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How Richard Branson's blackboard can help you be a better school leader

Richard Branson is a successful and inspirational leader; as founder of the Virgin Group he leads more than 400 different companies.

He started Virgin Airlines over thirty years ago when he was ‘bumped’ from his expected flight to the British Virgin Islands. He had to get there because a beautiful woman was awaiting him. So he hired a plane, worked out how much he had to sell tickets for to cover his costs, and wrote on a blackboard ‘Virgin Airlines, $39 one way to BVI’. He sold tickets to all the other passengers who had been ‘bumped’ from the same flight, and so began the legendary Virgin Airlines.



I love this story because it encapsulates the essence of leadership – being able to answer these 4 questions:

  1. Where are you going?
  2. For what reason?
  3. How are you planning to get there?
  4. What are you doing about it now?


Leaders plan the journey


Leaders often talk about ‘the vision’. You know what it’s like in your organization - you might take time to have a ‘visioning’ session to set the ‘vision’ statement. But how often do individual leaders set their own vision? How often do you ask yourself where you’re heading? And how much time do you spend figuring out why? How do you plan your actions to get you closer to your destination? And what are you doing right now to turn these thoughts into actions?


Leaders know the answers


You see all great leaders begin their leadership journey ‘at home’ – they start by leading themselves, just as Richard Branson did.  When you ask them, they answer these 4 questions with clear, simple and enthusiastic responses. They don’t pause before they answer. They don’t start their answer with a distracting noise or statement, like “Um’ or “Ahh’ or ‘Oh, that’s an interesting question.” They don’t deflect the question or answer in terms of someone else or their organisation. They paint a clear picture of their future, of exactly where they are going.


Leaders help others see it


And when you know your personal destination and are able to lead yourself there successfully, you’re more likely to be able to lead others.

So what if you were asked the Richard Branson questions now? What would you say? How long would it take you to answer? How clear a picture do you have of your destination?

What does it say on your blackboard?

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