Just by observing the distance which Richard Branson has gone in the business world it is not difficult to decide him as an exceptional business leader. Here the attempt is to analyze his form of leadership using the major theories leadership. Words usually connected to Branson are creative, fun, anti-establishment, fast, opportunist, adventurer, the risk of Taker, warm, friendly, competitive, workaholic and hard negotiator. Those qualities are according to the trait theories of leadership, main characeristics of a successful leader.
Richard Branson has a good leader-member relations and treats his employees respect, like his own family, even to the extent of giving invitations to his junior members for home for parties (Dearlove 2007). He always welcome the feedback and new ideas of the employees. The task structure of the Virgin is usually low since Branson gives his employees the freedom and initiative has to be creative. There are no established procedures, in which, things must be done (Nice, 2007). His organization is working on flat and non-hierachical stucture (NCE 2009), which is made of clusters, and given the flexibility to work independently without much interference (Dearlove 2007).These factors clearly show that his form of leadership is of much more democratic and participative nature. Position power he proves to be dominant thinker, and generally makes decision by himself (even NCE2009). When observing the contingency theory of Fiedler, it is clear that he belongs to intermediate type of leader who is task motivated and socio-independent (Durbin Dalglish Miller, 2006).
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Branson has strong contingency and situational leadership skills too. He has always looked for and uses every opportunity to create a new company to be viable. He is quite capable of controlling situations and also a high risk taker (Dearlove 2007). This reflcts the most dominat theory of leadership today i.e. situational theories. He follows different leadership styles and technics according to the situation and the context.This has been one of the most important features of Richard Branson's leadership (Durbin Dalglish Miller, 2006). He also shows the ability to implement changes quickly. Virgin Cola in the United States changed its strategy, management and location of its t-drinks business with emphasis on the theme "New Age beverages like fruit juices and energy drinks, when he saw no prospect in the war against the Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola in the Cola Business (Dearlove 2007).
The charismatic and transformational leadership
Transformational leaders are also those that can adapt quickly to change (Bass, 1985). Branson has clearly demonstrated its flexibility and its success in adapting to changing organizational cultures, as he bought new companies and moved into new areas,along with his men. Literature clearly shows that the assessment of transformational leadership is positively correlated with the evaluation of managerial performance (Hater & Bass, 1988), Recommendations for promotion (Waldman, Bass and Yammarino, 1990) and the percentage of the goals of the strategic busines units. (unit Avolio, 1999).
According to Bass (1985) transformational leadership is more more likely to reflect sociall values and arise in times of distress and change , while transactional leadership is probably found in well-ordered, steady environment. Virgin is an organization that is focused on growth and constant change, thus suitable for transformational style.
Virgin is a kingdom, where the individuals Branson stamped in everywhere of the Business , therefore,his values and goals are the driving force of the whole coporation. An overview of tranformational and charismatic leaderhip theories suggests that the leaders may achieve relevent goals by making of followers, who personally identify with this style, also the work-group they are with (Yukl, 1988). Thus transformational approach, in my opinion the best summarzes the style of this renowned business leader.
With charisma, intellectual stimulation and inspirational motivation and individualized consideration, transformational leaders have a great potential to promote actions beyond expectations and produce changes within individuals and organizations. It seems that this form of a leadership well-suited for a time like this in which has characterictics like uncertainity, global turmoil and institutional instability.
Brooks, I. (2009) Organisational Behaviour, Pearson Education Limited, UK.
Bass, B.M. (1985) Leadership and performance beyond expectation, p43, New York, Free Press.
Dearlove, D. (2007) Business the Richard Branson Way, p163, Capstone, Chichester, UK.
Durbin, A. Dalglish, C & Miller, P (2006) Leadership, ( 2nd), p312, Asia-Pasific edition, John Wiley & Sons, Australia.
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Avolio, B.J, (1999) RE-examining the components of transformational and transactional leadership using the multifactor component questionnaire, journal of occupational and organisational psychology, p72, 441-462.
Waldman, D.A., Bass, B.M., &Yammarino, F.J. (1990) Adding to contingent-reward behaviour: The augmenting effect of charismatic leadership. Group and Organisational Studies, p15, 381-394.
Yukl, G.A. (1988) Managerial Leadership. A review of theory and research. Journal of Management, p15, 251-289.
BBC.co.uk (1999) Knighthood for Branson, bbc.co.uk, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/583940.stm.
NCE (Small Firms Association National Centre of Excellence) (2009), 'Leadershi',http://www.centreofexcellence.ie/sectors/SFA/SFANCEDocLib.nsf/441763b04b0320b68025722e003fb55a/bc12f53469df45728025722e003f060f/$FILE/Leadership.pdf