You might know the eccentric, British billionaire for his outlandish stunts rather than his business acumen, but regardless of how or what you know of Sir Richard Branson, one thing’s for sure – he’s a vivacious, dynamic leader who cannot be ignored.
Richard Branson embodies so many of the characteristics I aspire to have as an entrepreneur and leader. In The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership, he outlines the guiding leadership principles that have allowed him to lead not only one of the most profitable, philanthropic, and successful lives, but also one filled with epic adventures and a storied legacy.
Bring new life through innovation
Innovation is the key to survival. Fail to innovate, and your industry, company, or project will wither away. The same principle applies to our physical bodies. If we don’t run, jump, lift, and stretch, our muscles eventually weaken and lose function. Businesses must go through the rigors of continually pushing, growing, learning, innovating, and acclimatizing to ever-changing economic environments. Branson’s company is notorious for reviving tired, old, “traditional” industries, and zapping some much needed excitement and life into them. Branson managed to take traditional aviation, telecommunications, and even banking industries, just to name a few, and turn them on their heads.
Examine your business with a critical eye, and find those weak points that need a kick in the pants with a risky idea. Where are you playing it safe? Are you doing things a particular way because that’s just how it’s always been done?
The subject matter experts are often way too willing to take the obvious path (their expertise, after all, is based on what they have seen and done in the past) and so every once in a while a few jabs in the ribs from an annoying entrepreneur is not a bad thing. – Richard Branson, The Virgin Way
There’s a leader in all of us
I often hear people say things like, “well, I’m not really the ‘leader’ type”, and it always irks me! I truly believe that every single person is capable of being a leader, because the essence of leadership is serving others. Every human being is capable of serving, regardless of their lot in life. Whether you’re leading several employees, or your family, lead in a way that aligns with your values and serves your followers. Of the nearly 400 companies that make up the Virgin Group, nearly all of them place extraordinary customer service as the defining value of their organization. If you can serve others, you can lead.
My favourite stories of innovation are always those about people who have come up with a simple idea and with little or no money made a big success of it – Richard Branson, The Virgin Way
Lead from the periphery
The mark of an effective leader is their ability to develop and inspire budding leaders to run an organization without them. In the beginning of their business, entrepreneurs have to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities. When I started my online magazine, The PODIUM Magazine, I was doing everything from sales, editing, writing, and interviews. But, eventually, I had to delegate some of those tasks to people on my team. Trying to do it all yourself is not only inefficient, it isn’t true leadership. This is a lesson I am still learning, and continually striving to improve upon.
Find great, talented people to work with, entrust them with the responsibilities you’ve delegated, and then back off and lead from the sidelines. Learn when and how to let go of the reigns and foster a sense of leadership and ownership in your team. That is the most effective and empowering way to garner the best efforts from your team.
I usually make a conscious effort to try and stay out of the day-to-day decision-making as it really isn’t my thing. – Richard Branson, The Virgin Way
If you’re looking for a fresh perspective on leadership, definitely pick up The Virgin Way to learn how to ignore the politics of the status quo and lead with an open, creative, and innovative spirit.
Here’s to being jabbing the status quo in its proverbial ribs…