Like Richard Branson, many successful leaders, innovators, artists, and entrepreneurs have one thing in common: their ‘handedness’.
British business magnate, Sir Richard Branson, is left-handed. Branson also has dyslexia, a learning difficulty that affects a person’s ability to read. Studies have explored a possible cognitive link between the proportion of people with dyslexia and left-handedness.
It is also thought that dyslexia and lefthandedness are often traits belonging to certain personalities. Read below to explore what traits have made Branson so successful.
Road to Success
Born July 18, 1950, Sir Richard Branson discovered from a young age that he was dyslexic, a learning difficulty that limits a person’s ability to spell and read words quickly. This affected Branson’s performance at school, with his headmaster telling him that he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire.
At 16, Branson dropped out of school and set up his first business venture, his youth culture magazine, Student. The magazine was run by students and reportedly sold $8,000 worth of advertising in 1966.
The magazine was initially successful, but when it began losing money, he created Virgin Mail Order Records in 1969 to help fund his magazine.
In 1971, Branson opened his first record store and in 1973, formed record label, Virgin Records. The label signed the likes of Mike Oldfield, the Sex Pistols, and The Rolling Stones, making it one of the top six record companies in the world.
Branson went on to set up the Voyager Group travel company and Virgin Atlantic airline in the 1980s, as well as a series of Virgin megastores. However, after hitting some financial struggles, Branson sold Virgin Records in 1992.
Despite this, Branson continued with other ventures, including Virgin Trains, Virgin Mobile, and Virgin Galactic. The Virgin Group has reached over 35 countries with over 70,000 employees worldwide.
Aside from business, Branson is also a keen adventurer, holding records in powerboat racing and hot air ballooning. In 1999 he was knighted for his ‘services to entrepreneurship’ and in 2009 made the Forbes’ world billionaires list with his $2.5 billion fortune.
Branson is a huge advocate of Made by Dyslexia, a global charity led by successful dyslexics. In his 2009 blog post, Branson discusses how people with dyslexia often have strong imaginations.
Branson claims that this is what was partially responsible for his success. “It helped me think big, but keep our messages simple”, he writes.
He was inspired by an EY report called ‘The Value of Dyslexia’, which suggests that dyslexics possess the creative and problem-solving skills required for the future workplace. In fact, some of the greatest minds of our time were also dyslexic, including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs.
Left-handed people constitute around 10% of the general human population and are right-brain dominant. Studies have shown that many left-handers possess skills and behaviors that may explain why lots of successful leaders are also left-handed.
For example, it is thought that left-handers are more cautious when it comes to problem-solving, as opposed to their impulsive right-handed counterparts. This may suggest that their decision-making process is often more careful and calculated.
Left-handers can also show empathy and read people’s facial expressions and non-verbal cues better than right-handers. This is an important skill if you are a leader as you need to understand how to read people in different situations.
Studies have also shown that left-handers are also more creative and divergent thinkers which allows them to think outside the box when solving problems. This may explain why people who discover, create, and innovate are sometimes left-handed.
Left-handers are also great at visualizing scenarios, which means that they can determine the possibilities of an opportunity or task before they do it.
The Upper Hand
Researchers haven’t quite determined why people are left-handed and why there is such a small percentage of them, but they do know that it’s a combination of genetics and environmental factors.
We know that right-handed people tend to be better at analysis, logic, thinking in words, and computation, whilst left-handers are better at creativity, imagination, intuition, and visualization. It is no wonder, then, that many leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs, like Richard Branson are indeed left-handed.
Sources have also suggested that a combination of dyslexia and left-handedness among entrepreneurs means that they are more likely to be serial entrepreneurs, be able to expand their business faster, and hire more employees. This does sound pretty familiar…