Leadership Learnings from Richard Branson

I’ve shared my key takeouts from the recent Leadership Gathering held by Virgin Unite and Business Chicks in 3 previous posts, but its impossible to conclude without including the lessons provided by one of our generations great business leaders, Sir Richard Branson.

Our previous visit to Necker came at a very challenging time for both Richard and the wider Virgin family, coming just days after the Virgin Galactic crash in which one of the test pilots sadly lost his life. At that time Richard, while clearly deeply personally impacted, still generously shared his time and thoughts with our group, and you can read my learnings from that experience here.

This time we saw a much more lighthearted Richard, who was eagerly anticipating the imminent arrival of his dearly loved grandchildren and had just enjoyed honouring his lovely wife Joan at her birthday celebrations.

About to celebrate his own 65th birthday, he’s showing no signs of slowing down and during a Q&A session with Margie Warrell (you can read her thoughts on the experience here) he described his energetic morning routine which sees him on the tennis court by 6.45am, followed up with a spot of kite surfing.  He has no plans to slow down his business activities either, saying that working with not for profits tackling the worlds big problems such as carbon emissions and marine reserves is now his major focus.

He reiterated his views on the importance of delegation, saying he saw being prepared to delegate as the real game changer in business.  When asked how he hired great people to delegate to, his advice was to look for people who are great with other people, and who bring out the best in their teams.  Interestingly for our predominantly female group, when asked his views on Sheryl Sandberg’s exhortation for women to lean in and increase their confidence in their own abilities he appeared genuinely perplexed, saying he has never considered women as having less self confidence than men, & declaring that he must be fortunate to be surrounded by very confident women!

From a healthcare perspective, I have previously written and spoken about my belief that telemedicine will play an increasingly important role in healthcare delivery, and I loved the presentation on the Doctor on Demand business model that I had seen at CES earlier this year. Richard is an investor in Doctor on Demand, & was delighted to hear of the positive experience that one of our group had had with the service earlier on the trip. Given his earlier words to us that many of his businesses had been based on bad personal experiences and a belief that he could do better, it’s no wonder that this was a business model that engaged him and attracted his investment!

I don’t think anything could sum up Richards approach to life any better than the answer he gave to the question ‘What advice would you give a 20 year old Richard?’ – his immediate response being ‘I wouldn’t change much, I’ve had a blast!’

We’ve certainly had a blast this past week, having the opportunity to spend time not only with Richard and his family but with the other speakers and members of our group.  The discussion, ideas, and friendships generated will undoubtedly bring about lasting change in all of our lives and I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of this amazing experience.

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