by Diamond Richardson
“You will either go to prison or be a millionaire.” Luckily, Richard Branson took the latter option of this prediction a teacher made about him. Richard Branson is the serial entrepreneur who started Virgin Records back when he was only 20. The Virgin Group is now the parent company of more than 400 businesses.
The explosive growth of The Virgin Group has established Branson as one of the most successful businessmen of our time. What makes him even more impressive is that he is not afraid to share how he got there. He regularly writes advice columns for business publications and shares insightful tidbits of inspiration like “Think: What’s the most amazing way to do it?” to his almost three million followers on Twitter. His Twitter bio reads: “Tie-loathing adventurer and thrill seeker, who believes in turning ideas into reality. Otherwise known as Dr. Yes at @virgin!” It is safe to say that Branson does things his own way. This is especially true when it comes to his leadership style. Here are a few of Branson’s doctrines that we believe can make any manager more effective:
1) He is not afraid to say that not everyone should be a leader. Never one to shy away from the truth, Branson is a firm believer that leading people is not something everyone is cut out for. In his book “Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School,” Branson says a manager is someone who “brings out the best in people.” He says that not everyone can do this and that is “OK.” Find what you are good at and stick with it.
2) He tells the customer they are wrong sometimes. OK, maybe he does not say this to their faces, but he does run his business by this idea. It is important to realize that customers are humans too. Yes, your goal is to please your customer, but Branson cautions managers against “building your customer service system on the premise that your organization will never question the whims of your clients.” Bottom line: Make sure you are not constantly stepping all over your employees or other important stakeholders to provide customer service.
3) He is fully aware that perfection does not exist. Most managers know there is no such thing as perfection. So why do so many give feedback or reviews with no tips for improving? As a manager, if you tell an employee that they did something exactly right, it makes them believe there is no room for improvement. Branson says this is a big mistake. He never gives anyone a review of their work without mentioning places it can be improved, because everything can always be improved.
4) He worries about making his employees feel comfortable. “It takes an engaged, motivated and committed workforce to build a successful, sustainable enterprise,” said Branson in his book. The best way to get these engaged employees? Create a workplace where it is OK for employees to openly express themselves and get rid of the rigidity, ASAP.
5) He just does it. Managers have to plan ahead; it is part of the job. But too much of that can stifle creativity and innovation. Branson does not consider himself to be reckless but he does realize the need to take big risks in order to have a chance at the big rewards. It is required in today’s business world. Like Branson says “The brave may not live forever –but the cautious do not live at all!”
Did we miss anything that you admire about Richard Branson’s leadership style?