Tap on the shoulder – Future Leaders 2015

It’s never been easier to apply to be part of the Australian wine community’s Future Leaders program – or to encourage others to do so.

To help get the word out to as many people as possible, the dedicated Future Leaders 2015 website allows you to tap someone on the shoulder via email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+. You don’t even need to think up the words – they are there waiting to be sent.

“I’m sure most people in the sector know someone who would be perfect for the program but simply don’t get around to mentioning it,” said AGWA’s Anne Duncan, who is coordinating the program.

“This is an easy way to pass on the information as well as your support and enthusiasm.”

Future Leaders 2012 graduate Katherine Brown, who is based at Brown Brothers’ winery in the King Valley, says encouraging people to get involved is particularly important in smaller regions where it can be hard to find mentors or develop networks.

“My cousin Eliza was part of the second intake in 2007. She told me the opportunity to meet new people and learn about the different facets of the industry was one of the real strengths of Future Leaders and I found the same thing,” Katherine said.

“I took so much out of the program. You’re sharing time and ideas with winemakers, viticulturists, marketers and administrators from all states and from companies big and small, and these are people who care about the industry and where they want it to go.

“We stay in touch regularly, if we’ve got questions or just want to swap thoughts.”

Katherine, who after five years in sales and marketing with the family business has just started work as an assistant winemaker, said the program was extremely well regarded.

“Everyone I speak with is positive about it. There’s a feeling not only that we need more younger leaders in the industry but also that we need to expose younger people to concepts that challenge their thinking and allow them to look outside the industry for ideas and strategies.”

Swinging Bridges’ winemaker Tom Ward, who was part of the third Future Leaders intake in 2009, states quite clearly that “I wouldn’t be where I am” without the Future Leaders program.

“I have been very lucky; I have been to university and I have been a part of the Len Evans Tutorial but Future Leaders was the biggest game changer for me,” he said.

“It taught us to run our businesses well, to be strategic in the workplace, but also to expand our thinking beyond day-to-day issues. You work out people’s value sets and learn about your own.”

Tom, who is the current President of the NSW Wine Industry Association, not only stays in touch with his fellow graduates, but has formed a “mini-Board” with three of them. He, Brad Wehr, Ashley Radcliffe and Toby Bekkers meet three to four times a year, despite the geographic spread of their businesses.

“We found we were constantly in touch asking questions that it made sense to formalise it in some way,” he said.

“We don’t make decisions for each other, but we talk through the issues and put ideas forward.”

The Future Leaders program is funded by the sector and coordinated by AGWA with support from WFA and WGGA.

“In 2015, there will be a greater focus on bringing in ideas from outside the sector, on encouraging participants to develop and run with concepts, and on new communications approaches, including social media,” Anne said.

It is planned that one of the five sessions will be delivered on-line, with a second likely to involve regional clusters. The first session is scheduled to begin on 9 June.

For information and on-line applications go to http://www.futureleaders15.com