as someone whose strength in leadership lies in having a vision that is powered by positive attitude that allows him to see more than the negative side of things, but rather, the promise of a positive outcome for the current situation. Part of the positive attitude is the sense of responsibility that Richard Branson understands goes with leadership; and he is as much aware of his responsibility. An example of this is the global warming, because he knows his role in the business of things that contribute significantly to it. As a leader he is not running away from it, but rather trying to do something about the problem with the hope of not just solving it but also being able to earn something from it. It is an idea that only a genuine business man with acutely sharp business acumen would know and realize (Hawn, 2006, p. 8). This is always complimented by another important feature of his leadership that is also found in other select leaders, often very seldom – and that is charisma. It is something that Richard Branson has used to the fullest and something that has characterized his leadership style (McCarthy and Hatcher, 2005, p. 45).
He was a leader because he was not afraid to try something new, no matter how much it hurts or no matter how grim the odds are stacked against him. He believes he can be successful; and he was a successful leader because side by side this characteristic is his being a visionary. This was the main theme of his leadership move in the case of the Virgin Records and the Virgin airlines. At the time his record label was enjoying popularity and supreme profitability, Richard Branson made a move to start his airline company. He managed to get the start he needed, but not before he was brought to tears. He had to sell his record label because the airline company needs the money to stay afloat. But when it did, the timing was perfect because the music industry became less and less profitable than how it used to be and his venture towards creating an airline company has proven success. (Levy, 2008, p. A9). This illustrated an important aspect of his leadership style – to be unafraid, to be able to make risks, to be able to grow up and move on and diversify, and to be able to do all this and still lead effectively.
As a mogul whose is also an important player in the hospitality industry, Richard Branson is showing how leadership is important in this respect; effective leadership results to effective teamwork (Hadji, Cocks, Mueller, 2007, p.7) team players who do their best to make the best products and services which in turn is patronized by the consumers. In today’s era of hospitality industry, Richard Branson is cognizant of the consumers’ attitude in buying. As a leader, he manages his resources well (particularly his human resources) so that the products and services he sells to the public is appreciated and patronized by the buying public. This is the reason why his airlines have been a consistently strong player in its particular industry because of the customer service that the consumer appreciates.
Perhaps Richard Branson’s reality television show The Rebel Billionaire best illustrates in words the “outrageous” (Dearlove, 2007, p. 6) behavior of Richard Branson. For many, his behaviour, being an important leader in a serious industry in the society, is something that is not considered as common to his contemporaries and fellow leaders. His behavior has always made Richard Branson something of a maverick, a renegade, a deviant of sorts, or for short a rebel; a rebel to the norms business leaders are always expected to conform to; a rebel to the leadership styles among his peers and contemporaries because of the fact that his behavior allows him to challenge the norms and yet manage to be successful still. He was a rebel because he was a CEO who is as popular with his successes and growing empire as he is popular with what analysts and critics describe as “antics” (Levy, 2008, p. A9). This was in fact the reason why a research done by Cornell University School of Hotel Administration named Richard Branson as one of the individuals who are important today in the hospitality industry (Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International, 2000, p. 3).
The assessment of both his behaviour, as well as his leaders styles that he used to lead his businesses forward, allows the observer a glimpse of how he sees and exercises leadership. His actions, which result from his innate characteristic, reflect the ideals that he believes in, particularly, those ideals involving and affecting business and leadership (Nelson, Quick, 2007, p. 274). In analysing Richard Branson’s behavior, one can notice many eccentricities; the truth is that “these eccentricities extend to other parts of his life (Nelson, Quick, 2007, p. 274).”
V. Richard Branson and the Hospitality Industry
Richard Branson’s venturing towards many different businesses allowed him to be a part (directly or indirectly) of the hospitality industry. Through the different products and services provided by the Virgin trademark, he became an important name in the hospitality industry.
In travel, Richard Branson’s Virgin is involved in several different companies that provide travel capabilities through air flight which was the focus of Richard Branson’s attention for most part. “The airline business was the only segment of Virgin’s diversified organization directly managed by Richard Branson (Grant, Neupert, 2003, p. 297).” This includes the very popular Virgin Atlantic Airways based in the United Kingdom, his home country. But there are also “Virgin” commercial air carriers found in other countries. For example, there is AirAsia X, a company focused on airline operations stationed in Malaysia which is partly owned (at twenty per cent) by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. In the United States, his aircrafts fly under the name Virgin America. There is also the Virgin Blue and V Australia, another two airline Virgin brands which are based in Australia; while the Nigeria-based airline under the same brand is named Virgin Nigeria (Grant, Neupert, 2003, p. 297).
Those who do not wish to travel by conventional airline can either opt for the Virgin Balloon flights or the Virgin Galactic: the first one, an aerial voyage using hot air balloon, while the other one refers to an air flight using a spacecraft-designed vehicle. Richard Branson’s Virgin brand also features travel options, including bike rides (Virgin Limobike), as well as high end limousines for rent via the Virgin Limousines. The Virgin brand of Richard Branson is also found even in train systems, since the creation of Richard Branson of the Virgin Trains that operated in the UK. Those who want to rent a high end, fully furnished catamaran may rent the Lady B, which is ideal for Caribbean charters (Grant, Neupert, 2003, p. 297).
Tourism is an important part of the hospitality industry. Richard Branson and his Virgin brand have been extensively involved because of the many tourism-related business entities that Virgin started and owned in part or in whole. Examples of which include Richard Brandon’s Virgin trademarks on entities operating as agencies, arranging for holiday getaways for individuals, couples or groups who want to enjoy a relaxing vacation in other exotic places found around the world. These companies include Blue Holidays, Virgin Holidays, Travel City Direct (including cruises), Virgin Holidays Cruises and Virgin Vacations (serving the United States clientele). Besides offering services that handle booking, reservation and the other details involved in vacationing in other places considered as prime tourist spots, he has also established business and business ties to several different hospitality establishments (Grant, Neupert, 2003, p. 297).
For example, there is the health club named Virgin Active which operates in different parts of Europe, as well as in Australia and South Africa, while there is private spa operating in the United States named Natirar; for hotels, there is Virgin Limited Edition. Other important tourism and hospitality-related structures supporting the business of Richard Branson include the popular ski lodge named The Lodge; Ulusaba, a game reserve in South Africa for clients whose hobby include game hunting; and even a private island for rent to those who are capable of paying this pricey Necker Island getaway. Those who do not want to go out of the country can enjoy a day off via Virgin Games for recreation; while others may hire the Virgin Experience Days for events. Those who want to have a good time while in London can go to the Roof Gardens and Babylon.
Besides these things, there are a host of other businesses that Richard Branson is involved in – businesses that act as support systems to his hospitality industry-related businesses. For example, his radio, television and cable and communication businesses can be conveniently integrated to his other business, especially those which can be compatible with one another and can complement the existence and operation of one another.
The creation and operation of these businesses prove the significance of Richard Branson because his businesses mostly were involved in the hospitality industry. The vast amount of different businesses that Richard Branson has had, and considering that they were not created at the same time, means that these companies do not share similar success stories and similar profitability during their lifetime, existence and during the time they were fully under the control of Richard Branson. Like any other businesses, sooner or later it would fold or become something new. But what these businesses say about him is the vision of the man, his acumen for business, his faith in his ability to success and how he, in whatever capacity for leadership delegated to him in all of these different business endeavors, managed to handle his leadership responsibility well enough that critics cannot consider him as a failure when it comes to leadership of these different companies under the name Virgin.
Richard Branson indeed defines leadership. Based on his actions, leadership is more than just being an effective business leader, but being an effective leader that handles the problems of the business and the problems resulting from the operation of the business, like global warming, traits why he is considered a leader – because he is a gifted business as well (Coxe, 2005, p15). He redefined leadership as not merely being centered on self goals, but by using the accomplishment of self goals to be inspired to give back to the world by spearheading programs that can make the world a better place to live in. This is the type of leadership that Richard Branson shows to the people. It is something that made him the United Nations choice as Citizen of the Year in 2007 (Levy, 2008, p. A9). What Richard Branson accomplished in the past and what he is set to accomplish today and in the future all contributes to his growing significance and importance as a business leader among other things. This success is something that Richard Branson gets to enjoy largely because of his leadership styles as well as his behavior and outlook in life in general.
Testament to what he did and the impression (good or bad) that he made to other people is the overflowing literature talking about him, his business, his styles, his aims and goals, his thoughts and everything else in between. It is not surprising, therefore, that Richard Branson remains as a potent force in the hospitality industry because: (1) the different compatible businesses under his leadership can work together to be more productive and profitable while at the same time; (2) Richard Branson still moves about possessing the acumen and skills that has allowed him to rise to the top of the industry. Anywhere one goes, it is hard to imagine not to see Richard Branson’s trademark Virgin in any aspects or part of the hospitality industry because it would seem that he has explored every nook and cranny of this aspect in global trade and tried his hand where and when he can, even if there are risks involved to which Richard Branson was never afraid of. Richard Branson, considered as an excellent example of a CEO supporting innovation (Wood, Brotherton, 2008, p 216), no doubt, is a leader – in the hospitality industry as much as he is a leader for humanity.
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