Richard Branson is a British entrepreneur, businessman, investor, author, and founder of the Virgin Group, a business conglomerate that comprises more than 400 companies in various economic sectors (Prentice, 2013). Examples of companies under the Virgin Group include Virgin Money, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Galactic, Virgin Cola, and Virgin Trains among others (Dearlove, 2007). He has been described as one of the top business leaders of the 21st century because of his business acumen and aggressiveness. He had an early start in business while in high school at the age of 16 when he founded a magazine referred to as Student (Branson, 2014). Since then, he has gone on to found hundreds of companies under the Virgin brand name.
His leadership style has been cited as the main contributing factor towards the success he has achieved in business. His business acumen and excellent leadership has enabled him to invest in various businesses and industries, and achieve great success. He adopts a democratic style of leadership that is characterized by charisma, vision, freedom for employees, teamwork, open-mindedness, perseverance, and innovation (Dearlove, 2007). Leaders in various industries can learn from him and transform their companies by adopting some of the best practices he uses such as employee development and the creation of an organizational culture that focuses on the welfare of employees.
Branson’s overall leadership style
As mentioned earlier, Branson exhibits two main leadership styles namely democratic and laissez-faire leadership styles. The main elements that define his leadership include vision, open-mindedness, risk-taking, creativity and innovation, perseverance, and flexibility (Prentice, 2013). Since the founding of the Virgin brand, Branson has worked toward creating companies that align with certain values and principles. His vision for the Virgin Group is to create companies that provide great value to customers, conserve the environment, and create a brand that people can relate to (Dearlove, 2007).
His risk-taking disposition is evident from his decision to venture into different industries and create successful businesses that provide great value to customers. Moreover, the decision to explore space tourism is a bold move that involves great risks. Another aspect of his leadership is perseverance. He has encountered many challenges and difficulties in his business life. However, he never allowed them to slow him down or alter his dreams. His business failures have not served as deterrents but as motivating factors toward greater business success. His charisma ensures that he unites Virgin Group employees under one brand and vision (Prentice, 2013).
He has excellent communication skills that enhance communication of company vision and mission to staff members. On the other hand, he can motivate his employees by developing them through training programs, proper remuneration, creation of an effective organizational culture, and delegation of responsibilities (Branson, 2014). Branson’s charisma, vision, and excellent communication skills are responsible for his ability to unite employees in his more than 400 companies under one vision.
Organizational structure and culture of Virgin Group
Virgin Group comprises more than 400 companies that have distinct management and leadership groups. However, Branson is their founder and chairman. The company’s organizational structure comprises both brand franchising and the Japanese keiretsu system. With regard to brand franchising, Virgin allows other business entities to use its brand name due to its strong reputation and popularity among customers (Dearlove, 2007). On the other hand, all companies are interconnected to enhance performance and output. Each company owns a certain portion of the other companies, therefore, making them interconnected. This interconnection streamlines their business operations and processes.
Virgin’s ownership of equity in these companies allows him to exert managerial control over them. The operational structure of the company is people-oriented and employees of each business work toward the success of their organization. Even though the companies are incorporated in the Virgin brand, each is self-sufficient and operates independently (Branson, 2014). The management of each company is responsible for overseeing all its activities and reporting to the senior management of the Virgin Group. A thorough analysis of the company reveals that the organizational structure is centralized because the management teams of the constituent companies report to the senior management team of the Virgin Group (Prentice, 2013).
The organizational culture of Virgin Group is based on employee development and the creation of great value to customers. Its characteristics include individualism, low power distance, long-term orientation, and uncertainty avoidance (Dearlove, 2007). The company values its employees and creates a work environment that gives them the freedom to make critical organizational decisions, express themselves, and pursue careers in their areas of interest. Branson ensures that his employees are safe, respected, and empowered to achieve both personal and organizational goals. Branson allows employees to be themselves and incorporate their ideas into the company’s operations (Mills, Bratton, & Forshaw, 2006).
This is enhanced by a low power distance between him and employees. Employees are free to talk to him about matters that affect the operations of their company. The adoption of innovation aims to eradicate the uncertainty that is associated with the modern business environment. A high level of certainty increases employees’ confidence and trust in the company’s stability and future prosperity (DuBrin, 2012). Branson retains employees by treating them well and offering opportunities for personal and professional development. He believes that to serve customers and satisfy them, it is important to treat employees well. Employees are the number one priority for Virgin Group (Branson, 2014). The success of companies under the Virgin brand umbrella is proof that Branson’s leadership is effective in promoting employee productivity and the company’s shared vision. Virgin Group’s employees exhibit high productivity because of high job satisfaction and motivation (Prentice, 2013).
Job satisfaction originates from the freedom they have to make critical decisions and express themselves freely without interference from senior management (DuBrin, 2012). On the other hand, motivation comes from Branson’s exemplary leadership, remuneration that is commensurate with their jobs, employee training and development, and a culture that targets employee wellbeing. In 2014, Branson announced a new plan to enhance employee creativity, productivity, and morale. He announced that employees would be allowed to take unlimited holidays and vacations each year. He argued that eliminating the company’s policy that only allowed a limited number of holiday breaks per year would improve employee productivity and benefit the business tremendously.
Effectiveness of Branson’s leadership performance
Branson is an ethical leader who possesses excellent communication skills. He can communicate Virgin Group’s missions to companies under the Virgin brand umbrella, motivate employees, and lead employees toward the attainment of the company’s goals and objectives. His skills enable him to communicate with his employees about the possibilities and opportunities they can explore. Branson takes most of his time communicating his decisions and vision for the company to employees and other stakeholders (Branson, 2014). His skills also enable him to coach his employees and align their goals with those of the company.
His communication is characterized by stories, creativity, truth, proactivity, and honesty. His ethical conduct is motivated by his past experiences with the law for tax evasion and bribery during his early days in business. Branson follows personal values that promote truth, honesty, and taking responsibility for one’s actions (Branson, 2014). He is successful in motivating his employees and gaining customer loyalty as evident from the success of the Virgin Group. The rate of employee turnover is low and his companies have been voted as some of the best in the industries in which they operate.
Best practices to motivate employees and transform companies
Leaders can implement several best practices to motivate employees and transform their companies. These practices include the creation of an organizational culture that focuses on employees, promotion of autonomy and individuality, and appropriate remuneration. The success of the Virgin Group has been primarily due to its organizational culture that values employees and puts their wellbeing first before the needs of customers and stakeholders (DuBrin, 2012). Branson has repeatedly said that employees are more important than customers and shareholders. Prioritizing the needs and wellbeing of employees boosts their morale, creativity, and productivity because they feel valued by their company (Sosik & Jung, 2012).
Employee involvement in decision-making is critical. It is beneficial for leaders to give employees the freedom to make critical organizational decisions and express themselves freely (Mills et al., 2006). Branson allows his employees to make critical decisions, express their creativity, and communicate freely with him. Promoting employee autonomy and individualism leads to increased productivity because of employees’ realization that their work is important in the organization’s success (Sosik & Jung, 2012). In addition, they feel more responsible for the company’s brand. Proper remuneration is an important strategy that leaders can use to motivate their employees (DuBrin, 2012). Employees should be paid based on output, commitment, and contribution. Proper remuneration boosts employee morale, commitment, and responsibility (DuBrin, 2012).
Workers take more responsibility and challenges because of their increased dedication and commitment to the organization’s success. The adoption and implementation of the aforementioned best practices can benefit companies tremendously because they are critical to the enhancement of creativity, performance, productivity, and commitment in the workplace (Sosik & Jung, 2012). They make employees feel valued and respected by their organizations. In addition, they are showing the commitment of their companies to help them develop both personally and professionally.
Richard Branson is one of the best business leaders in the 21st Century, and the chairman of the Virgin Group, a multinational organization that owns equity in hundreds of companies that provide services in different industries. His leadership style has been cited as the main contributing factor to his immense success in business. Virgin is famous for its organizational culture that puts employees first before customers and shareholders. Branson believes that satisfied employees lead to satisfied customers and stakeholders. His leadership style is characterized by vision, perseverance, risk-taking, delegation, creativity, charisma, and open-mindedness. His ethical leadership and effective communication play an important role in motivating employees and enhancing their productivity. Leaders can learn from him by adopting three of the main best practices that he uses to motivate employees and transform their companies. These practices include the creation of an organizational culture that focuses on employees, appropriate employee remuneration, and the promotion of employee autonomy as well as individualism.
Branson, R. (2014). The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership. New York: Penguin Publishing Group.
Dearlove, D. (2007). Business the Richard Branson Way: 10 Secrets of the World’s Greatest Brand. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
DuBrin, A. (2012). Leadership: Research Findings, practice, and Skills. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.
Mills, J., Bratton, J., & Forshaw, C. (2006). Organizational Behavior in a Global Context. London: University of Toronto.
Prentice, A. E. (2013). Leadership for the 21st Century. New York, NY: ABC-CLIO.
Sosik, J., & Jung, D. (2012). Full Range Leadership. New York: Taylor & Francis.