Case Study: Forming The Elders

Richard Branson

Lesson time 13:26 min

If you were in the position to intervene in global affairs, what would you do? Richard discusses how his experiences of wartime negotiation led him to found a global council of elders.

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Topics include: If you were in the position to intervene in global affairs, what would you do? Richard explores the two wars he personally intervened in, and how the lessons learned of leading with compassion from each experience led him to found a global council of elders.


[MUSIC PLAYING] RICHARD BRANSON (VOICEOVER): One big advantage of being a global figure is that you can pick up the phone to pretty well anybody in the world and get through. And you can, on occasions, be cheeky and even try to stop a war. [MUSIC PLAYING] [TANKS FIRING] Back in 1990, I watched with great alarm as Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. NARRATOR: The yellow symbols of hope for hostages adorned a makeshift chapel in the Mansour Hotel. In the small congregation, British wives were allowed to sit with their husbands who are still being held here as human shields. RICHARD BRANSON (VOICEOVER): And Saddam Hussein held some hostages. There was that famous moment where he'd ruffled the head of this kid who was a hostage in Baghdad. And I thought, that could be my own son, Sam. So I decided I needed to help find a way to bring these hostages home. So I drafted a letter to Saddam Hussein, as you do. "Dear Saddam," And basically saying that we would be willing to fly out with medical supplies for Iraq and his people if he would hand over hostages at the airport and anyone who was unwell. And we gave a long list of people. I had become friends with the King of Jordan. And I asked if he could get the letter to Saddam. And then, the King of Jordan had his Secretary translate the letter. And it was hand-delivered to Saddam Hussein. I then flew back to England and as I came into my houseboat, King Hussein was on the phone. And he said that Saddam Hussein had agreed. And that if we could try to get the medical supplies together quickly, we could fly out to Iraq and pick up the hostages. And that Saddam Hussein himself would come to the airport. REPORTER: This morning a Virgin Atlantic 747 left London loaded with 300,000 pounds worth of humanitarian aid, 26,000 British government blankets, medicine, and rice and flour donated by several British food companies. RICHARD BRANSON (VOICEOVER): As we came in to land at Baghdad airport, all the lights went on. Saddam Hussein stuck by his word. He came to the airport. And he handed over the hostages to us. - Hello, you're on the plane now. What does it feel like? - A bit relief. Big relief. Yes. It's been a long two days. - This is one of the happiest days of my life. - Fantastic. I can't believe it. I'm shaking. I'm shaking with excitement. RICHARD BRANSON (VOICEOVER): And we handed over the medical supplies. And then we flew out of Iraq territory. And obviously there was a lot of cheering and excitement as we crossed out of Iraq territory. REPORTER: At 3:00 this morning, the plane flew into Gatwick. RICHARD BRANSON (VOICEOVER): It was a really special moment. And it made me realize the responsibility and the opportunity that comes with being a business leader. Business leaders are often in their job for decades. They travel the world. They have enormous knowledge. People...

About the Instructor

Sometimes, making it big is all about following the fun. Ask Richard Branson. The founder of the Virgin Group built a business empire by solving the problems that fascinated him, disrupting every industry he touched, and pursuing dreams that seemed impossible. The adventure took him from humble beginnings to the stars. Learn how you, too, can find ideas so good they’re scary, lean into your fear, and achieve liftoff.

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Richard Branson

Entrepreneur Richard Branson teaches you how to turn your wildest dreams into successful businesses—and have fun doing it.

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