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An Unconventional Leadership Style: Richard Branson, Founder and Chairman of Virgin Group

What makes Richard Branson so cool? For starters, he built the first airline to sell tickets into space with Virgin Galactic, he was chosen by young entrepreneurs as the Ultimate Business Role Model and he’s probably the only CEO you can name who has won a Grammy.

To call his management style “unconventional” would be a gross understatement. For example, he promotes a hands-off approach to management that encourages employees to make their own decisions. Failure is taken in stride as proof that his people are really stretching themselves. For another, he has made it clear that brand awareness is a much higher priority than profits. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but there’s no question he has been successful. The Virgin brand has proven itself successful across a range of industries, from a record shop, to an airline, to a telecom provider and 400 other companies. His personal wealth is estimated over $4 billion and he shows no signs of slowing down. His supporters say he has astounding foresight.  His distractors say it’s just dumb luck.

Here are some of the most startling and inspirational ideas on management from the author of “Screw Business As Usual”:

On leadership – When asked what he looks for in a manager, he said, “people who are willing to go get drunk with the staff in the evenings, people who can let their hair down, and be flexible and listen.”

On efficiency – “Don’t think what is the cheapest way to do it or what’s the fastest way to do it… think ‘what’s the most amazing way to do it?’”

On risk – “Chance favors the prepared mind. The more you practice the luckier you become.”

Branson doesn’t always hit a home run (does anyone remember Virgin Cola?), but when he misses, he does it with a sense of humor and uses what he learns on his next venture.  If there is one lesson to take away from his life and style, it is that passion alone can only take a business so far. After that, you have to learn how to delegate creatively.