Leadership at virgin group
Leadership at virgin group
Leadership is about leading a given group of people or organization to go somewhere and to accomplish some set objective while a leader can be defined as anyone who has authority to make decisions and has power to implement those decisions The debate has been raging for decades about whether a leader is born or made and there’s sufficient ground to believe and agree with either side of this argument but there is a common ground; All people who occupy positions of leadership must possess a given set of qualities and attributes such as sociability, persistence, verbal prowess, adaptability and ability to get things done (Stogdill, 1948).
Few people excite the business world as much as Sir Richard Branson. He has become a symbol and brand of how business needs to be managed. Richard Branson has built a billion dollar company that ranges from airline, music, pension plans and mobile phones (Dearlove, 2007).Fewer people will disagree that Sir Branson is a successful business man infact alongside his brand Virgin, he has become one of the most recognizable symbols in the world like mickey mouse. But what Sir Richard Branson is known for mainly is his transformational leadership style. Words such non-conformist, risk-taker, adventurer, trailblazer have been used to describe him (Dearlove, 2007)
Sir Richard Branson has often been described as inspirational and his way of doing things as eccentric but what is intriguing is that his style has always changed and revolutionized whatever industry and market he enters be it airlines, mobile phones, music or health clubs. His approach is not so much to confirm to market formula or way of working but to identify the market demands and come up with a way of meeting that demand and satisfy the customers (Dearlove, 2007).Sir Richard Branson understands that one man however clever he might be cannot be able to do this on his own that is why he has set very lofty goals and empowered his employees to meet them.
One of the standard attribute about his leadership style is his ability to use the situational theory (Dublin et al., 2006).This where there is no established procedure of how things should be done. Everything is analyzed on case by case basis according the prevailing situation and context. Branson has a unique ability to use every situation to turn it around to his advantage. For instance, due to stiff competition from Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Virgin Cola his American beverages company had to change strategy and location to remain viable and competitive. The company’s focus changed to energy drinks and fruit-like beverages (Dearlove, 2007).the advantage of having no established way of doing things is that it creates room for innovation and creativity. Everyone involved with the company gets the feeling that their views will be heard and this give employees lots of motivation. Sir Richard Branson is one who is known to treat his employees with dignity and respect.
He values their ideas and gives them a chance to give feedback on various developments at his billion dollar company. He has this tendency of inviting even junior employees of his company to house parties (Dearlove, 2007).The benefits of this is that employees develop a fondness and commitment not just to their work but also for their boss and they are likely to work even harder to meet the company’s objectives and goals.t also helps the company to quickly make decisions and this is an asset in a very competitive business world.
Due to ambiguity and uncertainty that so often characterizes the business world there is need for loyal and unequivocal trust by the employees in the leadership of a company to get them through the tough times and ensure a quick return to normalcy. Such turbulent times require increased commitment and dedication to company’s goals (Kotter, 1995). Virgin went through such a turbulent period during the financial crisis of 2008 when the company’s revenue from its various subsidiaries were greatly affected. But Sir Branson’s transformational and charismatic leadership style played a great role in pulling the company from the brink. A transformational leader is one who motivates employee through communication to work effectively and efficiently to meet organizational goals. A transformational leader is also flexible and can easily accept and adopt change (Bass, 1985).The virgin brand has over 200 companies in various parts of the world and he bought and set up this companies at the back of his mind Sir Branson has always been aware that different culture and setting may also require a new way of doing things.
As Bass (1985) puts it transformational leadership is suited to reflect values and norms of an organization and this is apparent at Virgin. The personal values and goals of Branson are at the core of almost all activities and operations of the company. According to Yukl (1988) transformational leadership has a way of winning the commitment and dedication of the company making them to identify with the company and the style of leadership. It is the best suited style of leadership to a company such as Virgin because it is a company that is focused on growth and change. Trust and faith is a key part of the transformational leadership where employees can lower their heads and be sure that the leadership is doing a great job in leading them in the right direction. It generates a high level of motivation among employee to turn from focusing on personal and selfish needs and demands too those that are collective and can help a company to achieve its goals.
Idealized influence is something that Sir Richard Branson seems to so much excel at in his leadership .It can be looked at as authority or legitimacy that has been gained by a leader because of his transparent and genuine leadership (Kelloway &Barling, 2007).This is by being a role mode to employees of Virgin group by not only talk but doing and living out the ideals and values of Virgin such as creativity, innovativeness and anti-establishment. He is consistent and predictable in his style of leadership and this has created a feeling of authenticity and trust among his employees and subordinates. Idealized influence has various outcome that such as enhanced commitment and goal orientation on the part of employees even during great times of ambiguity and uncertainty (Bass, 1990).
Sir Richard Branson leadership style is suitable for a multi-faceted organization such a Virgin group with multiple companies. His inspirational leadership style is pushes and motivates his employees to give their very best (Dearlove, 2007).Branson sets goals high enough and expects his employees to work towards achieving them and this may sound over-ambitious to some people but dong the impossible is one of the ethos of Virgin group. The results have been amazing because the profit levels of Virgin have always been above the industry standard. For a large company such as this operating in over 3o countries it is impossible to keep on every employee but with proper motivation you can get everyone to do their very best to meet the organizational objectives.
There is also a very thin line at Virgin between work and play. Virgin isn’t a typical western company where employees are supposed to be suited to give an impression of great work going. Branson aims at getting very talented employees and gives them a chance to have fun as they work and often it gets him amazing results. There is a lot of informality at Virgin that to most employees Sir Branson is simply called ‘Richard’ (Dearlove, 2007).
He doesn’t coerce or dictate to his employees what they need to do but rather he has set an environment where people are challenged to give their best. For instance when a company under virgin group grows and expands to a given level he promotes the assistant manager to take full charge of that company. This strategy has been critical in ensuring continuity and commitment in his many companies because employees will work hard in the hope that they will be promoted and given the reins of that company. For a conglomerate such as virgin group branding is a key and that what Sir Richard has put his emphasis on and now it is one of the most recognizable brands in the world (Dearlove, 2007). What is interesting is that Virgin isn’t known because of one particular product or service but all their companies under their umbrella are known for qualities such as adventure, value for money and fun. It would be very hard and costly to uniquely brand every product and their umbrella and this type, reputational branding works best and cuts across the board.
One of the ways that Sir Richard Branson motivates his employees is by hiring and promoting from within for new vacancies that emerge in the company (Dearlove, 2007). When a new company has grown and expanded to the point of being semi-autonomous Branson pulls aside the assistant manager and gives him the full reins of that company. Hiring from outside is good because it can inject new blood and fresh ideas in a company but trouble is that it tends to deflate the employees who may feel that their handwork hasn’t been appreciated.
Sir Richard Branson also aims to motivate his employees by empowering them to give their ideas and to make some decisions. Sir Branson believes that employees are not just hired hands to draw a salary and to be told what to do but they are also entrepreneurs in their own right (Dearlove,2007) He often takes a back seat to let his employees run the show without his meddling. Of course, Richard Branson is still the figurehead of the Virgin group capable of grabbing attention but he has in place a very motivated and competent workforce that knows what needs to be done. The way Branson way of treating his employees and customers with respect and wanting to know their feedback ensure that his billion dollar group has very motivated employees and many other potential employees who would jump at any chance to work with Virgin group. I am sure that this way of motivating employees would work in any organization because people (employees) want to feel appreciated and their input taken into account (Bass, 1985).
Sir Richard Branson is pretty effective at communicating the vision of company to both employees and other stakeholders. This he does by his daredevil stunts and generating positive publicity through free media (Dearlove, 2007) it is important to note that Virgin group espouses a way of doing things that may not be conventional and popular but one that works and can meet the market and customers’ demands and that is the message that Richard Branson has labored to put across. For instance, instead of hiring expensive PR firms Richard Branson generates news that cover column inches for free and generate free publicity as a result .A case in point is during the launch of Virgin airline he appeared at a press conference dressed in a brown leather aviator helmet, that was splashed all over the newspapers(Dearlove,2007).
Besides, Richard Branson as the global face of Virgin, is one who is willing to go an extra mile and do the unthinkable just to show how serious Virgin is about doing business differently even though it might seem eccentric. For instance, he attempted to go around the globe in a hot-air balloon though it went horribly wrong but the message was clear that he is willing to put his own life on the line for the sake of Virgin group (Dearlove,2007). I think that communicates the vision of the company pretty clear that any word can that Virgin is committed to doing business differently. To being innovative and leading the pack.
Given a chance to work within Virgin group as a manager the criteria I would use to measure if Sir Richard Branson’s leadership is fit for me is one I would want to know if his other employees feel appreciated and well taken care of by the management? Another consideration will be does he lead by example or his style is more talk and less action but from the examples we have looked at early on it is clear that Sir Richard Branson ticks all boxes and it will be a great pleasure of mine to work with Virgin group.
Without an iota of doubt Sir Richard Branson is a global leader in every meaning of the word. Few can boast of doing so much to tackle some global causes such as social an environmental concerns like Richard Branson. In the year 2004 he formed Virgin Unite foundation where members of his conglomerate are expected to voluntarily sign up and join in supporting sustainable development and promoting entrepreneurial projects. Sir Richard Branson is equally concerned by some of the greatest challenges facing our world at the moment such as global warming. His foundation recently developed a plan to promote carbon extraction from the atmosphere. Through the virgin earth challenge a $ 25 million prize has been set up for anyone who develops a technology that can permanently extract carbon from the atmosphere. I believe that demonstrates that Sir Richard Branson is a global leader who is concerned about global causes of our times.
Sir Richard Branson’s leadership is likely to do is even better in the next five years because he is focused on empowering his employees and getting them to take up more responsibility. This is can only mean a more motivated and committed workforce that can translate in improved results and higher productivity. Due to his delegation and empowerment of employees Virgin group may not experience that have plagued many companies such as succession because there are more people who understand the vision of the group and can run with it (Dearlove,2007).
In conclusion, I believe that Sir Richard Branson’s style is the best way of leading any given business and any leader that wants to see improved productivity should emulate. In a world that is quickly changing and uncertain and plagued with ambiguity.
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