Leading like a virgin


I make no apologies for writing a second blog about Richard Branson in quick succession. He is a hard man to ignore.

Last month Branson announced that traditional staff holidays were now extinct at Virgin; unmonitored and unplanned holiday time for all staff had arrived. As long as an employee performs their tasks sufficiently and keeps up to date, their holiday time was “on demand & unlimited”. Indeed, Branson has actually taken his cue for this initiative from the “On Demand” trailblazer of the movie industry: Netflix.

Behind all this (as with everything) is personality. Your disposition will define your style of leadership. Branson is fundamentally at odds with rules; he sees them as barriers to success. In fact, he claims that from day one, he has positioned Virgin as the antipathy of “business as usual”. In personality psychology, the values and traits that are likely to predict an individual’s attitude towards rules and structure are Conscientiousness and Security. Branson, as with most entrepreneurs, is likely to have low tendency for Conscientiousness (attention to detail & rule adherence) and a low need for Security (comfortable with risk & ambiguity). These aspects of personality are easy to psychometrically assess for with a valid tool such as Hogan.

This means his leadership style is very much Transformational versus Transactional – empowering versus controlling. Transformational leaders communicate the outcome they would like achieved and let their staff achieve it how they see best. No micromanaging. This type of leadership would worry some for the very reason that Branson is attracted to it – breaking tradition and reducing structure.

At its core, Transformational leadership satisfies a basic human desire: To be respected and believed in. When received it breeds loyalty, engagement and tenure. That is what Branson is hedging anyway.