The Virgin Group of Companies Leadership Style

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In the contemporary world, the competition for limited resources such as the space for expansion, talented workforce and market for the produced goods and services have increased more than ever before. This has made the world to appear like a jungle, where only the organizations that have the necessary competitive skills are deemed to survive and develop, while the others are rendered bankrupt and eventually expelled from the market. For this reason, most organizational managers are determined in ensuring that the organizations remain competitive as much as possible. There are myriad of ways in which the organizational owners can enhance the competitive edge of their organizations, including ensuring effective management personnel is in place, rewarding employees, embracing technology, allocating substantial funds for conducting market research and development among others. In connection to this, most organizations that are globally known to be successful is due to the effective leadership styles that are implemented in each day. These leaders are guided by numerous leadership theories such as relationship, participative, management, contingency, trait and others (Northouse, 2016). This paper focuses on the leadership theories that are implemented by Richard Branson, the chief executive officer of the Virgin Group of Companies.

The virgin group of companies is a collective term that is used to refer to a collective of more than 200 privately held companies, including the Virgin Holidays, Virgin Atlantic Airways, the Virgin Retail Group, the Virgin Rail, the Virgin Megastores, the Virgin Cola, the Virgin Direct, and many others in the list. Richard Branson is hailed as one of the successful business man in the world, and his success have been linked to his entrepreneurial skills since he was a child. In addition to this, his leadership styles as the founder of the Virgin group of companies has also been the cornerstone of his success. According to the Forbes` 2009 list of Billionaires, Branson is the 21st

richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of approximately US$ 3.9 billion).

The leadership style for the Virgin Group of Companies

The core factor that influences the success of the Virgin Group of Companies is the participative leadership style that is exercised by Richard Branson. According to Grasmick (2012), Branson has a high interactive style of leadership in such a way that despite his high social and financial status, he comfortably interacts with his employees, motivating and empowering them on how to attain the set organizational goals and objectives. Precisely, Branson treats all his employees as equals, takes them as part of his family and with respect regardless of their gender, age and performance differences. Actually, he tends to extend an olive branch to his employees, especially by going to the extent of inviting them for parties in his own home. In addition, Branson gives his employees the freedom of being creative. At one time when he was being interviewed by Dan Schawbel, Branson amazed people when he said that his leadership style is that of a rule breaker. According to Branson, “I never learned the rules in the first place. To change the game is at the heart of what Virgin stands for, so the company culture has always been: Don’t sweat it: rules were meant to be broken” (Chris, 2015). For this reason, he has not established rules that his employees should adhere to, especially rules concerning how things should be done, and works on a non-hierarchical and flat structure.

In contrast, the virgin groups of companies are made of clusters, and employees are given the autonomy of working without much interference from their supervisors. In addition, the Virgin Group of company`s head believes that ‘no one can be successful alone, and one cannot be a great leader without great people to lead’ (Chris, 2015). In the interview, Branson also stipulated that he believes in the art of delegation, and this is one of the core reason why he gives each employee an opportunity to learn by granting them the freedom and push to execute duties on their own.

Leadership theories exercised at Virgin Group of Companies

There are numerous leadership theories that are executed by Virgin group of company`s chief executive officer, Richard Branson, and these are among the major factors that contribute to the success of these companies. First, the contingency theory is greatly exercised by the management personnel of the Virgin group of companies. This theory entails the aspect of a leader to embrace a contingency or the best alternative approach of things based on a given circumstance. Precisely, the advocates of this theory stipulates that no leadership style is best in all situations, since some circumstances call for special or other leadership styles to be embraced and implemented in order to prevent the occurrence of losses. According to Hodgson and White (who are both researchers on effective leadership), a true and effective leadership does not entirely depend on the qualities of a leader, but also by striking the necessary balance between needs, behaviors, and context. Effective leaders have the potential and skills of evaluating the take stock of a given circumstance, needs of the employees, and most importantly, adjust their behaviors accordingly (Cherry, 2017). The success of an organization depends on the aspects of the situation, quantities of the followers, and the leadership style applied in a particular situation of need. In this context, Richard Branson rarely mandate employees to stick to the rules and regulations, since this may limit them to perform the delegated duties effectively.

In addition, Branson contemplates McGregor`s theory X and Y of employee motivation. Precisely, according to this theory, most employees dislike work, especially due to the need to adhere to the established organizational rules and regulations, and they usually work when they are under tight supervision (theory X). on the other hand, employees are motivated to perform when managers give them full autonomy to execute tasks with minimal or no supervision (Theory Y) (Sorensen & Yaeger, 2015). Branson tries to balance the two theories by having supervisors in place as well as giving the employees the freedom of performing the tasks by themselves. The core aspect of having supervisors in his group of companies is for the employee to have someone to contact if need arises or in his absence. In addition, it is likely for an employer to get annoyed when he or she happens to find an employee is underperforming, or is providing shoddy work that does not meet the set standards of an organization. However, this is not the case with Branson, since he is always very concerned with such employees. Actually, Branson proceeds to implement his participatory leadership skills especially by orienting, inspiring, and showing the underperforming employee on how to improve.

Secondly, the trait theory is also one of the major leadership theories that have enabled the Virgin Group of companies to succeed. This theory assumes that people tend to inherit or embrace certain qualities and traits which in the long run makes them better suited to leadership. This theory also identifies a particular behavioral or personality characteristics that are shared by leaders. In this connection, Richard Branson had entrepreneurial traits since he was a child, and he manifested these traits after she founded his first business (student magazine). He developed this trait by interacting with other like-minded and influential leaders such as the Steven Kotler (the flow Genome Project founder) and Peter Diamandis (the serial tech entrepreneur and XPRIZE chief executive officer). In addition, Richard Branson inspires his employees to attain the organizational goals by assigning them tasks to perform without being supervised. The manner in which he runs the various companies under the umbrella of the Virgin group of companies is a clear indication that he has influenced most (if not all) his employees to be leaders like him. Precisely, he inspires his employees to gain traits such as courage, creativity, self-confidence, extroversion and others, which are all potentially linked to great leaders.

Thirdly, the success of the Virgin Group of companies is also rooted to the participative theory, which suggests that an effective leadership is one that takes into consideration of others (Northouse, 2016). These leaders embrace suggestions, criticism, decisions, and actions of their juniors and use them to the betterment of the company. He usually treats his employees as valuable assets of his organizations, by appreciating them, inspiring them, treating them with respect, and more importantly, involving them during the decision making process. Actually, when employees are valued, they feel motivated to work harder, and avoid at all costs a situation in which they can offend a participative leader. In addition, when a leader gets concerned with the welfare of his or her employees, the loyalty of the later is enhanced, and they can rarely quit or dump their organization for another. In addition, the Virgin Group of Company`s chief executive officer is not a person to just sit, authorize and watch tasks being executed by his juniors, but actively participates in the execution of tasks, including setting an example on how the tasks ought to be done. This does not only encourage the employees to perform, but also ensures that the tasks completed meets the set organizational standards.

Fourth, the far that the Virgin Group of Companies have reached is mostly due to the behavioral approach of the management personnel. Branson sensitizes his managers to not focus on the mistakes of the employees but focus on the employees doing the right every day. In addition, the management of the Virgin Companies place greater emphasis on gathering what the employees feel and think rather than the simple mistakes that they may incidentally happen to commit. In addition, Branson acknowledge that leadership skills do not entirely depend on the leadership behavior, but instead it starts on leadership training and development. One way that a leader can train his juniors is by leading by example, and this is what Branson does. For example, in his life, Branson had been operating restlessly and this sensitizes his juniors to work tirelessly all the time, and teaching them to adapt changes continuously. In addition, Branson have been managing all the 300 plus Virgin brands with a high level of integrity. This sensitizes his juniors to possess integrity and manifest it by being truthful to themselves, to their supervisors, and more importantly to the Virgin brands.

Consecutively, it has been a culture of promoting fairness in all the Virgin brands, especially by treating everyone equally. For example, when it comes to rewarding employees, the management of this company gives each and every employee an opportunity to showcase their exemplary performance, where the best performers are rewarded appropriately. In such a way, no employee who can complain that the manner in which the rewarding process is done favors some. Consecutively, the management of this group of companies has instituted a culture of hard work, self-confidence and positive attitudes (Johnson, 2013). For example, when the management set goals and objectives that the subordinates are ought to achieve within a given period, and in one way or the other some employees complain of time limit in completing the goals, Branson with his positive attitude does not only inspire them, but also helps them to complete the short term goals successfully.

Lastly, situational theory is also one of the approaches that have enabled the Virgin Group of Companies to expand beyond their borders. This theory entails the aspect of a leader to maximally exploit a situation when it arises. For example, Branson used to implement his investment decision whenever he thought it was the right time to do so. Whenever he identifies an investment opportunity, he used to invest as soon as possible, and this is the core reason why he currently has more than 300 companies under the umbrella of Virgin Group.


Cherry K., (2017). The Major Leadership Theories: The Eight Major Theories of Leadership. Retrieved from,

Chris J., (2015). Richard Branson Leadership Style Commandments. Retrieved from,       

Grasmick, L. (2012). “Participative Leadership: Perspectives of Community College Presidents “. Community college journal of research and practice (1066-8926), 36 (2), p. 67.

Johnson, C. E. (2013). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow. Sage Publications.

Northouse P., (2016). Leadership: theory and practice 7th edition. Sage Publications.

Sorensen, P. F., & Yaeger, T. F. (2015). Theory X and theory Y. Oxford University Press.

January 19, 2024

Business Economics

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Company Leadership

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