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Lead like Richard Branson

There has never been anything conventional about Sir Richard Branson’s style of building businesses or leadership qualities. He learnt everything he knows from experience, having left school with very few qualifications at the age of 16. Three years later he started Virgin, and by the age of 24, he was a millionaire. He has never shied away from risk taking, and his whole business life has fashioned him into a unique entrepreneur and a leader that is second to none.

It is impossible to build real business success without having leadership skills, and Branson has them in abundance. Here are just a few that separate him from the best of the rest.

The ability to see things in a different way to others

A famous Branson quote emphasised that leadership did not have a secret formula. He went on to add that true leadership quality is about going about things in your own way. If you can ‘think outside the box,’ then you are starting to be a leader and not a sheep. A leader should not have any traces of the ‘herd instinct’ about his persona and Branson certainly hasn’t.

His style of leadership is democratic and collaborative. This obviously suits his personality. Another leader like Apple’s Steve Jobs is autocratic, which suits his personality. Both systems will ultimately work, though you don’t necessarily need to agree with either of them. Branson is a champion for having no ‘set formula.’ You chose a style that optimises your skills and the talent that you have under you.

The ability to spot the right people

Branson is a champion at locating people with talent and then getting the best out of them. He believes that nobody can be successful on their own and that it is impossible to be a great leader if you don’t have great people to lead. It is this eye for talent that makes him a fantastic manager.

Creating a positive company culture

Sir Richard doesn’t think that having the top qualifications is the only thing to look for when choosing departmental and company chiefs. His ‘personality before CV,’ approach, though, sometimes not successful, has been one of his trademarks. The fact that he will always give somebody who has failed, a second chance breeds trust among employees, and this is a valuable commodity to have down the line of command in a business operation.


Delegation is not a science it is an art form, and Branson believes in this wholeheartedly. Finding the best people possible and putting them in positions, where they can thrive has been the hallmark of Virgin’s success. In Branson’s mindset, however, delegation means what it says, and he allows his management team to grow. He considers himself to be like a gardener who nurtures his crops and encourages growth rather than stifles it.

Listen before opening your mouth

A trademark of the founder of Virgin is that he is a great listener. He still has a childlike quality of wanting to learn new things. In his opinion, a leader should not only encourage and inspire but must also be encouraged and inspired by his staff.


Getting to know his team and being visible is another Branson trademark. If you are seen a lot by the people you work with, then they will identify with you as part of the team and not as some iconic figure that sits aloof in a big office that is far removed from the sharp end of the business.

Decision Making

Branson believes in open discussion and the democratic approach to leadership. He also knows when the talk should finish and when a decision needs to be made. Virgin’s leader will get his hands ‘dirty’ and innovates and discusses but doesn’t shy away from making the final decision. There is a balance between giving staff power and key leadership decision making.

Branson believes that a decision once made, should not be dwelt on. It is critical to move on after a mistake and not be afraid to take on the next challenge.

Small details are imperative

The art of being a great leader is to make sure that you get the little details right. By encouraging a company culture of attention to detail, you are encouraging success. The success of Sir Richard Branson speaks for itself.

Never let the passion die

Having a passion for your job is infectious, and a leader needs to pass that passion down the line of command to the last member of the team. Branson has always succeeded in doing this so that every employee feels part of a team and ‘on message.’

Anybody that wants to be a successful leader needs to examine the above points carefully and consider, which of these skills they already have, and which they need to acquire.