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Sir Richard Branson, Chairman, Virgin Group, Ltd. Case Study

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Sir Richard Branson, Chairman, Virgin Group, Ltd. Case Study

BUS 520-Leadership and Organizational Behavior

Strayer University

Conceived in 1970 by Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Group is today one of the world's most respected and recognized brands. The company, on its website, identifies itself as an 'international investment group' but it can also be described as a $21 billion global conglomerate of over 200 widely disparate and completely unrelated companies. Operating in 34 countries, the companies cover sectors ranging from music, travel (Virgin Atlantic and British Rail), mobile phones, consumer electronics, financial services health and wellness. The common threads tying these divergent businesses together is the global power of the Virgin brand and the four Virgin values of innovation, customer service, community and environment.

Criteria 1

"...the most successful leaders simultaneously play two roles, one charismatic, the other more architectural. The first involves how leaders envision, empower and energize to inspire and motivate their followers." (de Vries & Florent-Treacy, 1999). A determining factor in the creation of high performance organizations is effective leadership. Branson created the Virgin empire from the ground up through sheer entrepreneurial zeal by placing a high value on creativity and innovation. In the articulation of his vision, Branson recruits employees with strong communication and teamwork competencies and solid people skills or "great motivators of people". Virgin employees have a sense of empowerment and are energized to be innovative and to take risks because there is a culture of openness and an acknowledgement that taking risks involves making and learning from mistakes. As stated in the case Branson is known as 'Dr. Yes' because of an inability to say "No" to new ideas and proposals. Branson has led Virgin with vision and charisma and the transformational approach to leadership best describes his style of leadership.

Branson is often compared to Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple. Indeed, they are both innovators and entrepreneurs with Jobs reigning large in the technology industry and Branson as a brand builder. According to Isaacson (2012), Jobs' personality was integral to his way of doing business and this is true also of Branson since the term 'branson-esque' has come to be applied to his style of leadership. Jobs believed in product before profit while Branson puts employees first with customers next and shareholders last. As Jobs said in an interview, "My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products" (Isaacson). This passion is easily transferred to Branson's belief that happy employees are motivated to do a better job which will increase productivity and business and thereby reward shareholders. While his transformational leadership style and collaborative approach would, in theory, be effective at many US companies, it is difficult to imagine his flamboyance and attention grabbing behavior, for example dressing up as a bride, being tolerated in the conformist corporate culture of the U.S., driven as it is by the demands of Wall Street and investors.

Criteria 2

Hellriegel/Slocum states that "organizations need transformational leadership more than ever and at all levels, not just at the top". As Branson approaches 65 he must inevitably think of succession planning and 'what happens next?' particularly as Virgin, the brand, and his name are so inextricably linked. Branson sees that challenge as a question of people management. Hiring the right people for the position and empowering them to make decisions consistent with the company's

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