Strong leadership skills are vital for founders of growing businesses. While these skills can be honed through training, coaching and mentoring, it is an entrepreneur’s individual style of leadership that determines their success, and this can be moulded by many different factors.
Virgin founder Richard Branson is as famous for being an inspirational leader as he is for being a daredevil. And that ability to engage with people and take them with him on the most challenging of business journeys he says is down to his mother, Eve Branson.
“My mum shaped my leadership style,” he says. “If I ever said anything ill about somebody as a kid, she would send me to stand in front of the mirror for 10 minutes because she said it reflected so badly on me, and this has always stayed with me. It’s far more effective to praise people than to constantly criticize them; it brings out the best in them and creates a more open environment for creativity and innovation.”
And that approach to leading people continues today. What Virgin values most in its leaders today; the ability to show a genuine interest and duty of care for their teams.
“We want the opposite of the entrepreneurial stereotype, who will step over people to get where they want to in life,” says Branson. “That’s never been the Virgin approach. Most people want to be listened to and appreciated at work, and focusing on these attributes as a leader will work better for everyone in the long run.”
For Paul Nicholson founder and CEO of property development firm Luxor Group, it was the wise words of his businessman father that defined his own style of leadership.
He says: “It was such a positive influence and I learned so much from him. I remember sitting next to him in the car on a Friday evening when he would take my brother and me to swimming. I’d hear how he rewarded good staff, gave credit and thanks, empowered people by helping them to develop as leaders themselves, and encouraged them to learn from their mistakes.”
Nicholson was also taught to welcome challenges and to recognize that he doesn’t have all the answers and should therefore seek different views and expertise from others.
“I’ve also become less of a talker and more of a listener, thanks to my dad’s advice and where possible, I always make myself accessible to the team,” he says. “At the same time, I’ve also learned about balance, the art of delegation and when to intervene and when to get out of the way!”