Upstream-Downstream: Familiar?

rescueOne of the interesting fables I used I used in teaching leadership over the years was “Upstream-Downstream,” by Don Ardell (1975).

To hear the story on video, CLICK HERE.

And then tell me how this may or may not apply to your work.

Then think about what needs to be done.

How can you begin to work upstream to prevent those upstream “bodies” from falling into the rivers in the first place; bodies which impact the quality of your work?

Understanding this story will help you as a leader because it can help you begin to think “outside your box” and the forces and situations which impact you and your work.

What are some of the “bodies” you are already familiar with? Where do they come from? How can you begin to work upstream?

You might also want to read my blog from February, 2013.

And, if this is your first time here, take a look at my book.


  1. Certainly is familar. you taught it to many of us twenty five yearsago. I used it a few months ago to tell a story to my state elected leaders about a “crisis” river, describing Boise’s mental health crisis in 2012. We are not alone and these troubling “statistics” are similar to what my police chief colleagues are facing on their rivers throughout the state and nation. Now for the upstream/downstream analogy. We can’t continue to concentrate exclusively on emergency rescue efforts recovering dead bodies from the falls (suicides in my city run about 65-70 annually) . We need to focus upstream and what we can start doing now to reduce the number of our citizens from reaching the rapids (crisis). That’s why police must take an active leadership role, with other community partners, in speaking out for mental health system improvements. Upstream-Downstream is a great way to explain our stories.


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