Do You Lead Like a Canadian Salmon?

Salmon swimming upstream s stock

Canadian salmon swim upstream, crashing and bashing into rocks, throwing themselves up waterfalls and running the gauntlet of hungry bears looking for a free lunch, to get to the prize – the right to reproduce and be part of a generational cycle of species survival.  Only those strong enough, with enough determination, will make it to the spawning grounds –where, spent of life, they will breed.

The key point for reflection here is that their dream and their belief leads them straight into opposition: that is how the universe operates.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you it will be easy to achieve your vision.  The principle of opposition to growth and change is alive and well and very much kicking.


What vision or belief of what could be possible have you had/do you have? 

How has your vision been received?


Great leaders cast vision. Visionaries are rarely loved.  More often than not they’re opposed.  Seeing what others don’t see is no guarantee of anyone’s favour, even if you’re trying to be helpful. When you envisage what could be, other people often can’t see what you see.  They may think you’re mad; they may even try to knock you down.  Just as the salmon face innumerable hurdles in their pursuit of their goal, people with a vision and a belief of what could be possible will always encounter opposition.


“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. But obstacles don’t have to stop you.  If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up.  Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it”    Michael Jordan, Professional Basket Baller.


Within an organisation a shared faith in a common vision and destiny means a shared power, strength and unity and, actually breaks down much of the inertia we see in situations where humans are working together. Fostering a shared belief in a common cause is a vital calling of leadership.  Without vision, people perish.

An example of a leader sharing his belief, his vision to his men can be found in the highly acclaimed movie starring Mel Gibson, “We Were Soldiers”, based on the novel by Lieutenant – General (US Army Ret.) Hal Moore, “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young”. In this moving and epic tale of the early days of the Vietnam War, Hal Moore, a US Army Cavalry Commander shares his vision and his belief with his junior officers.  He tells them he will leave no man on the field of battle, either dead or alive and that all will come home.  Sadly, one of his young officers loses his life trying to rescue a fellow wounded soldier, and Moore blames himself for the loss of both men.  In a very poignant scene, Moore (played by Gibson) says of the heroic young officer, “He died fulfilling my promise.” That is what shared vision and belief is all about: it gets everybody to buy into the vision, for the greater good of all.


Do you share your vision with your team? 

When was the last time you shared your vision with your team?

Has everyone bought into the vision? 

Why or why not?


Let me illustrate again from my experience.  Many of my clients have parts of their businesses in remote or even overseas locations and for their business to succeed in these places, places which don’t have the day to day contact with Head Office, it’s necessary that the leaders of these outposts all have at least the same level of belief as the Owners of the business.  Because of this, when the Owners and I meet with them, we try above all else to get these individuals thinking like the Owners.  The Owners know their stuff and are full of belief for what needs to happen to make their company great.

We don’t want them thinking at their current levels of success.

We don’t want them having small kernels of belief – we want them believing what the Owners believe.

Leaders need to pass on belief like red blood cells carry oxygen to the whole body, or in this case the whole company. The values of the organisation drive the vision.  Key core values are part of the vision.


What are your core values as the leader?


Harvey McKay, CEO of McKay Envelopes and author of Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, had the belief to position his company as the number two in markets where he couldn’t beat his competitors.  His reasoning was that if his competitors ever fell over, didn’t follow through, or failed the customer in any way, McKay Envelopes would be in position ready to pick up the business.  McKay had the belief to keep wooing customers who showed no interest in doing business with him and he engendered that same belief in his sales staff – while all of his competitors were telling their staff to ignore unfruitful contacts, McKay’s staff were sent out to woo people who had yet to spend a penny with them.  Needless to say, McKay Envelopes was a huge success story.


What do you do when a person in your team is not aligned to your vision?

How do you empower people in your organisation who are struggling with belief? 


The key task of any great leader is imparting belief – the belief that with the right level of application, the vision/goal is achievable, one small step at a time.  Effective leaders are aware that the people they lead can have self-doubt and a lack of belief. The highest calling of leadership is to bring about a change in those people that you lead. Putting belief into people is a leadership skill that requires a deliberate process with a disciplined rhythm.

A shared belief means shared power.  That’s how the really big dreams are fulfilled in life.   Big people are grown when they share the minds of big people – the Association Factor. The responsibility of any leader is to get his or her team thinking as he or she does, to get them believing like they do, and acting on their vision/beliefs.  The more people you can get to think at a higher level of leadership, there is more belief that the vision is possible.

The huge amount of energy that is required to build belief that the vision is possible can never be underestimated. Your vision can’t expand until your belief and the team’s belief in the vision, increases.


What are you doing as the leader to expand the belief in your vision?  

Are you leading like a Canadian Salmon, having the belief that yourself and your team can succeed against seemingly impossible odds to achieve your vision?



Thank you for taking the time to read my article.

I trust my articles can play a part in helping you grow your Leadership strength to live a better life!


Peter (Coxey)

I talk further about this in my book, “The Dream Is Everything”.  If you’d like to receive a FREE e-copy, (RRP $24.95), click here.

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