People often refer to a ladder when discussing ascending through the ranks in their careers. I prefer to think it's more like rock-climbing* - there's not necessarily one route as implied by a ladder.
Be careful not to tread on the fingers of those below you and don't forget to point out the hard-to-see hand/foot-holds.
No point in getting to the top if there's no one left following to witness it.
* It's still an imperfect metaphor. Also, I'm no rock-climber.