5 Leadership Lessons – Richard Branson

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The Virgin Way by Richard Branson takes us over very familiar territory. But then maybe that’s the point.

While there is not much that is new, Branson has taken sound principles and demonstrated that – in practice – they work. He quotes Mark Twain, “All ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them.” And indeed they are. Our problem is age-old: putting what we know into practice.

Richard Branson the 5 leadership lessons from the virgin way

Bottom-line: There is no secret sauce.

Anyone who puts themselves out there will attract more naysayers than usual. Branson is no exception. His book is enjoyable to read, but it would have been more helpful to provide more nuts-and-bolts of his entrepreneurial adventures—the man behind the hype.

The 5 Leadership Lessons:

1. One of the keys to “the way” we do things is nothing more complex than listening. Listening intently to everyone who has an opinion to share, not just the self-professed experts. It’s also about learning from each other, from the marketplace and from the mistakes that must be made in order to get anywhere that is original and disruptive.

2. Any culture with an over-emphasis on “knowing your position” creates problems that get in the way of relationships, causes resentment and, as a direct result of this, can interfere with progress and innovation.

 3. Don’t waste your time and energy trying to light a fire under flame-resistant people. If that basic, smoldering fire is not innate then no amount of stoking is ever going to ignite it. The exact same principle applies to positive attitudes in people – you don’t train attitudes, you have to hire them. (We now hire for attitude and not paper qualifications.)

 4. To achieve lasting progress we must identify, nurture and learn from the next generation of business leaders. The leaders of tomorrow will be so much more effective if they are taught to retain and refine that childlike curiosity for the unknown, rather than having it “schooled” out of them, as seems still to be the case today in so many schools and universities.

 5. Going it alone is an admirable but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world. So please, take it from me: no matter how incredibly smart you think you are, or how brilliant, disruptive or plain off-the-wall your new concept might be, every start-up team needs at least one good mentor. Someone, somewhere, has already been through what you are convinced nobody else has ever confronted!

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