Fawn Weaver has spent decades studying the most successful leaders in the world and now he is the founder of the fastest-growing independent whiskey company in American history.
My German grandmother, born in 1927, was raised in Kirchseeon, a small town 15 km east of Munich. Her blonde hair and blue eyes made her Aryan. Adolf Hitler would later declare her the “master race.” She fell in love with an American soldier of color during World War II. They brought her to America but not before she married and had a biracial child, my uncle. This was in Germany that Hitler defined.
One of my first experiences with leadership was my grandmother. He was a leader who spoke freely without asking for approval. As a child, I could see a parallel between their strength and mine.
Now, I spend almost as much time studying leaders than being one. Every leader I’ve ever seen, including my grandmother, has shown me that people who achieve remarkable feats and overcame seemingly impossible odds can do three things.
Marathon runners wrap themselves in bags when they prepare for their run at dawn. They then take these bags off to keep warm and remove the outer layers once the start gun goes off. This is how our leadership team views ideas. Our diverse team has been able to dominate in an industry that relies heavily on tradition by wearing them lightly and then shedding them easily.
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey’s guiding principles were “We do it with excellence” when we started Uncle Nearest. We knew that if we were not satisfied with the final product, we would seek out a better alternative and pursue it. Uncle Nearest has grown faster that any other independent brand in America’s 250-year-old history of American whiskey. Our success is based on our ability and willingness to pivot as often and as quickly as we can.
My career was harrowing when an investor questioned my decisions and caused others investors to question my leadership. In the end, I put too much pressure on my team. Then I thought back to the leaders I studied who had survived adversity and not let it affect their organizational charts.
That strength was what I sought to cultivate. Safety and courage are two of the greatest gifts that we can offer our people, no matter what the difficulty. If done correctly, observers can see the swan gracefully floating on the water without paying attention to the feverish movements of its legs beneath.
My husband and I had been married for more than a decade and went through five rounds of IVF, more than 10 fertility treatments and a lot of money before we realized that maybe the family we had longed for might not be what we wanted.
Instead of dwelling in sorrow for the children we never had, we looked at what we could have gained from this loss.
Soon after, I founded the investment company that now owns Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey. My team would be like a family to me. They would be encouraged and supported to fly.
Leadership skills, once difficult lessons, feel second nature five years later. The life-changing changes I would have made for my kids, I made for my company and those who support it.