The latest addition of Virgin Atlantic’s live entrepreneur event series saw Richard Branson and the airline touch down in the Caribbean this week, with this time around the focus on leadership…
Here we look back at some of the key pieces of insight shared on the day, from our expert panel of leaders. If you weren’t able to attend the event in person, or would like to hear more from our speakers, check back to virgin.com next week when we’ll have the video highlights.
1. Knowledge doesn’t equal performance – Scott Hilton-Clarke (CEO of Inspiration Labs)
“The thing is, knowledge of leadership doesn’t translate into results by itself. There are over 30,000 leadership books on Amazon, reading them alone won’t improve you as a leader,” explains Scott, who has conducted research into the state of leadership in the region. “The problems start with the most basic of issues – our survey found that most people found their leaders to be inaccessible, absent and unavailable. As a leader you need to be there for your teams to help them through tough times.”
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2. Learn to manage big personalities – Alex Tai (DS Virgin Racing, Team Principle)
As well as heading up the DS Virgin Racing team, Alex is the Virgin Group’s Director of Special Projects, meaning he has spent many an hour trying to bring Richard’s bold visions to life – or as he puts it: “trying to keep him alive”. From hot air balloons to speed boats, we all know that the Virgin Group founder loves a world record attempt, with Alex himself picking up 11 different world records on his adventures with Richard. So, what has it taught him?
“You have to learn to deal with big personalities, if they’re coming from above or below. Remember you are there to encourage them and get the best out of their skillset. Let them innovate and not stand in their way. If you have someone in your team who is a high-performer but has a bad attitude then let them know what the boundaries are but also, why you want them in the team and why exactly they are so valuable.”
3. Decide on the culture you want to create – Lisandra Rickards (Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean, CEO)
“When you first become a manager you face an instant problem – on your first day in the job you may not feel any different, but everyone will be looking at your differently. They will expect an instant change,” notes Lisandra.”You will have to quickly decide on what sort of culture you want to grow and encourage in your team as they will want to hear it.”
4. Leadership is all about surrender – Dr. Eudiene Barriteau (Principal at the University of West Indies)
“Being a leader requires a lot of surrender, it’s something which many people don’t realise,” explains Dr. Barriteau. “You need to surrender your ego and your own priorities when you become a leader. You are ultimately responsible for all of the good and all of the bad that comes out of your team, so encourage more of the good and get out of the way to allow it to happen.”
5. Be a visible leader – Richard Branson (Virgin Group, founder)
Let’s allow the last word to go to the Virgin Group founder, who having started more than 400 companies of varying levels of success, knows a thing or two about what it takes to lead a team.
“Personalising companies can be a really important step for a leader to take, as people like to know that if something does go wrong then there’s somebody who can take responsibility and with whom the buck will stop – which in our case is me.
“I would encourage leaders to be visible, not just to your internal teams but to your customers. Become the face of your brand and take responsibility for what it does, people will respect you for it.”