Sunday, July 26, 2015

Book Review: The Virgin Way: How to Listen, Learn, Laugh and Lead

The Virgin Way: How to Listen, Learn, Laugh and Lead The Virgin Way: How to Listen, Learn, Laugh and Lead by Richard Branson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Never happier than when I am at a beach (or on a boat, or sitting in the back yard) with a book by Richard Branson that I have not read. Color me hard-to-please, but I don't have enough opportunity to read for pleasure and learning at the same time. Sir Richard consistently delivers on both counts, and I could not be more grateful for his efforts.

I love it that he's never read a book on leadership. It's just another one of those things that he has taught himself to do... like develop a business, jump out of a falling hot air balloon, conduct a conference call from a hammock... Clearly, he has many natural talents, but it is his effort to hone skills, try things, fail, ask others for advice, throw a party, and try something different that set him apart. How to Listen, Learn, Laugh and Lead is a good subtitle for Branson's whole life. How to Persevere, Persist, Persuade and Prevail would work just as well.

Among the many lessons in this book is the idea that competing with the big boys is possible... as long as we remember to play a different game, choose a different niche. (This is also the point of Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath.) When an entrepreneur fills a need that customers are actually experiencing, s/he can be successful. Virgin Mobile doesn't lock customers into contracts, Virgin's airlines don't heard people around like sheep, and Virgin Money focuses on social responsibility. All were once small, start-up businesses, getting into a market crowded with huge, well-established corporations.  Good customer care is a brand promise for Virgin, and that goes a very long way.

Above all, The Virgin Way is about following our own passions and letting the chips fall where they may. The fact that life is good for Sir Richard (who turned 65 last week) is a testament to his way of being. He's an excellent role model and teacher. I hope he keeps churning out books for many more years to come. I highly recommend the book, but if you want to test drive it first, here's a two-page summary written by me.

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