Sample Essay On Leader Profile Paper: Richard Branson
The chosen leader for this leadership interview is Richard Branson. Branson is the founder and owner of the Virgin group of companies that takes part in various forms of business including the air transport industry. Branson fits the type of leader needed for this interview given that his leadership strategies are the reasons for the success of the Virgin group of companies. His story is inspirational given that his success began from a simple idea of owning and running a college magazine to a large business empire that boasts of the ownership of treasures such as islands and a fleet of company planes (Branson 12). It is an extraordinary example that makes me relate to the lessons I learned from my mother. She exemplifies my growth in t the person I am and reminds me of the importance of commitment and dedication to one’s dreams. Richard Branson fits such a leadership profile considering the fact that he is regarded among the world’s most successful entrepreneurs in this century. Branson also has an exemplary style of leadership.
Nature and Importance of Leadership for Richard Branson
For Richard Branson, leadership is an important asset for the Virgin group of companies. The success of the company and its ability to grow and explore various parts of the world relies on the leadership strategies implemented from time to time. It is important because it enables the company to transform its potential into actual deliverables and reality through deliverables such as sales. As such, leadership is the bridge between the desires of the organizations and the actual results that it realizes in the market (Branson 23). Leadership is the driving force of the organization in the achievement of the goals set upon the commencement of organizational activities.
Why do you think it is important for students such as myself to learn to lead?
Could you give me an example of when you have been a:
a) Figurehead- I have been a figurehead many times in my company. I must approve all the decisions deliberated upon by the heads of the departments. Sometimes I make tough decisions alone, and that makes me figure head.
b) Spokesperson- I often speak on behalf of the company to the public and the press especially when revealing the financial reports.
c) Negotiator- I have been the company’s negotiator when forming mergers and acquiring other organizations.
d) Coach and motivator. I coach my employees to carry out certain managerial tasks especially when in am not available. At the same time, I motivate them when the company is facing tough conditions in the market and the future seems bleak.
e) Team Builder- I have been a team builder by creating distinct departments at Virgin Atlantic. These distinct departments make employees realize the need to work together for a common goal.
f) Team player- I am a team player at the organization. I always consult members of the board and the relevant heads of departments before making critical decisions.
g) Technical Problem solver- conflict is an inherent factor in large organizations such as Virgin. I have interviened in cases where there is a conflict between various department and employees.
h) Entrepreneur- I risked nearly all the money in earned from my fist ventures to establish the Virgin group. Today, I continue to risk more resources to grow the company. I am always an entrepreneur (Branson 45).
i) Strategic planner- I planned strategically from the newspaper business to get to Virgin Atlantic through many years of commitment.
4. What are the greatest satisfactions you get from being a leader?
As a leader, my greatest satisfaction stems from the growth that the organization has witnessed over the years. It is a good feeling having started from a small venture to a pint where the company’s brand is all over the world.
5. What are the greatest frustrations you experience as a leader?
The dynamic nature of the business world is the greatest frustrations as a leader. Today, you could be the best company in the industry and tomorrow you are at the bottom. You have to get back to the drawing board again.
Traits, Motives, and Characteristics of Leaders
A trait refers to a certain aspect about an individual, which is innate and part of his or her personality. It differs from a skill because a skill can nurture and advance a skill through regular coaching.
1. What traits do you have that make you more effective as a leader?
Naturally, I am a risk taker. I can allocate all my resources and efforts to something as long as I believe that it has any potential to result in the outcome I desire. Secondly, I am patient such that that I can wait for a long period to enjoy the results and outcomes that I desire. I believe these traits set me apart from the rest because most leaders are risk averse and rather impatient.
2. What traits do you wish you had in order to be more effective as a leader?
I wish I were flexible in terms of my thinking and approach to business aspects. I am often rigid when it comes to the things I want, which may be inappropriate because I may fail to take advantage of available opportunities.
3. How do you team with other people to complement your missing traits?
I often identify my shortcomings and the things in lack in specific situations. After identifying my weakness, I identify any of my colleagues who can make up for its and I start working with him or her. They may have a particular skill, expertise, or trait that I am aware I do not have.
4. What motivates you to want to be a leader?
I always want to be in charge of the affairs and activities happening around me. I am motivated by the fact that I should be able to influence the decisions made rather than allowing other people to take full charge. Lastly, being a leader gives me an opportunity to make others better by making decisions in the best of their interests.
5. What is it about the way you think that helps you be a better leader?
I always think in terms of growth and making the organization be in a better position and state than it is currently. As such, my thinking focuses on the welfare of all the stakeholders of the organization. Many leaders often focus on the generation of profit, which is short-lived (DEHAVEN, HURST, and BRANSON 56).
6. How important do you think traits are to a leader’s success?
Traits are important because they determine the natural attributes that the leader cannot change. They are in-born strengths used by leaders in the management of people and other resources.
Charismatic and Transformational Leadership
1. Do you think other people view you as being charismatic?
I believe other people perceive me as a charismatic leader. In many of the forums and events that I participate in, I am usually given leadership roles and the task of managing activities on behalf of others. I have chaired numerous boards and steering committees.
2. How important do you think charisma is to being successful as a leader?
Charisma is important for me in my leadership capacity because it enables me achieve high levels of performance by initiating a mindset of innovation, teamwork, creativity, and growth. I do this through direction and guidance.
3. When you have been around leaders, YOU felt were charismatic, what things they did made you see them as charismatic?
The leaders were very persuasive and built pathos with the people around them. They created an effective emotional connection with the people around them and developed them into logical arguments and strategies. Emotional connection is important as it enables the leaders understand other people’s needs.
4. What vision do you have for your (organization, community, team, church, etc.)? How do you come up with your vision?
I want to grow the Virgin brand into the number one airline brand in all parts of the world. I believe this is possible in spite of the high level of competition. My vision bases on the achievements and strides that the company has made so far regarding growth and expansion of its market share.
5. How do you lead big changes in your organization?
First, I make sure that the people around me are aware of the inevitable nature of change. The organization has to change in order to make any progress. I then embark on extensive training such that the employees can handle any new tasks emanating from the changes made. The process ends with a regular evaluation of the outcomes caused by the change implemented.
6. Can you describe a big, transformational change that either you have led or you have been part of? What steps did you (or the other leaders) take that made the change work, or not work?
Last year, Virgin Atlantic underwent major changes when Delta Air decided to relocate its business and work together with the company. The implication was that we had to change our management structures and investment portfolio to suit the new business merger. I worked with a team of four supervisors and three managers from Delta Airlines and Virgin Atlantic to allocate adequate resources in terms of money and personnel to hand the new level of traffic.
Leadership Behaviors, Attitudes, and Styles
1. How would you describe your leadership style?
I am a Laissez Faire type of leader because I believe that more freedom for the employees leads to higher levels of productivity. I provide the required support and resources needed in the process of production.
2. Do you consider yourself more task-oriented, or more people-oriented?
I am a people oriented type of leader. My belief is that people are the most important asset in an organization given that they are directly responsible for the levels of product ion realized.
3. What attitudes and behaviors have you learned in order to be more effective?
I have learned that it is important to accommodate various types of people regardless of their level of education and ability to learn. As the Virgin group of companies grew, the employees base became more diversified, which made me develop this attitude.
4. What attitudes and behaviors do you think you still need to work on in order to be more effective?
I need to improve in terms of my levels of expectation. When I assign a particular task to an individual, I often expect them to meet the results I desire. Sometimes, this is not possible due to market conditions and resource constraints. I need to be more flexible.
Contingency and Situational Leadership
1. To what extent do you adjust your leadership style to fit different situations?
It is important have a dynamic leadership styles. I am willing to change my style to any extent as long as the desired outcome puts the organization in a better place.
2. Can you give me three examples of situations in which you adjusted your leadership style? For each of these situations, please answer the following:
In the first instance, I had to change my leadership style from that of an aristocrat to laissez faire after Virgin Atlantic began to grow rapidly. Initially, the company was a small and manageable business entity where I could make many decisions without the need to consult. However, the expansion of the company led to the need to grant more freedom to the employees. I knew I had to make the changes because I was dealing with a bigger group of people (Branson and McLimore 13). I was successful during this transition.
In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, I shifted from the laissez-faire leadership style to a democratic style. At this time, the company was at the brink of collapse due to the forecasted decline in sales. I knew I had to make the adjustment because the company would be at the brink of collapse. I had to make decisions personally but ensure that they were in line with the interests of the stakeholders. I was successful because the company survived the crisis.
Lastly, I had to shift back to the laissez-faire form of leadership after the merger with Delta Airline. I had to change because of the need to accommodate new ideas from our business partner. I have was successful in this context because the merger increased the revenues generated.
3. What situations do you find are the most challenging for you to adjust your style to fit?
The management of the risk involved when changing the leadership style is a huge challenge. Sometimes, it is possible to shift to a style that will not fit the new organizational changes and structure, which will affect output. In addition, sometimes it is difficult to find the right level of support for the new style of leadership adopted.
Leadership Ethics and Social Responsibility
The first ethical issue regards individual ethics. Sometimes I was torn between individual interests and organizational interest. For instance, I would be tempted to use company money to buy personal property investment. I decided to treat individual and organizational interests separately. I arrived at the decision after realizing that the conflict of interests could lead to losses in terms of business.
The second ethical issue was the decision to approve my company’s proposal to go green. I decided that it was prudent for the organization to support the efforts in the world to conserve the environment. I arrived at my decision after realizing that it improves the image of the company after a careful assessment of the methods companies acquire goodwill (Branson and McLimore 34).
The last ethical issue is corporate social responsibility. I was reluctant to involve the company in giving back to the community due to the associated costs. However, I decided to engage in a few activities such as sponsoring rugby teams and events after assessing then long-term effects of CSR. I would not have made any different decision today.
2. Do you think leaders have a responsibility to make decisions not only for the good of their organization, but for the benefit of society as a whole? Why, or why not?
Yes. Leaders must make societal interests a priority when they are making decisions. The society is important because it hosts the organization and enables the organization to carry out its activities. They are the source of the markets. Their interest is also should be considered besides organizational interests.
3. Can you give me a specific example in which you made a decision that was motivated mostly by your view of social responsibility?
In 2004, Kenya began to participate in international rugby competitions. Virgin Atlantic joined the sponsorship of the team, and I made the decision after I realized that such a team needed support given that it was a young team on the international platform.
Power, Politics, and Leadership
All leaders have some forms of power. Where do you think your leadership power comes from? That is, what is the basis for your followers viewing you as having power?
My leadership comes from my entrepreneurial skill and desire to manage myself. Over the years, I have taken the risk of allocating numerous resources to the implementation of various business strategies. The basis of my power is the belief I have in myself that I ca achieve anything I want.
2. To what extent do you empower your followers?
I empower my followers as much as I can. I believe that it is important to inspire other people to reach the peak of their careers.
3. How do you make empowerment work for you and your followers?
I do not treat the rest of the employees as my subordinates when I interact. I develop a close relationship with them such that they are aware of my sensitivity towards their problems. As such, they are inspired by my concern and their progress. I also take much time t learn and listen to what they know.
4. What advice would you give me about organizational politics and how to “play” them once I graduate?
It is important to maintain a neutral position. In addition, put the interest of the organization above everything.
5. What should I do when I am new at a company to create a positive image and be noticed for the right reasons?
You should stay committed to your work and beat all the deadlines. Learn to work and deliver the necessary results without any supervision. You also consult before making major decisions.
Influence Tactics of Leaders
1. Can you give me three examples of areas of your leadership life in which you have been influential in the past? For each of them, please tell me:
In the first instance, I influenced my fellow students to be vocal and air any grievances and concerns they had. I did this by starting the first college magazine where they could articulate their problems suing good language. The college authorities were not willing to support the venture, but they did after I explained the objectives of the magazines.
I have also led the efforts of developing an entrepreneurial culture in the world. I have done this by approving the establishment of the Richard Branson School of entrepreneurs in South Africa to nurture the culture in the developing world.
I have also asserted my influence in developing and growing the business through newspapers and magazine articles. Often, I do no encounter much resistance because are willing to listen to my secrets of success.
2. Have you witnessed unethical influence tactics in your leadership career? If so, can you describe the situation (no names please) and what the unethical tactics were?
I have experienced unethical leadership in my career. At times, the company entered mergers with companies that hired underage employees to mitigate the costs they incur for production.
3. What did you do when confronted with unethical influence tactics?
I considered the consequences of the unethical act. It taints the reputation of the company and jeopardizes my leadership capacity. I did not approve of the merger.
4. What things should I do to become more influential in my leadership career?
You should learn to use various leadership styles to lead (Branson and McLimore 12). It will enable you handle people better and understand their problems, which is important for you to help them make better decisions.
a. What leadership methods do you use as a team leader to build a strong teamwork climate with your followers?
I use the participative leadership style to develop and manage a strong team network. In this style, the input of the team is more important than my judgment as a leader.
b. What do you think is the key to making teams work well together?
Good communication is the most important attributes for all organizational teams. The team members must be able to share information among themselves for good coordination.
c. We know that diverse teams can be more creative and innovative, but also can have more conflict. How do you handle the inevitable conflicts that occur?
Handling disputes begins with making the employees aware that diversity makes conflicts an inherent part of the life in the company. As such, they must be ready to resolve the conflicts when they occur. I intervene and listen to the grievances of both parties before making a decision.
d. What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of leading a team?
The most challenging part is the training the members of t\he team. They have different learning abilities. One has to be patient to ensure none of the members misses out.
e. How do you recommend I learn the skills needed to be a great team leader?
You should attend leadership forums held by organizations in events such as seminars. Moreover, take units that encourage you to understand management and leadership. If you have an opportunity to interact with leaders, ask those questions you do not understand about leadership.
Motivation and Coaching Skills
1. Would you please describe the process you use to set goals to motivate your individual followers?
First, I identify the most important and urgent needs of the organization. I then state them as a priority for the employees. I then consult their supervisors to confirm if the needs are as important as they seem and ask them to allocate the tasks to them.
2. How do you help your followers have confidence that they can accomplish the goals you set? (Note to student: this is expectancy from expectancy theory)
I help them have confidence by applying the expectancy theory. It asserts that an individual behaves in a particular way based on the result that they expect from their behavior. By behaving this way, my followers will be confident that the desired result will be achieved.
3. How do you coach your employees if they are struggling to achieve your goals?
I use apprenticeship. They can emulate the methods in use to achieve those goals by observing what I do.
4. How do you help your followers see that accomplishing the goals you set will lead to some positive reward that they value?
Here, I apply the principle of instrumentality. For instance, if the employee expects a promotion after achieving a certain goal, then I make sure they are assured of the reward by giving them examples of a former employee who enjoyed a similar reward.
5. What do you do to provide recognition (formal and informal) to followers who are performing well?
The rewards vary. They range from leaves, salary increments, promotions, and other bonuses such as good recommendation.
6. How do you figure out what rewards and recognition will motivate each person?
It depends on the task at hand and the ability to modify the outcome such that it contributes positively to the expected outcomes.
Branson, R. Business stripped bare: Adventures of a global entrepreneur. London: Virgin Books, 2008. Print.
Branson, R. Reach for the skies: Ballooning, birdmen, and blasting into space. New York: Current, 2011. Print.
Branson, R. What they don't teach you in business school: Business the Branson way. London: Virgin, 2012. Print.
Branson, R., and D. McLimore. Virgin rebel: Richard Branson in his own words. N.p., 2013. Print.
DEHAVEN, C. B., J. M. HURST, and R. D. BRANSON. "Evaluation of two different extubation criteria: Attributes contributing to success." Critical Care Medicine (1986): n. pag. Web. <10.1097/00003246-198602000-00003>.
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