Richard BransonLeadership Lessons from Richard Branson knows a thing or two about leadership and success. He has pieced together an empire that has earned him a fortune and a knighthood. “He has become an icon in the eyes of many aspiring business owners,” said Jason Fell, contributor to Entrepreneur.

At the ripe age of just 22, he opened a chain of record stores later known as Virgin Megastores. The brand grew rapidly during the 1980s as he set up Virgin Atlantic Airways and expanded the Virgin Records music label.

Today the Virgin brand boasts dozens of companies and his net worth is estimated to be more than four billion.

Fell provides some lessons in leadership from Branson we can take and apply to the auto industry.

Five Leadership Lessons From Richard Branson

Have Courage and Follow Your Instincts

You have to do something radically different to make a mark today. The successes of the future will not rely on old ways of doing things. Think outside of the box, embrace change, innovate, and take risks.

Branson’s board members were skeptical when he set up Virgin Atlantic Airways, but he saw an opportunity and stuck to it. Now Virgin Atlantic carries more than five million passengers every year.

Be Open to Change

Technology evolves at a rapid pace and change happens whether you want it or you don’t. Life is always fresh and new so bring that to your business, as well. Fells says with Virgin Records, Branson mastered how to navigate change. He transformed the business model a number of times before he sold the company to EMI in 1992.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

Business leaders will need advice on how to improve their business throughout their career. Know when it’s best to turn to people you know and trust for advice and/or assistance. Branson says, “Thinking back to 1969, my mother’s common sense advice would have been just the thing I needed to hear.”

That was the year Branson was caught smuggling records through customs, for his mail-order record business, without paying taxes by British officials.

Connect with Customers

When you connect with your customers, let them know you listen and you care about their needs. This give you feedback and ways to improve your products and services. Branson says, “Through customers’ comments, we started learning about issues with our products and services more quickly than ever before.”

Encourage Teamwork and Fun

Play hard, work hard is an ethic that permeates the Virgin culture.  Happy teams work well together and accomplish goals. The Virgin Group celebrated the summer Olympics by taking part in fun races. “Events like these can help to break down departmental barriers and foster better teamwork as employees get to know each other in an informal setting,” Branson said.

Whether you love him or hate him, Branson has shown us you can go wherever your imagination takes you. He made Virgin a global brand with a distinct personality which spans retail, music, airlines, telecommunication, media, drinks, energy, and even space tourism.

What else have you learned from Richard Branson that has helped you build your business?

Image courtesy of Tequila Partners via Flickr