The Power of One

by | Sep 22, 2017 | Blog, Wineland

A “Leader of the Pack” is defined as someone that is spearheading a project, an organization or even a country. Some of us may have observed this leadership metaphor on others from afar, or have been fortunate enough to have worked closely with individuals we consider to be “leaders of the pack” in their respective fields.

My grandfather used to tell me “that a man, like an animal would always be known for the tracks he leaves behind.”

As you know one of the few good things about living in the northern provinces of our country is our beloved bushveld with its unique species of wildlife, fauna and flora. About 4 years ago I was prompted by my passion for the outdoors and wildlife to invest in a Private Game Farm on the foothills of the Waterberg Mountains, and so I joined the agricultural sector.

Its places like these in South Africa that stir one’s soul.

Another South African who shares this passion for the wild is the author, Ian Thomas. I read his book a few years ago and it was this shared connection that made the pages come alive for me! After studying business, Thomas worked as a guide at Londolozi Game Reserve and spent his days studying animal behaviour, especially lions. A few years later he shared his insights in his book The Power of the Pride.

One of the things he noticed, was how powerful each individual within the lion pride is. This power is partly due to the fact that they belong to a strong pride, but most of it is because they are superb hunters in their own right. A big lioness can weigh in at about 140 kilo grams and will run the necessary hundred metres in five or six seconds.

They know what they can do superbly and match their abilities to their goal.

He tells the story of the’ business hunt’ with particular emphasis on ‘teamwork’ and the absolute clarity and focus needed to achieve a goal, like taking down a zebra.

Listening today to this powerful group of panellists and speakers, and having met some leading wine makers, award winning sommeliers, viticulturists and highly regarded Industrialists in the wine industry. I recognize that there is a potential pride here today.

Thomas went onto observe, that what is most powerful. Is that the pride, is the sum of the strengths of its individuals.

So how do we become a pride?

The timeless challenge of leadership is to bring together a group of diverse individuals and create an environment where they will work together effectively toward common, shared goals.

Articulating a shared vision that inspires passion and engagement is a challenge for any leader. After all, leadership at the highest level is all about driving organizational behaviour.

This is best accomplished through the lion pride theory of collective leadership, which brings an organization together as one.

The power of one individual is multiplied into the power of one pride.

Let me give you another illustration. One of my favourite pastimes is riding my mountain bike in single track bushveld trails or down stretches of desolate gravel roads… No people, no interruptions…

Just The bike and I. But as a typical entrepreneur my thoughts are interrupted and I wonder, who invented the mountain bike? Which R&D lab? Which part of the world? Or was it a lone genius? Or two ‘apple’ guys in their parents’ garage?

Of course I can’t wait to get to my next watering point. With gratitude to Apple in the middle of nowhere, I ask Siri the question.

Who invented the mountain bike?

It was none of the scenarios I had imagined.

I was fascinated to find that the innovation came from users. In the early 70s a group of youngsters in Northern California with their love for the outdoors and frustrated with the heavy frames of traditional bikes, started getting brakes from motor cycles and created what was the start of mountain biking.

In the first 3 to 5 years these bikes were called clunkers. One of the guys who were importing parts began making a few bikes which are called Breezers today. However, it took companies another 10 – 15 years to start producing them commercially.

65% of bike sales in the US are mountain bikes

This 58-billion-dollar business was created by a group of individuals sharing a common passion, not by a corporate.

We see this thread of thinking in business models like Amazon, Google, Facebook, YouTube, eBay and Naked Wines.  These are networked companies whose business models are based on collaboration.

The South African born entrepreneur, Rowan Gormley started Naked Wines using technology to reinvent areas of our traditional wine industry and has become Britain’s fastest-growing online wine-distributor. This company built its success around crowdfunding before it was even a thing. Customers, referred to as “Angels,” put $20 a month into their virtual piggy banks to spend on exclusive wines at insider prices.

This online community encourages connectivity and collaboration. Its members can chat with and follow different winemakers, developing human connections.

When you visit the website to buy a bottle of wine, you are drawn in, as every single bottle of wine has a human story behind it. You can read hundreds of stories where ordinary people shared and collaborated in someone’s vision and together as a group made success possible.

I especially loved the story of our own Carmen Stevens, the first black woman to graduate in winemaking in South Africa. Carmen soared from humble roots to become head winemaker at Amani Vineyards. In 2011 Gormley called her and inspired her to start making her own wine.

She agreed, and the next day Naked Wines shared her story and asked its “angels,” ordinary people like you and me, to help give her a shot at making her own wine. Thanks to that very special day, Carmen’s life was transformed by all the angels who invested 120 000 pounds in just 8 hours. Carmen is now one of the best-selling winemakers for Naked Wines.

Rowen Gormley says the secret to the success of Naked Wines is that it is “a small part of something much bigger.”

Now this is a powerful statement with potentially far reaching implications for a little known wine maker from the dark continent. It allowed people all over the world to share in Carmen’s vision, to finance her talent, and to support her dreams and so individuals collectively played a part in making history for this woman, right here in our country.

With over $100 million in sales over the past year, there is clear evidence of success through collaboration and innovation by one of our very own Rowan Gormely… this kind of success make us truly proud to be South African.

A few weeks ago I was honoured to be witness to the contract that was recently penned and launched by Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) in Alexandra, Johannesburg. In this contract, the CEOs of 80 of South Africa’s biggest businesses made a public, accountable commitment to:

  • job creation
  • inclusive economic growth
  • empowering black business
  • crushing corruption right at its core

It was exciting to stand amongst leaders who feel a very serious obligation to execute a national growth agenda that delivers real progress on the critical societal needs of our country.

This pledge by BLSA is a tangible commitment to sharing resources, skills and business intelligence in a drive to alleviate socio-economic challenges in our country.

Here we see collective leadership playing a critical role as leaders of our country distribute leadership power to wherever expertise, capability, and motivation are needed.

Private sector organizations such as BLSA and the big business it represents, are well-equipped to work in partnership with government and civil society for the greater good of our country.

This approach allows fuller utilization of available resources, amongst other things, but more than anything else, it emphasizes team work that makes use of our wonderful diversity, whilst also fostering a sense of community and unity.

Like Gormley says, “it’s about being part of something much bigger.”

In our case, the something bigger is the $300 billion worldwide wine industry.

The South African wine business is recognized as a key driver of growth in the greater South African economy. Government and key role players are committed to help grow this industry, increasing its healthy contribution to the country’s GDP, promoting an entrepreneurial culture and more importantly, creating much needed employment in our rural communities.

The increasing success of ventures such a VinPro, Wines of South Africa (WOSA), and SAWIT and the greater industry focus by these stakeholders is providing momentum for transformation and empowerment.

David Sonnenberg of Diemersfontein… recognized for investing in transformation through Thokozani, inspired others to play a more collaborative role but he said “you have to come to the party for the right reasons.”

When you look at the deeper dynamics that are driving our national agenda it becomes clear that we stand on the edge of unprecedented opportunity to play a hugely positive role in the essential progress of our nation and to create a whole new wave of growth and prosperity for our country.

There’s the need for jobs in a country with very high unemployment – particularly in the rural agricultural areas – where it has become increasingly difficult to survive in a small village. The need for transformation, empowerment and skills development in a country where the Gini coefficient is amongst the highest in the world and for our country to thrive on a sustained basis, are needs that MUST be me… for the good of ALL of us.

The South African wine industry has been through some tough times, but sustainable growth is on the cards.

I think wine tourism is going to play a crucial role in South Africa’s future, because the wine tourism opportunities are substantial and not only do we benefit from our visitors’ stay, but they leave here as ambassadors of Brand South Africa.

The power of our pride lies in a collaborative approach to drive the passion and engagement of everyone in this room, the key players in our industry and the people of South Africa.  We need to tap into our lion capabilities, and together, with focus, work toward a well-defined strategy.

What we need is a clear game plan, a strong market focus and ingenious marketing powered by One Proudly South Africa Pride.

Every revolution needs a spark and we need to light that spark with the revolutionary power of collaboration.

In the case of the Swartland the spark came from one glass of Sauvignon Blanc that had a dramatic impact on the Cape Wine industry, a catalyst that changed things forever….

In 1995 Charles Back was on the hunt for a source of cheap grapes for his Goats do Roam brand, but the Sauvignon Blanc he tasted at the Swartland Winery that morning inspired him. He couldn’t believe that anyone could make Sauvignon Blanc that good in such heat, so Back asked where the vineyard was, climbed into his car and drove to Klein Amoskuil near Malmesbury; by the end of that day, he owned the farm.

He replanted the vineyards and employed a young winemaker, Eben Sadie who was to become one of the key figures in the Swartland’s renaissance.

That glass of wine was the start of the transformation of the Swartland from a rural backwater town, better known for wheat fields than vineyards, to one of the most dynamic regions in the southern hemisphere.

Today the Swartland exudes a sense of camaraderie, of shared endeavour, that is infectious and has attracted such an array of talent to the area, including Chris and Andrea Mullineux, Adi Badenhorst, Testalonga and Lammershoek, Callie Louw and Donovan Rall. All of these winemakers are part of something called the Swartland Independent Producers (SIP).

In 2010 this association started a targeted and shared initiative, a promotional event called “The Swartland Revolution” whereby each brand owner and winery united with the others to run this collaborative event which has had a substantial impact on marketing the region.

These Swartland Revolutionaries will attest to the fact that collective leadership is more complicated than a simple collaboration theory would suggest.  All too often, there is the peculiar underlying assumption that creativity automatically leads to actual innovation. The world has a multitude of ideas and talent and although collaborative approaches develop passion and engagement, they still need a well-defined execution strategy.

South Africa as a country needs more success stories. Stories of passion, profit and empowerment. More strategic alliances and joint ventures.  We need to stand proudly in our African traditions and share them with the world with a modern flair.

We need to look beyond the ‘pack mentality’ of all fighting over the same carcass, to owning our uniqueness and building on our diversity.

We’re not a pack. We’re a pride.

We need to build on the collective entrepreneurial spirit and energy of the individuals in the wine industry. We need to remind ourselves that we are strong individuals, superb at our various skills. We need to move closer, becoming a cohesive group of people working toward a common purpose.

That will be a game changing force for Brand South Africa.

One glass of wine changed the Swartland, imagine what all our glasses of wine could do, together…

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