What Richard Branson Values Most in Virgin Airline Leaders

As I sat across the table watching the man talk, I could physically see his mouth moving, but my mind wouldn’t allow me to listen anymore. I had heard all I needed to hear after 20 minutes of what felt like an echo of “I’s” and the importance of the almighty dollar. Truth be told, I had high hopes going into the meeting because I knew what he had accomplished as a entrepreneur and businessman. Unfortunately, he left me disappointed, thinking, “Just because you are a good in business doesn’t mean you are a good leader.”

This man made me realize how difficult it is to be good in both business and leadership, because of his shortcomings. But Richard Branson shows us it isn’t an impossible task. The entrepreneurial success story of Branson is well known, but what most don’t know about is his passion and belief in the power of leadership.

“It’s something that most entrepreneurs will need to get to grips with at some point or another. I see it as an honor and a pleasure to lead people effectively; seeing both your business and its people flourish can be a real thrill.”

When a man worth nearly $5B, who seems to be universally loved by his people sees the value in leadership, we should take note.

When asked “what do you look for in leaders at Virgin,” his answer surprised me.

“Qualities such as talent and drive are of course important, but what we value most in leaders is the ability to show a genuine interest and duty of care for their teams.”

What can you or your company do to look for leaders similar to Richard Branson and Virgin Airlines?

Ask the Most Important Interview Question

Most job interviews go the same way; digging into a resume sitting on a desk. Instead of exploring the results that a particular candidate has achieved which is in clear sight, ask the question that a LinkedIn executive said is the most powerful question you can ask:

Can you name a person on the cleaning crew at your last job?

If a professional has taken the time to get to know someone low on the job totem pole, they most certainly have gotten to know and care about the people who will be their direct reports.

Look For or Develop Welder Leaders

After some pretty extensive research, we have uncovered that the most effective leaders simultaneously maintain high levels of love and discipline. Love is defined as “To contribute to someone’s long term success and wellbeing. Conversely, Discipline is defined as “to promote standards in order for an individual to choose to be at their best.” The leaders that do both of these at a high level on a consistent basis stay in an area called the welding zone.

So look for leaders who have a high level of concern for people, while at the same time a high concern for production.

Give Them a Trial Run

I am amazed at how many companies don’t employ some kind of compensated trial period that allows both the candidate and the organization to evaluate each other on a deeper level, prior to making a large scale commitment.

A few weeks ago on the Follow My Lead Podcast, former Starbucks executive Howard Behar told a story of being offered a job by CEO Howard Shultz. His response was something I will never forget: “I appreciate the offer, but I would like to give it a week trial to see how I fit in your company and how your company fits with me.”

It ended in a near magical 21 year run that transformed Starbucks into a values-driven, people business and growing from 25 to 25,000 stores.

So no matter if you are a billionaire like Richard Branson, or an entry level employee the important thing to remember is to share a genuine interest and care for people.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

Free Leader Profile Assessment Through our work and research around what effective leaders do differently, we have identified four leader profiles (Ruler, Exploiter, Pleaser and Welder.) Join over 8k leaders and discover what profile you are for free.

Are You Leadership Material? If you are not yet managing other people, take the Getting Leadership Ready Online Program to learn how to proactively add value to your organization and stand out as a leader. For a limited time, you can take the free assessment to see how leadership ready you are.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My Lead Podcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, a contributing editor on Inc.com, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s