Richard Branson: how to spot an inexperienced leader

The Virgin Founder points out the tell-tale signs of weak leadership and explains the importance of listening to your team when you’re trying to lead them...

“It’s often easy to spot an inexperienced leader. If you see someone raising his voice at employees, stuttering nervously in front of a group or avoiding admitting when he’s wrong, that’s a person who is just starting out,” writes Richard Branson in a recent blog.

“If you want to stand out as a leader, a good place to begin is by listening. Any organization’s best assets are its people, and if you are ready to help the team to achieve its goals, you can start gathering information on how to move things along just by paying attention to what employees are saying. This skill will help you throughout your career. Leaders who are great listeners are often terrific at uncovering and putting in place strategies and plans that have a big impact.”

So how does Branson’s leadership measure up? Here are some thoughts from those who’ve experienced his guidance first hand:

Derek Handley, Resident Entrepreneur at The B Team

“What I’ve learned from Richard… Don't show anger. Never be rude. In many cities around the world in all sorts of situations I've seen Richard tired, frustrated, elated, mischievous - but never angry or rude to anybody. Anger seems to be a wasted emotion on him, and impoliteness seems impossible. I've tried to embody this inspiration as much as I can train myself to, to tread more gently among my fellow man and woman; to constantly be mindful of turning anger into answers, and responding to rudeness with empathy."

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Alexis Dormandy, Ex-Virgin Exec

“What’ve learned from Richard… Set ridiculously high expectations. You’ve got to set them ridiculously high. Especially when it comes to deadlines. If you aim for 12 weeks you might pull off 20; if you aim for 30 weeks it might take you a year. It makes people think very rationally about how long it’ll take to complete a big project, and plan for it. There’s nothing more likely to get him interested in doing something than to be told it couldn’t be done. If you were to meet with someone who said, ‘Oh, that can’t be done,’ you’d probably say, ‘Okay, I won’t do it then’. Richard would say that you wouldn’t succeed in business then. If your nature is such that if somebody says it can’t be done, and you say, ‘Excellent. If I can find a way of doing that, then we’ll make lots of money,’ then you will succeed in an entrepreneurial environment.”


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