What can leaders learn from Richard Branson?

by | Apr 29, 2013 | Communication, Ethics at Work, Leadership

A few months ago, I had the privilege of attending the Success Summit held at the Sandton Convention Centre and listening to some of the world’s wealthiest men share their tips on success. By the way, I don’t just mean people who had monetary wealth, I am talking about having true riches in all areas of life plus millions of dollars in the bank (yip, most had multi-millions of dollars not Rands in the bank :)). Richard Branson was the last person to take the stage, 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 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 do need to correct your team, do it privately – NEVER ever 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 today to be a truly GREAT leader and…

“be the difference that makes the difference




NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free bi-weekly  ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.

Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, EQ Expert, Founder and CEO

Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 25 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation. Her PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that was published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of numerous business schools and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. In 2020, Sharon was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame, which is a lifetime achievement award, recognising excellence and her contribution to the field.

Sharon is one of only three women in South Africa to hold the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the Oscar of the speaking industry. She is also a COMENSA Master Practitioner (CMP), a qualified Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT™) and an accredited Global Virtual Speaker. Sharon is also a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner.

Most important to Sharon is that she has become known for her genuinely caring manner, practical and transformational approach, and for providing valuable tools and that allow people to take Key Steps to really… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’

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