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Richard Branson’s Rule-Breaking Leadership Style

Executive Summary

This report provides a critical analysis of Richard Branson’s leadership style. Branson is a renowned international businessperson. Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Branson established the Virgin Group in the early 1970s. Through several decades of his leadership, he managed to overcome obstacles in the business environment and developed the Virgin Group into one of the most recognized global brands.

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The brand is currently controlling more than 200 companies that work under it. Known for his rule-breaking approaches to leadership through innovative thinking, Branson becomes of the greatest personalities who developed thousands of skills across the world. To understand the leadership styles of Branson, this report has related his strategies with various theories and models of organization management.


Richard Branson is an entrepreneur who is known for his unique approaches to leadership and the development of talented employees. As the founder of the Virgin Group, he has earned respect as an employer who has helped thousands of people to become innovative thinkers. Branson has been adopting a law-breaking approach in his leadership approach to encourage employees to use their skills creatively and freely.

In the business realm, he has played a significant role in identifying, identifying, and developing leadership skills among potential candidates. He recognizes the significance of choosing the right people to lead business operations. Leaders have the responsibility of organizing and monitoring the employees’ productivity. To achieve that, leaders must demonstrate the ability to motivate the workforce. For these reasons, Branson is talented in evaluating a person’s qualities to be a leader.

Richard Branson’s Business Philosophy

Although Branson is a famous businessperson, his approaches to business management seem irrelevant based on the standard established procedures and philosophical approaches to management. However, he has used these unique models to develop the Virgin Group into an international brand (Schawbel 2014). His main philosophical view is that daunting challenges present potential opportunities that can be turned into a fortune. The irrelevance of his business philosophy can be understood in the light of theories such as the organizational theory, organizational structure, and postmodern organizations (Shafritz 2011).

Organizational Theory

The organization theory is a business concept that took the centre stage in the early twentieth century. Frederick Taylor is the man behind the theory, which tended to merge the scientific management concepts with the administrative theories. Based on four principles, the theory evolved during the first half of the twentieth century to become the widely adopted management approach (Miner 2005).

Its principles include finding the best way to perform each task, conducting careful matching of each task to each worker, close supervision of workers, and motivating workers through reward and punishment. The fourth principle concerns the management in which individuals are given the responsibility to plan and control business operations. Specifically, the organization theory promoted the specialization of labor.

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Branson uniquely approaches these principles. In his approach to choosing the best leaders and develop an effective workforce, he carefully matches a task with an employee to improve performance. That way, Branson has been able to help thousands of people build their leadership skills (Branson 2011). He assesses a person’s personality, talent, and ability to think differently. According to Branson, there is no generic formula for leadership.

It is the reason why great leaders can be distinguished from underperforming leaders (Starbuck & Hedberg 2011). Every situation has a unique solution, and it is the reason he prefers people who think differently. The administrative theory was developed under the organization concept to create a universal management strategy. This is opposed to Branson’s approach in which he takes each situation the way it presents challenges. According to him, a leader should demonstrate the innovativeness needed to address new approaches.

Organizational Structure

Until the early second half of the twentieth century, many business organizations had been using the bureaucratic structure concept of Weber. However, the increased complexity of international corporations forced the businesses to decentralize their operations into autonomously managed units. Branson used the organizational structure concept to develop the Virgin Group into small units that operate independently.

For the units to be successful, they are assigned the right workforce and a manager with the ability to interpret challenges into success (Branson 2013). The structure has helped business organizations to create large conglomerates. The aim is to diversify business opportunities and minimize risks. To integrate technology and business operations as a way of meeting the customers’ needs, Branson used the organizational structure in the leadership strategy of the Virgin Group (Putman & Fairhurst 2015).

Post-Modern Organization

The concept of post-modern refers to a school of thought and a movement that tends to contradict the modern approach to organizational management. The modern models prevailed from the early post-war periods to the late 1980s. The post-modern organizations tend to oppose the bureaucratic approach in the management of processes. It is because of the diverse aspects of the contemporary business environment. The Virgin Group could operate effectively if Branson adopted more of post-modern approaches than the modern concepts of organizations (Schawbel 2014). The rapid adoption of globalization has enhanced diversity as people move from local to global markets. Through technology, businesses and customers interact and transact businesses through the Internet platform.

With more than two hundred companies under the Virgin Group brand, adopting postmodern organization in the management would be effective in addressing the emerging issues (Schawbel 2014). These include the increasing use of technology, flexibility in service provision, distributed employment opportunities, collaboration, and stiff competitions among others. For a business in the postmodern context to maintain brand reputation, it must strive to exhibit itself in both offline and online contexts. Every business organization has the potential to attract millions of customers across the globe. However, how they present their brands and products will determine their success. In the postmodern error, a business that does not embrace the internet, social media, and technology-based solutions in marketing strategies might not succeed in the global arena (Putman & Banghart 2016).

Richard Branson’s Leadership Style

Branson gives different approaches to leadership under different circumstances. He understands the fact that modern business environments are complex and diverse. A traditional leadership model cannot apply strictly to every situation (Sendjaya 2007). Several issues emerge in all industries and the success of a business is determined by how its leaders provide solutions to the challenges. For Branson, a leader must demonstrate outstanding attributes based on talent, skills, and experience. We can understand his leadership approach that made the Virgin Group successful through the mirror of the trait, behavioral, and situational theories (Branson 2013).

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The Trait Theory

The theory is based on the management attributes of both successful and unsuccessful leaders. The resultant lists of leadership attributes are them compared to develop the best characteristics for a leadership position. The most recommended attributes are achievement drive, motivation, integrity, self-confidence, cognitive ability, skills, and emotional maturity (Sendjaya et al. 2008). Other attributes acknowledged in this concept are personality, creativity, and flexibility. In this light, Branson considers talent, personality, and skills as the core aspects of leadership. People with natural talent have exceptional abilities and their probability of becoming successful is also high. Personality is an attribute that makes an individual stand out in a crowd, and this is what Branson wants to see in a leader (Branson 2011).

Even though various studies and analytic researchers have validated the trait theory, the concept exhibits various weaknesses. Everyone must acknowledge the significance of diversity and technology. Although some leadership characteristics are generic and apply to all situations, certain leadership positions are exceptional. At times, characters deemed unfit in one business context might create success in another environment. In this regard, Branson prefers people who can think differently and give a critical approach to a unique situation (Branson 2011). That way, a leader can translate challenges and crises into opportunities that would become the turning point of a business.

Behavioural Theory

The behavioural theory in leadership was developed as a critical response to the trait theory. According to the proponents of behavioural theory, the successful business leaders in various industries have a set of behaviours. They went ahead to develop an action-based taxonomy with broad patterns to indicate different leadership styles (Dana et al. 2015). In conformity to behavioural theory, Branson developed a set of behaviours that a leader should demonstrate. These include creative thinking, talent, personality, independent decision-making ability, listening skills, expertise, attention to details, passion, and being attentive to details (Schawbel 2014).

Situational Theory

According to the concept of leadership, there is no style in leadership said to be the best in all situations. According to the proponents of this school of thought, adaptability is the key to success (Zaccaro & Bader 2004). In recognition of the facts developed by the situational theorists, Branson argues that every situation has something good in it (Branson 2011). The ability of leaders to adapt to certain situations with their department determines their success. He believes in creativity and critical thinking as a way of dealing with emerging situations to develop a successful business entity. The implication in this context is that the effectiveness of leadership styles varies depending on the set objectives, internal and external factors (Mehrad & Fallahi 2014).


Richard Branson is one of the most successful businesspersons in the post-war world. Although he started the Virgin Group more than four decades ago, Branson developed the business to become one of the most recognized brands in the world. All these are attributed to his exceptional leadership styles. As globalization and integration of world societies through technology continues to grow, businesses are becoming complex and diverse. Emerging issues are unpredictable and their solutions need creativity and an innovative mind.


In the twentieth century, the development of the internet and social media platforms among other technologies changed the way organizations operate. Every business needs to adopt a fast-changing environment. It is because customers are also changing in terms of their perceptions and expectations. Many theories have tried to defend their positions about the perceived good leadership styles.

However, the only way leaders can deal with emerging technology-based issues is by embracing creativity, innovativeness, and effective communication skills. Generic leadership styles should be abandoned to be relevant in the current globalized marketplaces. Large business organizations have customers from diverse social, cultural, and economic backgrounds. Therefore, they must be ready to learn from others and accept different views before making independent decisions.

List of References

Branson, R 2011, Reach for the skies: Ballooning, birdmen, and blasting into space, Virgin Books, New York.

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Branson, R 2013, Like a Virgin: secrets they won’t teach you at business school, Virgin Books, New York.

Dana, J, Dhanani, L, Shen, W, McHugh, B & McCord, M 2015, ‘Is a happy leader a good leader? A meta-analytic investigation of leader trait affect and leadership’, The Leadership Quarterly, vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 557-576.

Judge, A & Bono, E 2002, ‘Personality and leadership: a qualitative and quantitative review’, Journal of Applicable Psychology, vol. 87, no. 1, pp. 765–80.

Mehrad, A & Fallahi, B 2014, ‘The role of leadership styles on staff ´s job satisfaction in public organizations’, Acta Universitaria AU, vol. 24, no. 5, pp. 27-32.

Miner, B 2005, Organizational behaviour 1: essential theories of motivation and leadership, Sharpe, New York.

Putnam, L & Banghart, S 2016, ‘Contradictions, dialectics, and paradoxes in organizations: a constitutive approach’, The Academy of Management Annals, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 1-107.

Putnam, L, & Fairhurst, G 2015, ‘Revisiting organizations as discursive constructions: 10 years later’, Communication Theory, vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 375-392.

Schawbel, D 2014, Richard Branson’s three most important leadership principles. Web.

Scott, R & Davis F 2007, Organizations and organizing: Rational, natural and open systems perspectives, Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River.

Sendjaya, S 2007, ‘Conceptualizing and Measuring Spiritual Leadership in Organizations’ International Journal of Business and Information, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 23-49.

Sendjaya, S, Sarros, C, Dan, J & Santora, C 2008, ‘Defining and measuring servant leadership behaviour in organizations’, Journal of Management Studies, vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 402-424.

Shafritz, M 2011, Classics of organization theory, Wadsworth, Belmont.

Starbuck, W & Hedberg B 2001, How organizations learn from success and failureWeb.

Zaccaro J & Bader, P 2004, Leader traits and attributes, the nature of leadership, Sage, Thousand Oaks.

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