When Leadership Gets Challenging – Think Fish Ladders!

“Those who travel with the current will always feel they are good swimmers; those who swim against the current may never realize they are better swimmers than they imagine.”

Image by danny moore from Pixabay

My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Oregon. If you’ve not had the opportunity to visit, I highly recommend putting it on your bucket list. It’s absolutely beautiful! 

One of our stops was at the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River Gorge. There was so much to see there, but of particular interest to me was the fish ladder. If you’re not familiar with a fish ladder, it’s a series of pools built like steps that enable fish to bypass a dam to move upstream to spawn. The fish leap through the cascade of rushing water, rest in a pool and then repeat the process until they’re past the dam. 

Below is a short video I took where you will see hundreds of American Shad working their way up the fish ladder. I was pretty impressed when I learned that these fish are born in the fresh water of the Columbia River, then travel 150+ miles to live most of their lives in the salt water of the Pacific Ocean. Two or three times in their lifetime, they will travel back up the Columbia River, against the current, to spawn in the same place they were born.

So, what do these fish and the fish ladder have to do with your leadership? Think about the fact that these fish swim against the current but continue to move forward with focused intent. Their journey is certainly not comfortable in an environment that can be quite challenging. Everything tells the fish that what they’re doing is much harder than simply turning around and swimming with the flow. But that is not an option for them.  They continue their journey being pulled by their purpose. Seems like being a leader can be like this at times doesn’t it?

So, what are some of my takeaways from my time at the fish ladder?

1 – Never forget the reason you lead. Your purpose lets others know who you are and why you are there.

2 – Challenging currents make leaders into stronger swimmers. No question that challenging currents will be in your future.  Best start taking swim lessons today.

3 – Remember the wisdom of Dory in Finding Nemo and…

Just keep swimming!

Just keep swimming!

Just keep swimming!

Fish Ladder Video: https://youtu.be/B3xJeKpo0pk

Here’s to your leadership journey!

One thought on “When Leadership Gets Challenging – Think Fish Ladders!

  1. Also important to note is that without the resting pools, the fish could never make it over the dam. It’s very important to recognize when you (or those you lead) need a rest.

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