In business, leadership is of vital importance because the financial success of every company depends upon the abilities of its leader to structure the work, motivate employees and customers, promote the goods produced, and facilitate the increase of the company’s market share. Richard Bronson, the founder of the Virgin Company, is one of the leaders that possess all the above abilities, which makes his company a role model of successful leadership implementation.
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Human beings are always active and their activities need to be structured and guided in accordance with certain rules and limitations so that to be successful. Namely for the purposes of this guidance the phenomenon of leadership has appeared in the society making some people prominent leaders while other are left to follow them and fulfill their recommendations. In business, leadership is of vital importance because the financial success of every company depends upon the abilities of its leader to structure the work, motivate employees and customers, promote the goods produced, and facilitate the increase of the company’s market share. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Company, is one of the leaders that possess all the above abilities, which makes his company a role model of successful leadership implementation.
Although nowadays famous as the worldwide corporation comprising the mail order companies, airline companies, wholesale and retail stores, etc., the Virgin Company used to be a personal project by Robert Branson. In 1969, Mr. Branson founded the Student magazine which brought him fame and money for establishing retail record stores first of which opened in London in 1970 (Branson, 2009). 1970s saw also the development of the Virgin record label and the opening of The Manor, the first Virgin recording studio. Virgin Atlantic, the airline company, was founded in 1984 as another area of Branson’s business expansion (Branson, 2009). On the edge of 1980 – 1990s, Virgin Megastores are added to Branson’s corporation and developed overseas. Late 1990s saw the birth of Virgin Trains, Virgin Radio, Virgin Cosmetics, etc (Branson, 2009).
Main Activity Areas
Nowadays, the Virgin Company is the worldwide famous brand owning over 200 business companies around the world and employing about 50,000 people in Europe, Asia, and America. According to Branson (2009), nowadays Virgin Company operates in 29 countries. The annual revenue of the company at the global range amounted to $17 billion in 2008, and this year’s figures report 3% increase as forecasted for the end of the fiscal year (Branson, 2009). With such figures showed on the company’s balance sheet every year, the Virgin Company does not limit its activities to one particular area. The Virgin products and services are offered in airline business, train and machine building, military equipment, wholesale and retail trade, recording business, cosmetics, etc. The company’s head, Robert Branson, still runs the business and is often named as an example of the successful leader (Marriott, 2009).
Leadership Practices Used
The above discussed success of the Virgin Company is possible due to the leadership practices of ensuring the unit level strategic direction, ensuring successful goal achievement, and ensuring the quality of goods and services marketed by the company (DuBrin, 2009, pp. 14 – 16). These practices are the parts of the leadership development program introduced in the Virgin Company in 2007 for the purpose, as Martindale (2007) argues, of increasing the income levels by 7% for the next 4 years: “We need to have the leadership strength to be able to [respond to opportunities] without damaging the main business” (Martindale, 2007). Thus, strategic development, long-term goals’ priority, and quality assurance are the major leadership practices used by Virgin to facilitate its development.
Leadership Practices Misused
Accordingly, there are no obvious cases of the misuse of the leadership practices considered in the Virgin Company. The success in ensuring the unit level strategic direction, ensuring successful goal achievement, and ensuring the quality of goods and services marketed by the company allow the company to currently structure its work on achieving the long-term goals. According to Branson (2009), for instance the Virgin Blue Group, the Australian branch of Virgin airline business, achieved the level of 100,000 customers for 7 months of its work. Martindale (2007) reports ₤140,000 of saved funds the Virgin Atlantic obtained from its leadership development program implemented in 2007. These facts allow speaking of proper implementation of leadership practices considered in Virgin Company.
Leadership Practices Lacked
Concerning the lacking leadership practices, the Virgin Company displays none as well. In other words, the official web site of the company, its strategy, mission, and values, as well as the reports and research works by scholars like Martindale (2007) and Marriott (2009) prove that the Virgin Company works not only on the leadership practices considered in this paper but on the wide variety of other practices that include paying attention to customers’ and partners’ needs, ensuring environmental protection, facilitating social development, etc (Martindale, 2007; Marriott, 2009). The Virgin Company leadership practices also ensure the appeal to the senior citizens and people with limited physical and mental abilities. All these points do not allow speaking of lacking leadership practices in Virgin Company.
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Leadership Styles Applied
Such a consistency of leadership practices can be ensured only by the properly structured and balanced system of leadership styles adopted in the Virgin Company. According to DuBrin (2009) and Syque (2009), there are seven major leadership styles whose single of combined application depends upon the personality of the leader, the goals of the company, timeframe of their achievement, and tool adopted for this. In Virgin Company, the combination of charismatic and participative leadership is in use (Branson, 2009; Marriott, 2009). This combination explains the company’s success and popularity among its employees and customers, and helps the Virgin to expand worldwide and develop its activities in various areas of business.
Leadership Theory in the Workplace
In more detail, the leadership theory, as DuBrin (2009) argues, presupposes the presence of the so called charisma, i. e. personal appeal, that the leader should have to form the base of supporters and make them untied for the joint goal (p. 68). The application of this principle is perfect at the workplace in Virgin Company as Robert Branson is a role model of the charismatic leader (Marriott, 2009). He is the person that managed to create the worldwide corporation and interest thousands of people with his ideas without any external power, just through his charisma, communicational and business skills.
Incompatibility of Leadership Theory and Workplace
At the same time, the participative leadership as observed in the Virgin Company does not correspond to the traditional theoretical views expressed by DuBrin (2009) and Syque (2009). According to the latter scholars, the participative leadership involves decision making and strategic planning by whole teams of managers and employees of the company (DuBrin, 2009, pp. 113; Syque, 2009). However, in Virgin Company the participative leadership goes beyond these theoretical boundaries and involves the company’s customer and business partners that might participate in planning and decision making by communicating their ideas either to the company’s representatives or to the official web page.
Thus, it is obvious that the proper and balanced leadership is vital for any business company. The successful leaders must possess profound knowledge of his and other areas of activity, have perfect business and communicational skills, and be able to motivate people. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Company, is one of the leaders that possess all the above abilities, which makes his company a role model of successful leadership implementation. The Virgin Company makes use of the leadership practices of ensuring the unit level strategic direction, ensuring successful goal achievement, and ensuring the quality of goods and services marketed by the company. This set of leadership practices combined with the charismatic and participative leadership styles adopted in the company allow it develop and expand internationally.
- What are the leadership practices that facilitate the development of the Virgin Company in different areas of business around the world?
- What are the leadership styles adopted in the Virgin Company and how this can be proved?
- Is there any factually proven relation of the leadership practices and styles adopted by the company and its success in the international business?
Branson, R. (2009). Welcome to the Virgin.com! Web.
DuBrin, A. J. (2009). Leadership: Research Findings, Practice, and Skills. South-Western College Pub; 6 edition.
Martindale, N. (2007). Virgin Atlantic’s HR in Practice: high-flying management. Web.
Marriott, J. W. (2009). Be a Good Leader. Web.
Syque. (2009). Leadership Styles. Web.