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Richard Branson, The Innovative Entrepreneur and Leader


In the past, Follow the Leader was one of our most favorite games where everyone
can be a boss. Despite the game simplicity, it was a practical way for kids to inspire
by actions. However, in professional life, playing the role of leader is not that simple
and requires set of competencies, skills and ethics. In this ultra competitive
commercial world, the demand of having responsible and visionary leaders become
greatly high to confront the challenges and reshape the face of the future in positive
way, not just in business but also in different aspects. Lately, the way the leadership
has been defined made me realize that the leadership is something big, beyond me
and I cannot reach it. The leader concept has been treated in ways made the
leadership exclusive for those who born with unique characteristics that qualify
them to be perfect and flawless leaders. I believe that each and every human being
has his own special mix of personal traits, attitudes, motives, behaviors, strength
and beliefs that allow him to be a leader to influence others and drive the change to
a better place.

Yes, everyone can be a leader, but can everyone be a good leader? Why the followers
should follow the leader? How failure can drive the leaders to excel and success?
Can the leader develop a community of leaders and culture of leadership? What
does the leader bring to leadership? How the person can develop his competencies
to be a successful leader?

The above questions has pressured me to discover, study and analyze the leadership
styles from different dimensions to understand the cultural and socioeconomic
forces which allowed the leaders to build a track record of achievements, influence a
huge number of people and make big changes.

The leader of my paper is Richard or Ricky Branson who won his first bet by
learning how to swim in a very short time after several attempts at age five. Even it
was for $2, but it seemed like a fortune for him. That kid was hiding a huge passion
of being one of the most recognizable and famous entrepreneurs in the world by
building a real fortune worth an estimated $5 billion dollars.

Richard Branson, The Innovative Entrepreneur and LeaderRichard Branson was

born in the south of England, in 1950. His father was a lawyer and fought for the
British army during the WWII. His smart mother was able to persuade the Royal Air
Force to work as an instructor for their pilots during the war. The mother who
became an airline hostess never thought that her son would have a great passion in
aviation industry.Richard the child was well known for his energy, courage and
independence that

helped him to present endurance and ability to find his way and become a
billionaire. The spirit of adventure and self-reliance was not enough to overcome
the difficulties that he faced with his education. He has been dropped out of school
at the age of 16 and his headmaster told him I predict you will either go to prison or
become a millionaire. Branson was suffering from dyslexia, homesickness and poor
vision, which had not been diagnosed during his school life. Those health issues
were decreasing his chances to excel in school, but his tenacity drove him to
overcome his issues by developing a great interest in adventures, sports activities
and led him to earn several championship cups.

At age of 17, Branson left the countryside and moved to London to pursue his
passion and to start his first business, a youth-culture magazine called Student. The
City at that time had become a center for fashion, music and art. Richard was able to
focus strategically on market perspectives by building good connections with
companies, entertainers and government leaders to buy ads and to make interviews
for his magazine.

His charming personality helped him to influence people to work with him. On that
business Richard was focusing mainly on providing the young people with more

information about the world around them. Although the magazine was not
generating enough money, he brought the fun to all of his team and wanted them to
enjoy the work. On the same time, Richard was giving a great attention to his clients
by offering them records in prices that they cant find it easily elsewhere. That
attention has forced him to build Virgin Store. He created positive differences in his
store by selecting young staff that was eager to talk about new music and offered
headphones to his clients to listen to the music before they buy it. Richard made
great efforts to maintain a high level of quality and satisfaction for his employees by
offering them an exciting environment to work in, and for his clients by exceeding
their expectations.

Richards ideas were very expensive and created financial troubles for him and his
parents. He bought a large home and turned it into a studio in order to let the bands
to live in and record their music. His passion to break the roles was grown up with
him since he was a child. He never thought that bending the rules would cost him
money and freedom. He broke the rules when he decided to use the tax money to
pay his debts for that large studio. That was a great lesson for Richard to learn that
bad decisions have catastrophic consequences.

During that challenge, Richards was thinking of Megastore, which is bigger and
different than just selling records. The way he listen, communicate and invite people
to intermingle and share their visions was pretty good analogy for the views on
successful leadership in business. His exploration thinking reflected on his decision
to take Virgin to the skies by establishing Virgin Airline. This time he returned back
to break the rules but in a legal way when he sued British Airways for creating a
monopoly in Airline Industry. The settlement that came out of this case made the
first take off of Virgin Airline faster and smoother. In the meanwhile, he utilized the
adventures to promote his business by crossing the Atlantic Ocean and breaking the
speed record on Virgin Atlantic boat called Challenger. Setting compelling and
detailed goals was not enough for Richard, he was in need for a top down view to
see the big picture. Richard decided to cross the ocean again but this time in Virgin

hot-air balloon. The failures were around when he faced a mechanical failure and
was about to lose his life. That failure made history for Richard; he was the first
person to cross the Atlantic in hot-air balloon. He was able to transform the failures
into a great power toward creating success and achieving his goals. After several
attempts, Virgin builds the largest fleet of hot-air balloon in UK.

In 1985, Branson consolidated his many different companies into a larger group
called The Virgin Group. On the same year he married Joan who came to accept the
fact that Richard would always loves to be recognized by withdrawing attentions
especially when he arrived to the wedding by holding the bottom landing skids of
the helicopter. Richard was known for his smile, he says Smiling can be a
competitive advantage it makes every person feel a little better, and every
situation a little brighter. The people liked Richard and his Idea that a man who
started his own business as a teenager has become a businessman taking on the
corporate giant. He sold his first successful company Virgin Record for $1Billion and
he established the first national commercial radio station in Great Britain. In 1997,
he bought his first two railways. At that moment, his wealth was allowing him to
retire, but Richard was enjoying producing ideas and creating new businesses.

The famous leader was also focusing on helping others. He established Virgin
Healthcare Foundation with a goal to stop the spread of HIV, AIDS and other health
issues. He developed a great interest to do business in South Africa especially when
Nelson Mandela became a president. He was interested to create a community of
leaders by developing people skills, abilities and knowledge; therefore he started his
Center of Entrepreneurship to help the South Africans to become successful
business owners. He was targeting the people who have ideas and want to startup
their businesses exactly same as what he has done. He believed that creating
entrepreneurs around the world would help the poor nations to be richer.

In early 2000s, Richard has used his legitimate power to convince Nelson Mandela
to bring the respected world leaders together to promote peace in Africa and the
Middle East, and put efforts to save the planet from the warming and pollutions.

Richard was aware of global warming and he believes that his planes and railways
are affecting the environment negatively by increasing the carbon dioxide
emissions. So he started Virgin Fuels to make green and ecological fuels, which are
friendly with the environment. He also created Virgin Earth Challenge with
$25Million for inventing methods to eliminate the bad gases from the Air. In 2000,
the Queen Elizabeth II knighted him for his skill as an entrepreneur, and he became
Sir Richard Branson. In that honorable moment, Richard didnt forget his employees
and he accepted that honor on behalf of them because they were the big part of
Virgin success. Richard went again after world records when he sailed across the
English Channel and sat a new record of becoming the oldest person who crossed
the channel. His leadership behavior has a high level concern for tasks and people.
His employees are part of a well functioning team and he empowered them to
implement changes. The leaders at Virgin are offered unconscious bias training and
have been encouraged to think outside the box and do things different. Richard has
mastered the art of delegation by hiring his weaknesses to others who are good on it
in order to spend more time with his family and to free up his mind to plan for
future. He believes that the diversity is one of the keys to build a great business. He
listens more, talks less and takes notes because the spontaneous ideas can be gone
in the blink of an eye. As Branson loves to share his ideas and vibes, he became very
active on social media, and today he has more than eight millions followers on
Twitter and more than nine millions followers on LinkedIn. He avoids the
complexity and he believes that simplicity is very hard to be achieved.

In my view, Richard Branson is a successful leader who never stopped doing things
differently for 45 years. He developed and casted a clear vision connected to the
success of his Virgin Brand and the other 350 ventures in very different operations
according to people needs and wants. He lost the fear of being wrong and took
plenty of risks and challenges from sailing by boats to flying into space. Richard has
the courage to try new things; therefore he anticipated the change and used his
innovation to adopt the paradigm shift. As he lives for great ideas, some of his
businesses failed, but also several became very successful. He believes that company

at the end is a group of people, and the leader of people must be a great listener,
motivator, and very good at praising and looking for the best of his people. He has
difficulty to say no to things and Give Up does not exist in his dictionary. Even if
its happened, he has the grit to pick himself up to try again and make a real
difference. His live thrived on challenges, and his ultimate vision and passion guided
him to build his success, look after new challenges and reshape the future. Is he a
leader with unstoppable momentum of going forward! It seems the sky is not his


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