Would you classify Richard Branson as a manager or a leader? What qualities distinguish him as one or the other?
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I would classify Richard Branson as a leader to a much greater extent than a manager, although he might be outstanding in both roles. What makes him a successful leader is that he produces new ideas and encourages others to do the same. Leadership is characterized by vision, and Branson demonstrates that having a vision is the driving force behind success. Branson does not manage his businesses (i.e., he does not spend time in an office holding one meeting after another. Instead, he has created an atmosphere of innovation, where talented and passionate people manage his businesses and constantly improve them by bringing new ideas. That’s what makes Branson a leader.
Also, what makes a manager different from a leader in the scale of thinking. Managers solve problems, which they can do with creativity and brilliance, but in most cases, they have a goal, and they find ways to achieve it. Leaders can go further. They think on a larger scale and set new goals; they can be courageous and daring. It may be management that ensures successful performance, but it is leadership that takes businesses’ places. Turning a student newspaper into a huge corporation engaged in air transportation and the hotel industry is what a leader can do.
As mentioned earlier in this chapter, followers are part of the leadership process. Describe the relationship between Branson and his followers.
As is seen in the story of a flight attendant from Virgin Airlines, the main element of Branson’s relationship with his followers is that he constantly encourages them to come up with ideas and pursue them. While some leaders demand implicit obedience from their followers or do not pay enough attention to their needs, Branson has proved his dedication to inspiring his followers and supporting their endeavors. I think that Branson’s approach challenges the distinction between leadership and followership. People are not divided into two groups: leaders and followers. Leadership is rather a position or a set of practices and beliefs that drive a collective effort forward. Many people can take this position, employ the practices, and adopt the beliefs. Branson wants his followers to become leaders in what they do. Moreover, he himself acted as a follower, in a way, in the case of the flight attendant, who had decided to start a wedding business. Leadership that inspires leadership, as Branson shows, is an effective and productive approach to developing one’s business.
Identify the myths of leadership development that Richard Branson’s success helps to disprove.
First of all, there is a myth that leadership is knowledge. It can be interpreted as stating that leaders are the most knowledgeable and perhaps the most educated ones or those possessing the highest academic achievements. Branson was never successful at studying and failed intellectual tests because of his dyslexia. However, he had the leadership talent to attract people and resources and engage in highly successful activities. Second, it should be noted that Branson did not invent anything. Neither has he made a scientific discovery or developed innovative technology. What he did was feeling and understanding the needs and trends of the market, discovering hidden demand, and allocating resources wisely. Finally, there is a myth that leaders operate on the very top level of organizations, designing things like vision and mission without really looking into what is happening on lower levels. Leaders are often seen as figures at the top of companies telling the companies where to turn or where to go. Branson disproved this leadership myth as his activities have always been connected to engaging his followers in common success.