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Friday, 26 July 2013 11:05

Leadership: Having the Courage of your Convictions

Effective leadership calls for the ability to motivate others to challenge themselves and to take risks . Leaders who possess the ability to influence in this way,  often model that same behaviour in themselves. The individual who can accept personal responsibility but at the same time stretch the limits of personal challenge can encourage a similar sense of ambition and risk in others.

An exemplar of this behaviour is Richard Branson. According to recent media reports, notable celebrities that have leapt onto the Branson Virgin Galactic band wagon and who are patiently waiting for a trip into the outer atmosphere include Justin Bieber, Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ashton Kutcher, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Richard Branson’s style is direct and to the point. He describes his philosophy in a “Forbes” as: “if it doesn’t fit on the back of an envelope, it’s rubbish”. Branson approach is uncomplicated. He favours brief, informal face to face communication. His frankness and willingness to be challenged by himself and others creates a charismatic personality that instils trust and earns the envy of many.

No one can accuse Branson of not living up to his convictions. During an interview with “Inc.”, Branson discusses decisiveness stating, “in the end, you have to say, screw it. Just do it.”  The entrepreneur tells of his experiences in accepting failure and learning from it, the need to pick yourself up and try again and that adversity  can lead to success because of the lessons learned from failure. Contrast this with an individual who will not even risk failure in the first place, let alone courageously admit that they screwed up.  Leadership requires a level of emotional intelligence that can apply lessons learned from personal moments of weakness.

Failures that Branson has experienced while building his Virgin empire include Virgin Vodka, part of a line of drinks that Branson launched in 1994; Virgin Brides which saw Branson shave his beard and wear a wedding dress in his efforts to break  into the bridal fashion market in 1996. Virgin Vie was a line of cosmetics and toiletries sold online and other myriad disappointments such as forays into the clothing and shoe business ,lingerie, cars, airlines other than Virgin Atlantic, flowers, even a foolhardy attempt to take on Apple’s iPod and iTunes have not derailed his impervious determination.

It is impossible to predict the future of Branson’s Virgin Galactic escapades and whether it heralds  a pioneering step for commercial space travel, but one thing is for sure, Branson’s fearlessness and immunity to the humbling effect of failure will continue to earn him the devotion of many fans including the likes of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt along with the well deserved title of “leader”.


Accountability Leadership, Di Worrall. Coming to Amazon in July 2013

Digital Journal: Justin Bieber to pay $250,000 for Richard Branson space odyssey

Forbes:  Richard Branson: If It Can’t Fit On The Back Of An Envelope, It’s Rubbish (An Interview)

Inc. : Sir Richard Up Close

Business Insider: Richard Branson’s Fails: 14 Virgin Companies That Went Bust