Leadership in Wine #31 - Kevin Mapson

  • Alexis Robin

Kevin has been working for Pernod Ricard since 1996. Originally from New Zealand, he started his career with Pernod Ricard Australia in sales. He ended being the sales director focusing on the Australian market. In 2016, Kevin moved back to Auckland and was appointed managing director for Pernod Ricard New Zealand.

Picture of Kevin (first from left), Alan Fu (first from right) and Chinese player Lawrence Lin (middle) at the Auckland City Polo tournament in March 2019.


How do you define leadership?

Leadership to me is about being willing to display authenticity, vulnerability and empathy. This is critical to drive confidence and inspire your team. Sucessful leadership is measured by:

  • Quality decision making and the bravery to stay the course during challenging times
  • Communication of strategy and plans in a way that galvinises the team behind a shared vision
  • Achievements of the team against the strategy


What are the main challenges of being a leader in the wine industry today?

While there’s a lot of focus on brands and consumer behavior, the biggest challenge, and the one that is often overlooked is that wine is an agricultural business in a concentrated market.

We have one vintage a year which determines the quality and quantity of product available, and much of that is outside of our immediate control. We have to amend our strategy each year based on the outcomes of the vintage.


What are your major breakthroughs in your career to become the leader you are now?

Overseas experience in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.  I’ve had the opportunity to turn businesses around which is a challenging task but has given me some important learnings that I apply as a leader, in particular:

Walking the high wire – we have a three year roadmap that we believe is the right plan to achieve success. Since we set that, the market has changed which has thrown up some hurdles. If you believe the strategy is still right, then like a tightrope walker, you need to keep moving forward and don’t look down. As a leader, it’s important to recognise this is easier said than done, and ensure you give your team the support they need to stay focused on the end point.

Remember that not everything is a nail – as a leader, you are drawing on your own experience and your own career journey when you make decisions, and interact with people.  As the saying goes ‘when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail’.  Your experience is your hammer but it’s important to remember that not everyone has been on the same journey as you, and not everyone has had the same opportunities as you. Take the time to listen to your people and be mindful that the market is always changing – then make sure you use the right tool for the situation at hand.

You don’t have to do everything – you can not be across everything, you can’t make all of the decisions.  You need to trust your team and give them permission to grow and thrive.  Mistakes will be made and you have to create a culture where mistakes are seen as an opportunity to improve. As our CEO says “fail small, fail fast and learn from the experience’


If you were starting your career in 2019 in the wine industry, what advice would you give to yourself to become successful and content?

Build general skills and don’t specialize.

Look outside this industry for inspiration and expertise.

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