Byron's Babbles

A Taste Of Leadership

One of my favorite times of the year is in February when my son and I attend the National Farm Machinery Show. This year we are getting to spend yesterday and today at the show learning about all the latest in agriculture technologies, genetics, and innovative genius. The show is held in Louisville, Kentucky and I’ve been coming for as long as I can remember when I started coming with my dad. Now, my son and I come every year as one of our sacred dad and lad memory-making excursions. This year, while on our exploration, my son wanted to go to Angel’s Envy distillery in downtown Louisville. So, I arranged for him to fill, cork and label his own bottle of Angel’s Envy single barrel Kentucky straight bourbon finished in a Port wine barrel. Needless to say, it was a great experience and we learned a lot. Angel’s Envy would be on my highly recommended and must visit list.

My son, Heath, & I at Angel’s Envy

During my son’s bottling experience we learned the proper way to taste bourbon, or what is called the “Kentucky Chew” to those, well, in Kentucky. A few things in the tasting process jumped out at me as great metaphors to the journey of leadership. One big thing our guide told us that proper tasting includes a visual inspection, followed by taking in the aroma, and finally the tasting. This would allow us to take in all the nuances of the complex flavors the distiller created, and would allow us to appreciate the time and patience that went into the delicate art of the bourbon’s maturation. This jumped out at me because I think about how nuanced leadership is all the time and the nuances of those I serve that need to be appreciated. Nuance is not easy to notice. Just like with bourbon, we have to be paying attention to the complexities. I spoke of this in Nuanced Complexity. In leadership, the real depth of learning comes from individuals exploring their own views first and then placing them within the context of their organization. The depth of learning comes from the heuristic nature of nuance.

Continuing with the tasting metaphor, we were told to take three tastes of the bourbon and to roll it around, or “chew”, in our mouths to make sure it hit all the flavor sensors of our tongue and mouth. The first taste was to reset our palette. The second taste would allow us to begin to pick up the several layers of flavor. The third taste really allows you to enjoy the complexity and subtle nuances. Are you catching the leadership metaphor here? Just like every bourbon has a ton of different notes, so do the people we serve. We need to take the time to build the relationships so we understand the complexity and nuance we all possess. We, like bourbon, have all aged for different amounts of time. Also, like bourbon has been aged in different types of barrels, we have all grown up in different environments with different experiences. If we take the time to understand those in our communities in a way that allows us to pick up all the subtle nuances, we will be able to, like with bourbon, unleash some incredible experiences and appreciate the unique way each of us has been distilled.