Lessons in Leadership: Branson Strikes Again!

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I am currently reading The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner, and I am harboring thoughts on this subject. While reading this article, Branson inspired some insight (as always) in the nature of leadership. Namely, it is the notion that leaders who can truly inspire are genuine. They do not take up some role created by a framework of societal expectations, as we often see CEOs taking up the role of the highly successful, high rolling, profit oriented and inconsiderate commander. I believe that Branson is such an inspiring figure because a) he started from scratch and b) he is himself and doesn’t play some role. Both of these are inspiring because of one reason – people can relate to them. Ever wondered why Donald Trump is largely uninspiring (apart from his arrogance), whereas Warren Buffet and Richard Branson inspire cult followings? A low percentage of the population can relate to being greatly successful after being born with a silver spoon in its mouth, like Trump was, while a vast majority can relate to the modest beginnings of Buffet and Branson. Being genuine is even more inspiring on that basis,  for a super rich high roller is much more difficult to relate to than a super rich real guy. Let me illustrate with the Branson example. In the article it is said that he lost a bet from the CEO of AirAsia, and that he will be appearing on a special flight as a flight attendant – a female one with shaved legs! For anyone of Branson’s position and material wealth that would be preposterous, heck, even for a regular Joe that would be preposterous. But the genuine character and freedom Branson exhibits, despite the many pressures to play a curtain role that are surely imposed upon of a man of his position, is as inspiring as building an economic empire from scratch.

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