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How do you reach the top of the Success ladder?

At last I was in Alaska on my dream cruise trip, to see the glaciers, to experience a tree full of bald eagles, to watch a black bear catch a salmon in a rushing river, to be awestruck by a pod of orcas breach. Yet one striking experience really caused me to pause and wonder in a surprising way.

I was wandering through the streets of Ketchikan and came upon a river that led to a salmon ladder. Right before me was the magnificent iconic sight of glistening salmon swimming in massive numbers successfully up the Ketchikan Creek Falls.

Observing this beautiful spectacle, I also couldn’t help but noticing the number of salmon lying in a pile at the bottom of the creek dead or dying. Once Pacific salmon have spawned, they die. I was witnessing the ones who did not make it over the ladder, and watching their friends and family ‘walk’ over them to reach their goal to the top of the ladder. What drives these fish to take this adventure? It was at once awe inspiring and very sad.

What does this have to do with leadership, you ask?

There are all kinds of leaders in the world, past and present. Many are iconic for good and positive reasons, some are remembered in infamy.

Think about some of the most “successful” leaders you have heard about, or maybe know yourself -those individuals who have over 7-figure incomes and all the mansions and furs to prove it; who love to be seen in all the right places; to collect awards and famous friends they wear like a badge of success.

You know the ones I mean.

The more these people flaunt their wealth and fame, the more I wonder how they got there. I wonder what bodies they stepped over to make their business numbers or buy their influence. These are the people for whom business is a numbers game, and movements are causes you throw money at to be seen in the news or at the top of the philanthropy lists.

I wonder who they stepped on to acquire their power, and how they are using that power. And how many more bodies will they step on and walk over to acquire even more power?

These were, as I said, the surprising thoughts I had watching those Alaskan salmon who made it, and those who didn’t. It brought into sharp focus what leadership can be and what it should be, at least in my vision and regarding my purpose.

I firmly believe that there is more to leadership and business than climbing over people to get ahead. I was reminded that we don’t really get anywhere alone. As I lead my own business, and train others to lead, my North Star is building relationships and teams that move forward together toward mutual success. We support each other’s visions, help each other grow, celebrate our successes, and lift each other up when we’re down. We don’t step on others, but we all take the journey together, bringing our team along to climb the ladder together.

I believe these are the qualities of true leadership, and the way to make money, expand influence, and create lasting change in the world.

Reply to this blog and tell me your qualities of true leadership.

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