Four leadership lessons from Virgin’s Director of Special Projects

As well as heading up the DS Virgin Racing team, Alex Tai is the Virgin Group’s Director of Special Projects, meaning he has spent many an hour attempting to bring Richard Branson’s bold visions to life - or as he puts it: "trying to keep him alive". 

During Virgin Atlantic's recent Business is an Adventure event in Barbados, Alex was able to share with the audience the lessons he’s learnt during his 22 years working alongside the Virgin Group founder. From hot air balloons to kitesurfing, he’s found himself thrown into some tricky situations - so what’s it taught him?

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Find your purpose

"As a leader it’s crucial to put purpose into what you’re doing. Providing purpose and inspiration, then communicating that with your team, is one of the biggest takeaways I’ve had from working with Richard. The Virgin Group aims to change business for good, by doing that Richard isn’t just able to inspire the people inside the business, but use it as a way to connect with those outside the group."

Inspire innovation

"With the central aim of ‘changing business for good’ all leaders across the Virgin Group are challenged to make sure their work has both a positive impact and a long-lasting effect on wider society. At DS Virgin Racing we are looking to do this by driving innovation in our industry forward, the purpose of our team is to improve competition, ownership and the advancement of electric vehicles - we believe they are the future."

 

Set clear goals

"To achieve the innovation that we’re looking to inspire our teams to reach you need to set clear goals. Set them goals, give them a clear outcome and have everyone understand the end point that we’re all working towards. You don’t need to micro-manage people and tell them exactly how they should be achieving the goals, that would be counterproductive. Bring people on-board, tell them where the destination is and let them introduce their own ideas to get there."

Read: Gervase Warner - what I've learnt as a leader 

Learn how to handle big personalities

"You have to learn to deal with big personalities, if they’re coming from above or below. Remember you are there to encourage them and get the best out of their skillset. Let them innovate and not stand in their way. If you have someone in your team who is a high-performer but has a bad attitude then let them know what the boundaries are but also, why you want them in the team and why exactly they are so valuable."

To learn more about leadership, head over to Virgin Atlantic's Business is an Adventure hub.

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