Sir Richard Branson, Chairman, Virgin Group, Ltd.
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Date: February 27, 2013
Being able to effectively lead across cultures takes across- culture communication, cultural adjustments, and cultural synergy. It is important to be aware of cultural differences such as body language, cultural shock, and intecultural workplaces. These things do not come naturally, there is a great need for training and leadership style. Sir Richard Branson has the qualities of a global leader and is able to successfully run his business, Virgin Group Ltd. in over 200 locations nation wide. Branson had to gain knowledge of different leadership styles and have ability to appply the knowledge in order to do so. In this article, we will examine the different approaches to leadership that Branson use. .
Sir Richard Branson, Chairman, Virgin Group, Ltd.
Describe Branson’s leadership style in terms of the leadership model addressed in Chapter 10 and 11 and evaluate the likely effectiveness of that style in the U.S. today. Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of the London-based Virgin Group Ltd has found ways to overcome setbacks by using his leadership skills to build a multi-billion dollar global conglomerate and one of the worlds most recognized brands (Hellriegel & Slocum, 2011).
The Virgin Group ventures into many lines of business such as retail sales, air travel, financial booking, and music. Virgin Group consists of 200 companies in numerous locations with over 50,000 employees. Branson has shaped the culture of this organization based on his leadership skills; he strongly believes in the effectiveness of employee morale. Sir Richard Branson exemplifies Transformational leadership qualities; he uses these qualities to stimulate his employees, because he firmly believes in taking care of his people. He senses that if he motivates his employees, they will do a good job; which leads to customer satisfaction, then to stakeholder rewards.
Branson thinks that his correct perk order is employees’ first, customers next, and stakeholders last; he bases the success of his business off this notion. Transformational leadership involves anticipating future trends, inspiring followers to understand and embrace a new vision of possibilities, developing others to be leaders or better leaders, and building the organization or group into community of challenged and rewarded learners (Hellriegel & Slocum, 2011). Taking risk is something that Branson is not afraid to do, he faces challenges head on; for this reason he exemplifies transformational leadership qualities. For example_ one of his biggest set backs was the MP3 player, Virgin Plus, which was crushed by the Apple iPod; it cost the company a $20 million write-off. Not only was he able to take a risk but he used his failure as a learning experience for future reference. Other ways he illustrate transformational leadership skills include being innovative, building employee morale, and viewing set backs as temporary. Not only does he pride himself on advancing his employees throughout the organization, but he is an active listener and takes part in the everyday functions of the organization. Branson visits his locations to engage in conversations with his employees to generate ideas, feedback, and proposals. As the company continues to grow, upholding standards and values that were set forth at the start of establishing Virgin Group is important to the Branson.
He stated, “You got to treat people as human beings-even more so as the company gets bigger.” (Hellriegel & Slocum, 2011) He strongly feels that the failing point for Virgin Group Ltd. will be the moment he starts to get comfortable with the profit of Virgin Group Ltd., forgetting about the employees that makes it all possible. Branson’s idea of leadership is quite different than most, he views success by looking at the good people around him and listening to their advice. Colleagues view him as Dr. Yes, because it is hard for him to turn down new ideas and proposals. In the U.S. today, the leadership style vary among leaders depending on the situation.
There is no one set way to lead followers, for example_ if an employee is lazy and lack knowledge of a skill, there is a need for supervision. As a result, leadership styles like laissez- faire in not the right approach, but a more transformational leadership style is needed. Therefore in the U.S. today leadership styles vary from that of Branson’s style (Transformational leadership) to that of many others. If Branson insist on continuous growth within the organization, an alternative leadership style that could benefit the organization and Branson would be authentic leadership.
Recommend a different leadership style (or combination of styles) that would make Branson an even more effective leader. Authentic Leadership is a pattern of leader behavior that draws upon and promotes both positive psychological capacities and a positive ethical climate, to foster greater self-awareness, an internalized moral perspective, balanced processing of information, and relational transparency on the part of leaders working with followers, fostering positive self-development (Walumbwa, 2008). Authentic leaders are those individuals that understand their purpose and willingness to succeed, put the needs of others before themselves, actively listens to the viewpoints of followers, and hold true to their values.
Because of this; they are able to guide their followers in the right direction, for the improvement of self and the organization. By gaining authentic leadership qualities, Branson will be able to develop his employees (followers) into better leaders, which will lead to improvements for the organization. Other characteristics of authentic leadership include willingness to admit mistakes, seeking feedback from followers for improvement, and making decisions based on core beliefs. These are a few characteristics that Branson already possess, which shows his ability to easily transition into an authentic leader. Since he is willing to name his mistakes and see them as temporary setbacks, shows that he is able to overcome obstacles and continue to achieve goals that he has set in place. This also demonstrates his ability to learn from experience and previous mishaps. Not only does he admit mistakes, but he addresses his mistakes publicly, for example_ Branson was able to admit that the organization never should have launched the Virgin Plus MP3 player, which was trumped by the Apple iPod. Yet, instead of letting it be a public humiliation, Branson addressed the matter at hand, acknowledging that it was a minor setback and put his best foot forth to establish his next goal and work towards accomplishing it.
Not only does this allow the public to see his determination, but it also shows his followers that it’s okay to fail, as long as there is an action plan set in place to make up for the shortcomings. Authentic leaders show initiative, which is what Branson is able to do; he is willing to take risk whether it results in success or failure. If he happens to fail, it becomes a learning experience not only for him but for his followers as well. Since Virgin Group Ltd is an international company, it is highly important that Branson understands global leadership development. Discussion 3
Determine how Branson would develop and lead a global team working on a major project (e.g., space tourism). In order to develop leaders who can effectively lead global operations, it is important to understand what makes leaders effective across cultures. Culture shapes how we think about what is good leadership, and the definitions of an “effective leader” vary from one culture to another (Global Leaership Development, 2013). Ones definition of an effective leader in one country might very well be the opposite in another. It is extremely important to understand cross culture and how to successfully manage a global team. Leadership competency, assessment and development, and executive coaching are a few things to analyze when trying to develop a global team. Leadership competency consists of being able to achieve results across cultures by motivating global employees to achieve positive business outcomes (Global Leaership Development, 2013). In order to do so effectively, leaders like Branson must understand global markets, customers, and vendors. Understanding these concepts will allow Branson to successfully compete in a global marketplace. Assessment and development is tailored towards making sure that employees are supportive of the organizational values, mission, and strategic goals. In order to successfully manage a global team, Branson must recognize development needs within the organization, making sure that both he and employees understand customer service and the overall goals of the organization from a more global standpoint.
Attaining executive coaching will allow Branson to enhance cross culture awareness and global business skills that will allow his to effectively manage his global team as well as the organization. Branson will need to have experience in both his home country as well as outside of his country in order to successfully manage a global team. Once Branson has accomplished the above techniques then he can tailor his leadership competencies towards setting goals for major projects. Once there is a strategic plan set in place for accomplishing a major project of any kind, Branson can focus on deadlines and being productive. However, Branson will not be able to focus on projects without understanding cross cultural differences, global markets, and customer satisfaction. These things are critical to the success of managing a global team in order to successfully complete projects. There are many leadership qualities that Branson possess that will make a successful manager; these qualities can aid in my self-leadership improvement.
Discuss how you can incorporate some of Branson’s leadership qualities into your role at work or school. I see impeccable qualities in Branson that I possess for myself. For example_ I chose a career in Human Resources because I understand the importance of employee-employer relations and the need to take care of people behind the scenes of the organization. Without investing time and energy into employees, there is no way organizations could successfully function. I have had bad experiences during the course of my career that has allowed me to value customer service; Branson understands the importance of these things, as do I. Not only is Branson “employee friendly” and “customer focused” but he allows his failures to motivate him rather than get his spirit down. There is no easy way to admit failure, but the important thing about failure is being able to look at it from a learning perspective. I must admit that past failures have gotten me down quite a bit, but I channel my energy into being a better person. If I had to incorporate some of Branson’s leadership qualities into my workplace, it would be those listed above.
Currently I have a job in Human Resources so being able to take care of my employees by actively listening to them and considering their suggestions and feedback is an important aspect of my job. Branson also possesses these leadership qualities and uses them to effectively run his business. Branson is also very creative and innovative; this is one skill set that I can take from him and incorporate in my workplace. At my current job, creativity is not essential to the success of our business. Yet, if given the chance to change that, I would start by diversifying the work team. We currently have a great deal of seniority amongst the employees; there are very few Generation Y’s employed with the organization. I am one of the few from the Generation Y group that belongs to the organization. I think it is important to keep the talent within the organization young and refreshing, because the young generation holds the most creativity.
Therefore in order to incorporate innovation in my organization, I would look to recruit recent college graduates. The leadership qualities that Sir Richard Branson possesses are very effective for his organization as well as the U.S. today. He is among many leaders that can effectively lead a group of individuals and manage an organization successfully. Branson leadership style seems to work well for his organization and his employees. He has been able to take care of his employees, as well as remain customer focused. These things are what separate Sir Branson from other leaders. He is not subject to one way of thinking when it comes to the success of his business. Instead he makes sure that he is able to focus on employees, customers, and stakeholders; while putting him last. Not all people possess this potential, only true leaders are able to take care of the people around them and hold true to their own morals and values. Branson is one of those leaders that can do it all, which shows why his organization is able to remain globally efficacious.
Global Leaership Development. (2013). Retrieved from ITAP International: http://www.itapintl.com/whatwedo/global-leadership development/globalleadershipdevelopment.html Hellriegel, D., & Slocum, J. (2011). Organizational Behavior. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. Walumbwa, F. (2008). Authentic Leadership:Development and Validation of a Theory-Based Measure. Journal of Management, 94.