Most of us know that Richard Branson co-founded Virgin Records in 1972 and through great vision, hard work and dedication, he transformed it into the huge, worldwide powerhouse known today as the Virgin Group. Its more than 400 companies provide lifestyle, media, money, music, environmental and travel-related products and services that delight and inspire.

Because of this, Branson is widely recognized as a perceptive and inspirational leader that consistently "walked the talk" and took the responsibility for leading his company through all of its ups and downs. Indeed, he just seemed to inherently understand that shouldering accountability when things don't go as planned is far more important than taking credit when they go well. While at the helm, he truly embodied the meaning of the term "the buck stops here"--and there were many times that Branson needed to step-up and take responsibility for ill-advised decisions over the years.

Anyone remember Virgin Cola, for example? It never did become the world's favorite soft drink. How about Virgin Digital? It was supposed to usurp iTunes. It didn't. In fact, these businesses are no longer around. But, even in failure, Branson never played the blame game. He took responsibility for his bad decisions and moved on.

Consequently, he earned his people's trust and they eagerly followed his direction and rallied around him as their leader. When he moved away from overseeing the daily operations of Virgin, he left behind a corporate culture where innovation and risk-taking are encouraged and rewarded to this day.

Here are 4 tips to take away from Branson's story:

  1. Share Your Dream: Branson certainly dreams big. From space launchers to Green Energy Funding, his enthusiasm and commitment to his next "big idea" has translated into a multi-billion dollar empire. It all began with a dream that he shared with like-minded people who took his ideas and (through their work and commitment) helped Branson realize them. We all need to do the same in our businesses.
  2. Lead Actively: Branson becomes the name and face of all new ventures. It is how he inspires and sets direction. Being actively involved and visible among your staff and prospective customers sends a message to them that you are passionate about the business and that you want others to share in that desire to excel.
  3. Take A Risk: Sure, Virgin Cola didn't pan out for Branson. But, 400 other businesses did. So, take a risk that you can become enthusiastic about and see if you can drive it into a success story. Just be sure put needed parameters in place and monitor results as you go, so to better anticipate and manage unforeseen difficulties if they occur.
  4. Make No Excuses: As mentioned, Branson has always done a marvelous job at assuming responsibility for miscalculated decisions. It garnered him great respect among his people and helped him accumulate tremendous wealth. Do the same, and, you will earn the same admiration.

When a senior leader adopts the "Branson Way," by working in a style that makes no excuses for poor performance or failure, they begin to institute accountability in everyone that works for them. In organizations like Virgin, where everyone is said to be "in it together"--equally sharing in victory as well as defeat--it is only a matter of time before sustainable business success is achieved.

Published on: Feb 23, 2015
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