Earlier this month I had the opportunity to hear Sir Richard Branson speak at a Business Chicks event in Brisbane. Given the enormous amount of respect I have for Richard and his inspiring approach to leadership, I was very excited to say the least and wasn’t at all disappointed in the experience.
The event began on somewhat of an awkward note when our MC chose to ask Richard why women love him so much. Like a goofy teenager Richard squirmed in his seat while his interviewer cited the overly enthusiastic behaviour of some women at previous events. Clearly uncomfortable I was relieved for Richard when she let him out of that corner and moved on.
While his response, or rather inability to respond was endearing I found myself wishing I could telepathically send Richard the answer I thought he should give. That is, that he is both courageous and kind – qualities I have no doubt many women find attractive in a man. Perhaps I shouldn’t speak on behalf of other women but I think it’s a reasonably safe assumption to make.
Richard’s courage was peppered throughout the stories he shared. A prime example being the progress he and his team have made towards commercializing space travel. Richard’s imagination and courage to not only dream big but to act big are incredible and appear to be unlimited. It makes me giggle to contemplate the thoughts that must run through his mind.
In equal measure I was impressed by the extent of Richard’s kindness and commitment to making a positive difference in the world. One thing Richard said struck me as being particularly important – business needs to play a bigger role in solving the world’s problems. He made the compelling point that the business community has wisdom, talent, experience, energy and resources that we should share and leverage.
Richard argued that small business should contribute to local community issues, bigger business to national issues and big business to global issues. That certainly made sense to me. There is no question that Richard is leading by example through not only the work of Virgin Unite but also The Elders – an independent group of global leaders currently chaired by Kofi Annan who work together for peace and human rights.
Brought together in 2007 by Nelson Mandela here is an excepts from The Elders website that explains the role Richard played in forming this group:
“The concept originates from a conversation between the entrepreneur Richard Branson and the musician Peter Gabriel. The idea they discussed was simple: many communities look to their elders for guidance, or to help resolve disputes. In an increasingly interdependent world – a ‘global village’ – could a small, dedicated group of individuals use their collective experience and influence to help tackle some of the most pressing problems facing the world today? Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel took their idea of a group of ‘global elders’ to Nelson Mandela, who agreed to support it. With the help of Graça Machel and Desmond Tutu, Mandela set about bringing the Elders together and formally launched the group in Johannesburg, July 2007.”
Leaving the event that day I felt energised and uplifted knowing that we have people like Sir Richard Branson fighting for us all. Courageously forging a better way, challenging those of us in business to step up, contribute more and leave a more positive footprint on our planet.