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Innovation Requires Irreverence
Not long ago, winemaker Sean Thackrey hosted a sommelier at his California vineyard to taste some of his latest wines. When he asked his visitor what he thought of the wines, the sommelier replied that the wines didn’t taste like they were supposed to.
Thackrey, who had been making wines for more than 40 years, asked his guest what he thought the wines should taste like. “A Pinot Noir should taste like a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon like a Cabernet Sauvignon,” came the reply.
Thackrey leaned back in his chair, smirked, and said, “Why do they have to taste a certain way? Because some French wine ponce 300 years ago said Cabernet should have cherry notes, or this wine should have this particular taste? Why not take what the vineyard gives you and make the best wine you can possibly make and not worry about the flavors. Just make the best wine you can with what you have.”
The pursuit of creating the best with the ingredients at hand is something all great leaders share. Complaining about the people, resources, or funds and waiting for the right situation to materialize is not what real leaders do. Instead, they use the talent and assets they have to create the best possible outcome. It is always easier to lead when revenue and resources are readily available. Leading and creating excellence with limited resources is what great leadership is all about.
Often described as a pioneer and unconventional thinker, Thackrey personified innovation in a field where copycats rule the landscape. He recently passed away at age 79, but is remembered by one admirer as the “unapologetic winemaker.” Innovation in all disciplines requires unapologetic leaders. Who knew irreverence was such an essential leadership quality?