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Abstract: My submission discusses the ways in which Richard Branson is seen as a leader.

It shows which leadership theories that are used by him, in order to lead those that follow him, either through work or general enthusiasm for his leadership style, and how effectively those theories are applied. This submission covers details of Richard Bransons early life and the beginning of his leadership. It then goes on to explain how his leadership style emerged as he began to run the Virgin Group. I then explained how Richard Branson is seen by the public, and how he has followers in the public that dont work for him. After this, I consider which technical leadership theories are used by Richard Branson. I review how successful Richard Branson has been as a leader, by looking at how his followers respect him and follow in his footsteps. To conclude, I review Richard Branson from my own perspective.

Introduction Before a leader can be analysed, one must define what leadership is. This is hard to do. Its an intrinsic trait which is hard to define. Jackson and Parry (2008: 5) say that leadership is like beauty it is difficult to describe, but we certainly know it when we see it.' However, the general consensus is that leadership is influencing people in order to attain goals (Daft, 2008: 590). The leader that will be analysed in this essay is Richard Branson, who runs and owns the Virgin Group. He has demonstrated his leadership skills from the early age of just seventeen, when he set up a student magazine, that was aptly named, Student. Even earlier than this, he showed entrepreneurial skills, growing Christmas trees and selling budgies, although these plans failed (Grint, 2000: 49). Richard Branson was born, the first of three children, in July 1950 to Edward Branson, a barrister, and Eva Huntley-Flindt, an air hostess (Grint, 2000: 48). It was through hard work and perseverance that helped Richard Branson become one of the UKs most recognisable leaders and a renowned business leader worldwide. The fact that Branson had to work hard to get to the top of his game is relevant to him as a leader. His business ventures have not always gone to plan, as shown above through his selling of Christmas trees and budgies, nor did he inherit a family firm. His main reason for setting up Student was to make money. While the magazine never made any money, he managed to get businesses to part with 6,000 for advertising space. Even though the magazine failed in terms of profits, Branson led his team by getting them to work for no payment, simply by incorporating fun into this business venture (Grint, 2000: 50). This means that at the age of just eighteen, Branson was demonstrating leadership skills typical of someone far beyond his years. The Emergence of Bransons Leadership Style

Richard Branson is the CEO of the Virgin Group, which consists of many companies, all bearing the infamous Virgin logo. Virgin began as a simple mail order company selling records, eventually setting up shops and a recording studio. However, at this stage he was heavily in debt, and in order to pay it off, he expanded the business quickly. After this, he launched Virgin Rags, a clothing company with his then wife, Kirsten Tomassi. From there, the business went from strength to strength, obtaining a record deal with the Sex Pistols and launching Virgin Atlantic Airlines. (Grint, 2000: 50-51). Because Richard Branson leads the Virgin Group, rather than just one company within the group, it is harder to define what type of organisation the Virgin Group is. Certainly, it is a corporate one. But Virgin is more than that. Upon starting Virgin Atlantic Airlines, Branson himself claimed were still in the entertainment industry at 25,000 feet (Grint, 2000: 51). If we assume that Branson considers himself still to be in the entertainment industry, then, he must offer all his products and services with entertainment in mind. Following on from this, one must consider how Branson leads an entertainment corporation when there are good ranging from books to cola and services such as satellite television and space tourism. Being the leader of a huge organisation in the entertainment has greatly affected Bransons leadership style. His style of working for fun that is work-driven rather than fun for funs sake has been leaked through the company, so that everyone, ranging from senior managers to retail staff and air hostesses work with this philosophy in mind (Grint, 2000: 50).

Richard Branson in the Public Eye

Richard Branson is one of the UKs most famous and successful business leaders. The results of a survey that first appeared in the Financial Times explain how Richard Branson is seen as a maverick, encouraging people to do things differently (Boddy, 2005: 454). Robbins and Judge (2009: 419) describe Branson as fun loving, sensitive to the needs of others, hard working, innovative, charismatic, enthusiastic, energetic, decisive, and risk taking. The above traits that Branson possesses have proved him to be a great leader of such a successful organisation. He is perceived as a socially conscious entrepreneur, setting up Virgin Unite to look at entrepreneurial methods when it comes to environmental and societal issues. In addition to this, he has also set up the Virgin Green Fund which deals with renewable resources (The Telegraph, 2012). Bransons employees obviously love him. On several occasions, he has been voted Britains favourite boss. According to Dearlove (2007: 13), working for Branson is an adventure, simply because of the way he motivates people. This is a key skill to have as a leader. His staff only ever has praise for him because, since the beginning of Virgin, he has organised bonding sessions with his employees in order to encourage staff loyalty. He refers to everyone who works for him as his family. (Dearlove, 2007: 65)

Branson and his Followers His followers include many, from those who are led by him as a matter of their job, to managers who strive to lead like him. Branson also leads other business leaders. Today, many people speak of how Google and Facebook are great companies to work for, because of the laissez-faire leadership style and the laid back approach to working.

However, it can be said that Branson had this in Virgin before Mark Zuckerberg was even born. Thus, he led the way to this style of leadership. In addition to this, Branson is renowned for his socially conscious way of thinking. He believes that companies should work for something beyond mere profits. Again, Zuckerberg has followed Branson in this train of thought, stating that these days, I think more and more people want to use services from companies that believe in something beyond simply maximising profits (The Telegraph, 2012). As for Bransons followers, one only has to look at the declarations in Dearloves book (2007: 65), where people announce in pubs I work for Richard Branson. They are proud to follow him because he is such a great leader.

Bransons Leadership Style Richard Bransons leadership style is definitely that of transformational leadership. According to Robbins and Judge (2009: 453), transformational leaders are leaders who inspire followers to transcend their own self-interests and who are capable of having a profound and extraordinary effect on followers. This style of leadership gives followers a vision to work towards alongside a sense of pride. This can be further described as idealised influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualised consideration. Idealised influence ensures that leaders are trusted and respected by their followers because they are active in the leadership process. Branson is definitely trusted and respected by those that follow him, because as previously mentioned, those that are in employment in the Virgin Group frequently declare their love for Branson. In addition to this, inspirational motivation allows the leader to communicate what their expectations of their followers are. Leaders can show followers important goals and strategies in simple, yet effective, ways. Intellectual stimulation

allows the leader in question to promote cognitive abilities, such as problem solving and rationality. Branson does this by delegating work as much as possible. He also treats each company within the Virgin Group as a totally separate entity. He allows the managers of each of the companies in the Virgin Group to manage on their own merit. Finally, individualised consideration means that the leader can treat each employee personally with individualised coaching and advice (Robbins and Judge, 2009: 453). Of course, there are many other styles of leadership, including transactional leadership and charismatic leadership. Transactional leadership, which can be defined as one who treats leadership as an exchange, giving followers what they want if they do what their leader desires (Boddy, 2005: 699). An example of a transactional leader is the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos (Daft, 2008: 605). A charismatic leader is one who ahs the ability to motivate subordinates to transcend their expected performance (Daft, 2008: 605). Whereas Steve Jobs, the co-founder and CEO of Apple would be an example of a charismatic leader (Robbins and Judge, 2009: 448).

Bransons Success as a Leader Richard Branson is a successful leader. This is shown in how willing people are to declare that they work for him. Its also seen in how he has managed to set up a corporate empire, with a globally recognisable brand without any prior knowledge of any of the industries that he has moved into. Branson never succeeded in academia due to dyslexia, but he has a profound ability to connect to other people and to get them to do things his way. He doesnt have an MBA, but simply great interpersonal skills. If we think back to the definition of leader at the beginning of this analysis, a leader is someone who influences people in order to attain goals (Daft, 2008: 590). This is definitely true in Richard Bransons case. He has influenced thousands of followers,

both those that are employed by him and those that follow him because he is so successful. There are numerous reasons that explain why Branson is a good leader. For example, Robbins and Judge (2009: 452-454) state that he is a transformational leader. They then go on to explain how only those leaders who are transformational can motivate their followers in such a way that they perform above and beyond expectations. In addition to this, he can be described as a good business leader because he has managed to make Virgin Atlantic Airlines a success in a market that was full of longestablished firms such as British Airways and American Airlines. Branson can also be described as a good leader because he has been in business for more than forty years, constantly building on his empire and ensuring that those that work for him remain loyal to him. He has been so influential, that he managed to get those that worked on Student to do so for no payment. In addition to this, his own philosophy of working for fun has filtered down throughout the company, so that it has become the philosophy for all those who work for Branson.

Personal View of Richard Branson After analysing Richard Branson as a leader, I think that he is a leader who gets his ideas across quite well. He manages to ensure that his followers get things done his way through his transformational leadership, while maintaining high standards across all the companies within the Virgin Group. Essentially, Richard Branson is the Virgin brand, and this is because he has been so successful at how he has led the company. He is as closely associated with the brand as Steve Jobs was with Apple.

I respect Richard Branson as a leader simply because he is so good at it. While his official title may be CEO of the Virgin Group, he is so much more than that. His leadership style is built into that title. And because of that, it would be hard for anyone to take over that position without being constantly compared to Branson. As well as this, I believe that Branson is an inspiration to everyone as he was listed as the fourth richest citizen in Great Britain, with a net worth of $4.2 billion, without ever going to university. This will give hope to younger people who cant manage to get into third level institutes. I would like to work for Richard Branson. From my research, I believe that while there would be hard work involved, and many challenges to face, it would not come without the rewards of working for such an inspirational leader of a recognisable company. There are many things I could learn from Richard Bransons leadership. While Bransons style of leadership has been classified into a transformational leader, I believe that he brings something extra to that style of leadership. I think that his interpersonal skills are excellent, which is invaluable trait to have as a leader. While anyone can read any of the numerous leadership books out there, there are some skills that leaders require that can only be learned by being led by a leader who already has those skills. I believe that Richard Branson is one of the few successful, well-known leaders that could offer that. He is all those things that come to mind when someone tries to define a leader: inspirational; motivational; gets the right things done.

Conclusion In this essay, I have analysed Richard Bransons leadership style. I have given a short biography of his early life. Following on from this, I explained the company that

Branson leads in and how he is viewed as the leader of that company. I have shown what Bransons followers think of him, both those that work for him and those that follow him in terms of how he leads. I have also explained that Branson is a transformational leader and how he is successful. Finally, I have given my own personal opinion of Branson as a leader, explaining why I think he is a good leader and what I believe I could learn from him.

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