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Successful Leadership - Sir Richard Branson

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Introduction

 

This paper will be focusing on leadership. The focus will be on what leadership qualities one should have to be successful. This will look closely at Sir Richard Branson and what qualities that have made him successful. These include; visionary evangelist, team and consensus builder, manager of execution, self-awareness, self-knowledge, confidence, determination and persistence, role model/Inspiration, communication.

 

 

Leadership is the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of a team. There are a number of leadership types but the main three are; Autocratic, who is a leader who dominates a team that they lead and are the sole decision makers. They do things their way and do not like input by others. Dictators are an example of this. Next are the democratic leaders who make their decisions not solely on their own but through consulting other team mates. Leaders in democratic countries are an example of this. Finally is the laissez-faire who exercises little control over the group. He or she basically tells them what he expects and leaves them to do what it is that they have and want to do.

 

Sir Richard Branson.

 

He was born in Shamley Green, Sulley in England in 1950. He is the CEO and founder of the Virgin Group which comprises of companies such as Virgin Blue, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin finances, Virgin brides, Virgin cars, Virgin trains and many more. He was listed at number 85 in the ‘list of 100 greatest Britons’ in 2002, but at the same time in 2003 was enlisted as number 86 in the ‘list of worst Britons’ by the BBC. He is a controversial figure for example he openly said he would sell cannabis in his stores if it were legal. Despite all this, he has become one of the most popular and successful entrepreneurs and was knighted by the queen in 1999 for his entrepreneurship skills.

 

Visionary Evangelist

 

A key element for a leader to expose is to be a visionary evangelist. As a visionary evangelist the leader is able to communicate regularly with the community on behalf of the organization (HiTec Holdings, 2006), therefore acting as a figure head and demonstrating the confidence in the organisations potential for success. The leader must also collaborate with members or staff to articulate a vision and get them on board in support for future prospects. A leader would do this by creating, selling, driving and taking charge in areas on strategies that has been set up by him or her (HiTec Holdings, 2006). Branson believes there are industries that can be ‘Virginized’ and also Branson’s challenge is to extend the Virgin name while maintaining its high standards (Carnoy D, 1998), this example demonstrates that Branson has a vision of captivating new and challenging future prospects and wants the Virgin name to continue. Culture is a major concern in the visionary aspect. Weather it is a global company or a national company, the leader to maintain a culture which fosters and encourages all employees to be responsive, creative and to harmonize the corporation. External culture meaning cultures of different countries and regions need to be considered also when a leader’s vision is too implemented for simple reason of success.

 

Team and Consensus Builder

 

As a leader another key aspect is be able to develop teamwork, commitment and employee motivation. A team and consensus builder is created by involving, empowering and creating a positive workplace environment for employees (HiTec Holdings, 2006). Branson has gone to great lengths to create a fun working atmosphere that people would enjoy being a part of rather than simply a place to earn a pay check (Morgan K, 2002). As a team leader they must be able to create a team or more importantly an organizational culture that will suit all employees and deliver little conflict or issues. For a leader to establish harmony within teams they must develop a sense of loyalty to their employees by building relationships and showing interests in their needs such as growth and career developments, the leader must also be open to ideas out forward by his or her employees and willing to share his or her power (HiTec Holdings, 2006). A monthly letter to Branson’s employees in which he provides much of the details of Virgin's future plans, along with his home address and telephone number for any ideas, suggestions or problems that might arise (Morgan K, 2002) is prime example for developing relationships and harmony within the Virgin Group.

 

Manager of Execution

 

Execution is a major role of leaders in forefront of contemporary and international organizations. Leaders must have structured and disciplined short term obligations and be skilled in reaching the goals ahead. A great example of this is with Virgin Direct, Branson's plan was equally simple; he'd charge far lower commissions than other investment funds did, which everybody laughed at first, because what relevancy did Virgin have in the financial market? In 1997, Virgin Direct took in $650 million (Carnoy D, 1998). Basically the leader must be sound in setting priorities and meeting the commitments to high degree not just letting situations continue on for days or get out of hand. A good way of avoiding these implications is to set up systems and process both within and external to the organization (HiTec Holdings, 2006). As a manger of execution, monitoring results to learn from and to exceed or excel the next time round is major quality that must be recognized but most of all is a leader must get results (HiTec Holdings, 2006).

 

Self-awareness

 

Human beings are very complex and diverse (Williams). It is important for great leaders to develop an understanding of ourselves and what we are able to cope with. Being self-aware involves these key areas:

Personality – an understanding of your personality can help the leader find situations in which they can thrive (Williams). Finding comfortable situations can effectively minimize stress.

Needs – includes the need for esteem, achievement, power and control (Williams). Understanding needs can help a leader with relationships and cause motivation, but if they are not satisfied, they can cause frustration and stress.

Emotions – emotional self-awareness is understanding how feeling and emotions impact on your thoughts and actions (Williams).

Image – a strong self image can help the leader be confident and also be seen as trustworthy, creditable and capable. For example, Sir Richard Branson is able to use his physical appearance - casual dress, long hair, and a beard - and his personality to convey the informality and nonconformity that has become a central part of his leadership and the Virgin brand.

 

Having self-awareness can assist leaders in improving in a number of areas including skill development, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, developing intuitive decision making skills, stress management and motivation.

 

Self-knowledge

 

Your self is everything you know and think and feel about yourself, it is the centre of you being and it is therefore your picture of yourself (Niehaus, 2002). It also includes your experiences and knowledge, what you have leant from day one. It is often referred to as your self-concept. The most important thing about your self-concept is whether you like it or not. This can lead to success or failure. Your self-concept includes appearance, intelligence, beliefs, values and attitudes, skills, potential, experience and knowledge (Niehaus, 2002). How well you know yourself can have an affect on these areas:

- Maturity

- Self-esteem and self-reliance

- Decision making and relationships

- Confidence

For example, a low level of self-esteem produces a lack of confidence, and high levels of self-esteem brings high levels of confidence, it is therefore important that a good leader develops a positive kind of self-esteem and acceptance of the kind of people we are, with our strengths and weaknesses (Niehaus, 2002).

 

Confidence, Determination and Persistence

 

Outstanding leaders display a high level of faith in themselves and in the attainment of the vision they articulate. This includes confidence in not only yourself, but also in the people you are leading. The ability to have a group of people around you that have confidence in you and you have confidence in them cam make a leaders job a lot easier. Sir Richard Branson had many obstacles to overcome throughout his life. He could still not read by age 8 because of his dyslexia (Lesson #3). But his ability to fight this disease and overcome it gave his the confidence he needed to become a great leader. A sense of he could do anything.

 

 Good leaders show high levels of determination and persistence. This is in reaching goals and to keep trying and working hard towards these goals. It is important to lead by example. For example, Richard Branson has had products that have failed such as Virgin Cola and Virgin Vodka. Yet his determination and persistence to bounce back after disappointment has made him one of the world’s greatest leaders (Lesson #3).

 

Inspirational/Role Model

 

Another one of the qualities that truly a leader must have is that of being a role model. The words role model refers to a person whose behaviour, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, esp. by younger people (dictionary, 2006). A good example is a positive role model. So in order to be a good leader one should be able to be looked at as an example by their colleagues. But what kind of characteristics do role models have as far as leadership is concerned? There are quite a number of them as will be discussed.

 

Firstly, caring about other people. A role model should be really good at looking after and caring for their subordinates. But how can they do this? Firstly it’s the well being of their followers generally for example by making sure that they are happy where they are and with what they are doing. This will definitely motivate them and make them want to do want you want them to. But this is not the only way; the other is through giving your followers an ear and listening to their views, opinions and ideas. This will make them feel more involved and yet again feel the desire to what ever a leader wants.

 

A leader should also be motivating and energetic. This includes doing things that will inspire others, encouraging them and also inducing them achieve organizational goal for example and always be eager to perform any given tasks. All people are different so they have different motivators. Therefore other things other than monetary matters should be used as motivators. Other ways they can inspire is through developing and growing their people and most importantly building their confidence. This will give them the moral to achieve any set objectives.

 

Believing in others is yet another feature. A role model should always believe in others. By doing this they are showing that they have trust and confidence in their people. People who feel they have trust from their leaders also tend to trust them in return and will do everything not to break that trust and hence increase their performance.

 

Lastly but certainly not the least, role model leaders should be approachable. In a general sense they should be able to be talked to, meet and know. This inspires their people to be free with them and as a result will make it possible to view their ideas some of which might be worth millions of dollars. Therefore one should have an open door kind of policy where everyone can share their problems as well as ideas with them. This will instill in their people the feeling of belonging.

 

Communication skills

 

Communication in general involves the sending and reception of messages. This is not only through speech but also through ways like writing and the use of body language or non verbal behaviour. A good leader must have as part of their qualities the number of behavioral skills in terms of communication skills. These are interpersonal and include;

 

Firstly, Eye communication (courseilt, 1985) that includes having eye contact with his people or audience, posture and movement i.e. how he coordinates the movement of his body parts while talking, use of gestures and facial expressions, dress and appearance, use of language, non words and pauses, listeners involvement which is through interactions like asking for their response and Finally the use of humor to spice up a speech and make it more lively. These are not all but they are the most important.  Further more a good leader should also be able to have professional writing skills like proper use of grammar, punctuation and also spelling.

 

Other than this, they must be an eloquent speaker and good listener. He should be able to tell people what they want to hear in an inspirational manner, but at the same time be able to listen to what others say. It is useless being a good speaker if you don’t listen to what others say.

 

Another important part of communication skills that a leader should have is being cross cultural. This basically means they are able to communicate well with people from a variety and range of cultures without difficulty. This could be through knowing how their culture operates and also being able to tolerate them. It’s hard but do able. An example is how Mr. Branson has been able to make good contacts and friendship with people from all over the world, whether South America or Africa. This is due to his ability to have good cross cultural communication skills.

 

Conclusion

 

The paper has given a profile into the qualities that a leader (Sir Branson) must have to be successful. These included visionary evangelist, team and consensus builder, manager of execution, self-awareness, self-knowledge, confidence, determination and persistence, role model/Inspiration, approachable, communication skills. The most important of these are confidence, determination, persistence and communication skills. With this profile, a person will be able to be a successful leader.

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