What can leaders learn from Richard Branson?

Being in the industry I am in, I often have the privilege of listening to some of the world’s wealthiest people share their tips on success. By the way, I don’t just mean people who have monetary wealth, I am talking about having true riches in all areas of life plus millions in the bank too. I was recently reflecting on some tips Richard Branson shared, in the form of an interview and you could’ve heard a pin drop (the audience comprised of 4,000 people so that’s saying something) when he was asked…

What advice would you give to the leaders of today?

These are Richard Branson’s words of wisdom: 

  1. If you still have offices in 50 years’ time, you are a dinosaur. He urged leaders to encourage people to work from home and to be flexible in their working hours. He acknowledged that certain jobs require people to be in the office (or lab, for example) or they might need to meet regularly but emphasised that many positions could be operated remotely and allow people to spend more time with their families. This should be encouraged.
  2. Treat people like people. Find out what excites them; know their names, how old their children are, what makes them tick; i.e. show a real interest in your team. If they need unpaid leave, (within reason) give it to them. If their kid has a soccer game, let them work the time in later and go make the game. Empathy (this doesn’t equate to being a walk over) and true care go a long way to getting the best out of people.
  3. Let them do things their way. Don’t micromanage! Unless it is going to cost the company thousands of rands, let people do things their way, don’t insist they do it your way. And if you need to correct your team, do it privately – NEVER discuss an employee’s performance in front of their peers… I repeat… NEVER!
  4. Allow people to make mistakes. People are human. They will mess-up. Allow it. Richard shared how an employee who stole from him became his best manager at Virgin Records. Richard refused to fire him despite his HR team’s advice. Instead, he called him in and said, “you’ve screwed-up, I’m disappointed as I saw such potential in you. What are you going to do about it?” The guy returned the stock, apologised and went on to become his best staff member and win awards that year. All because he was given a second chance and Richard was able to genuinely forgive and let it go. Stealing might be a bit of an extreme example and disciplinary action or dismissal might be required in certain cases. But how often do you ‘punish’ people or make them scared of making mistakes? Stop it! You must address repetitive mistakes, if they occur, but do allow mistakes.

Those are big shoes to follow in, aren’t they? What can you learn from Richard Branson today to be a truly GREAT leader and…

“be the difference that makes the difference