Sir Richard Branson has had a 40 plus year career and is a self made billionaire. But, what’s the secret of his success?
In his new book ‘The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership‘ Branson sets out his his top 10 rules of being a great leader. These rules have kept him motivated and brought him the success that he has seen throughout his 40 plus years career.
1. Follow your passions.
Branson admires those who take the risk on something extraordinary. He’s never been someone to back down from an idea because others said it wasn’t good enough or too far out there.
Branson never jumps into a project that will look bad on him him if it doesn’t work. A key lesson he learned from his father, who gave him permission to drop out of school and start a magazine. He just had to ensure he sold enough advertising to cover the cost of printing.
He uses the investing term “protecting the downside” to describe this limiting of risk. This is how he influenced his business partners to join him in taking the leap into the airline industry in 1984. He got Boeing to agree to take back Virgin’s one 747 aircraft after one year if the business didn’t go as planned. This helped build trust with his partners and backers.
2. Do some good.
Branson’s a firm believer in philanthropy and has signed Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, a promise to donate at least half of his fortune to charity.
He see’s charitable works as a great way to bring employees together, and that’s why large groups of Virgin employees run marathons to raise money for their favorite charities.
3. Believe in your business.
Branson says “A passionate belief in your business and personal objectives can make all the difference between success and failure. If you aren’t proud of what you’re doing, why should anybody else be?”
Be clear about your goals and what you want to achieve. Be proud of what you do then other will be to.
4. Have fun.
Branson says “Fun is one of the most important — and underrated — ingredients in any successful venture. If you’re not having fun, then it’s probably time to call it quits and try something else,”
The heart that unites all of the Virgin companies is a dedication to fun.
Sometimes he’s taken the fun too far, as when he was arrested in the ’90s for a prank against his business partner gone wrong. But he has no regrets.
Branson recommends breaking down barriers in your business’ hierarchy through events such as parties to keep employees comfortable and open to sharing ideas.
5. Don’t give up.
Branson is always in pursuit of another difficult challenge to overcome. Whether he’s developing a commercial space flight line or breaking a world record in a hot air balloon,
He hasn’t always been successful. He’s certainly failed at times. When he tried to take on Coca-Cola with Virgin Cola or closed Virgin Megastore. But he’s learnt from the experience and moved on.
Not all bets can result in a huge success, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make them.
6. Listen more and talk less.
Branson grew up with dyslexia. He developed a habit of writing things down so that he could remember them. It’s a practice he says he has maintained since childhood and never goes anywhere without a notepad.
It’s has become his secret weapon as a businessman. He’s always making note of what others say and jotting down ideas as soon as they pop up in his mind.
7. Make room for personal time through delegation.
Branson says “The art of delegation is one of the key skills any entrepreneur must master,” Successful leaders know they don’t have the time or learning capacity to be good at everything in their company and hire people to take care of things they’re not good at or things that don’t really add value.
He says “It also gives you time to spend with your family, which is really the most important thing of all,”
8. Go out and meet people.
Don’t be someone who gets stuck in front of a computer all day. Push yourself to get lunch with coworkers; grab coffee with someone in your industry.
You’ll have no chance of rising through the ranks or getting your own company recognition if you don’t actively build relationships in person.
9. Communicate among all levels of your company.
Branson thinks that a CEO should never forget that they are defined by their team. He doesn’t believe in barriers between levels of employees.
He points to the Pixar campus, which is designed to make it easier for employees from different parts of the company to run into each other. This allows the chance of an exciting new collaboration to arise.
10. Be happy.
Branson’s $5 billion wouldn’t mean anything if he didn’t really enjoy what he was doing. He sees success as a constant pursuit and indulgence of happiness. It’s why he has his own private island.
He writes, “as long as you are surrounded by the people you love and doing what you love, it really doesn’t matter where you are.”