Joe Biden’s leadership lessons

Joe Biden
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Published on 20 January 2021

"It's Joe Biden here. I rang to see how you are?" Back when President Biden was Vice-President Biden, he called me out of the blue. He had seen photos of yours truly bloodied and bruised after a very close shave falling off my bike and wanted to make sure I was alright. It was typical of the man, finding the time to make a personal call to check on somebody else’s wellbeing.

President Biden is one of those rare politicians who did not get involved in politics for power. He entered public service for exactly that – to serve the public. Having been fortunate to get to know him a little over the years, I am sure he will continue to strive for pathways to positive change while he is in the White House.

He will also bring a sense of decency and - a very underrated quality in leaders – a sense of humour. "I'm going to have to stop you and John Kerry from going anywhere near bikes!" he joked on that call, after the then-Secretary of State had broken his leg cycling. He was warm, genuine and kind. "I have plenty of time, man," he laughed. "We want you well."

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His selflessness and friendliness also came across in his friendship with President Obama. In a time when politics has become increasingly divisive, the way they worked together seamlessly, and showed how colleagues can become dear friends, was inspiring. I’m confident President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris can achieve great things together too.

When I have been fortunate enough to spend time with President Biden, he has talked wisely to me about the dangers of short-termism, in business as well as politics. I’m sure patience will be required to see through the change America wants and needs. He is a great listener, asks a lot of questions and treats everybody with respect. Plain and simple, he cares about people.

This note he sent to his team urging them to take time off to be with their families a few years ago is well worth sharing again: "To my Wonderful Staff... I would like to take a moment and make something clear to everyone. I do not expect nor do I want any of you to miss or sacrifice important family obligations for work. This is very important to me. In fact, I will go so far as to say that if I find out that you are working with me while missing important family responsibilities, it will disappoint me greatly... Thank you all for the hard work." It is a policy that really hits home with us at Virgin, where we have introduced measures such as unlimited leave, fully flexible working and shared parental leave.

Wishing the very best of luck to President Biden, Vice President Harris, their families and their teams. After an inspiring inauguration showcasing the power of unity, including Amanda Gorman’s breathtaking poem, how wonderful to see the new Administration immediately putting their words into action. President Biden issued 17 directives, from rejoining the Paris climate accord to new measures to tackle COVID-19, that will begin to make a positive difference to people’s lives. A new day in America, indeed.