“My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them”. [Branson …] Born in England in 1950, the near sighted, dyslexic young boy struggled through school; Started a youth-culture magazine called ‘STUDENT’. The publication worth $8,000 was launched in 1966 and as a success one hundred thousand issues was circulated. In 1970, Branson and his friend Nick Powell created a mail order venture focusing on the record industry in London. In 1972, a recording studio was established, known as Virgin Records, a decision that led to the creation of Virgin Group. As a success, he further diversified into many sectors; the airline industry in 1984, the hotel industry in 1988, the publishing industry in 1991 to mention a few. Even though the music group struggled financially and was sold to THORN EMI in 1992. Branson was crushed by the loss and therefore determined to bounce back. His determination expanded the Virgin group into travel and tourism, mobile, leisure, finance, transport, beverage, a luxury game reserve etc and created a great empire which holds over 300 companies in over 30 countries.
2.1 Leadership and Management Style
As a top branded venture capital organization, its constant success is due to the power of the brand name and the reputation of its leader: Richard Branson. Leadership as a process of producing direction, alignment and commitment in collectives (Ellen Van Velsor et al, 2010) can be seen as a characteristic of this personality in Richard Branson. Leadership can again be seen as a process of exercising power on other people in an organization but Branson believes in the need to treat other people with respect. There is no leader without having followers; hence it is important that the people who make up an organization are considered as priority in order to achieve a common goal. Conventional business analysts put the interests of a company’s shareholders first, followed by those of its customers then its employees (Jackson, 1995).
Branson however, puts his employees first, customers second and then the shareholders. This business approach has worked well for the entire group; and can be referred to as ‘’turning conventional management upside down’’ [HBR: 2010]. “Although my spelling is still sometimes poor, I have managed to overcome the worst of my difficulties through training myself to concentrate” (Richard Branson: Quotes) Sir Branson has strong qualities which helped him build his business from scratch; seen as an adventurous individual. He is a Bold, brave, and risk-taker which form the central features of his progress, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship [Bilton & Cummings 2010]. In 1994, Sir Richard made a bid to run the National Lottery, promising to give all the profits to charity. He lost several times but was never discouraged. The Virgin bandwagon rolled on as he won important franchises in the country. Owing to a key trait that gave the ability to succeed in various industries, Branson is a lifelong learner. However, he places passion before profit and developed his model to gain a long term growth, sustainable and viable working life in the field where he has great interest, talent, knowledge and a high degree of expertise. Theorists refer to this as a lifestyle entrepreneur. Yukl and Fu stressed on delegation as improving decision quality. The Branson leadership process is hiring bright people, giving them a stake in his ventures and the art of delegation. “I have to be good at helping people run the individual businesses, and I have to be willing to step back” Richard Branson. His employees as important team players contributed to the success of the Virgin Empire therefore he derived the best way to get his brand to the top. It is important to get the right people for the right jobs and Virgin Group proves that beyond reasonable doubt; the recruitment process is made highly...
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