Profile of a Successful Leader: Richard Branson

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On March 20, 2012

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, which consists of more than 400 companies at last count, always looked at things a bit differently than everybody else. And he knows a thing or two about success. While he has had his share of business failures, those failures haven’t kept him from becoming the fourth richest citizen of the United Kingdom with a net worth estimated at more than $4 billion.

That’s not too shabby for someone with a learning disability (dyslexia) who performed rather poorly as a student in his younger years

Branson sought success outside of academics at a fairly early age and began his first business venture (a magazine entitled Student) at the age of 16. In 1972 he had opened a chain of record stores called Virgin Records (later, Virgin Megastores). Even then, Branson saw things differently. One of the things that made him successful was that he flew in the face of convention and offered records for considerably less than his competition—methods that later led to wide-scaled discounting of recorded music.

His penchant for challenging convention also extended into other business ventures and Branson never seemed to shy away from a challenge—even in areas that seemed unrelated to his areas of expertise. In his autobiography he wrote about his decision to launch an airline: “My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them . . .”

Branson has always seen things a little differently than most people. And he’s never settled for “business as usual.” If you don’t believe me, take a gander at his newest book, Screw Business As Usual. Here’s what he has to say:

Over the last few decades as I’ve started up one exciting business after another, I thought that life and work could not get any better. In writing this book, I’ve realised that we’ve really been on a practise run, getting ready for the greatest challenge and opportunity of our lifetime. We’ve got a shot at really pulling together to turn upside down the way we approach the challenges we are facing in the world and look at them in a brand new entrepreneurial way. Never has there been a more exciting time for all of us to explore this great next frontier where the boundaries between work and purpose are merging into one, where doing good, really is good for business.

It’s no wonder that people are willing to follow Richard Branson—even into space! And that’s one of the best ways to tell if someone is really a leader: if people are following them?

Do you have the kind of unique way of looking at the world that makes people want to follow you?