The Mission is the Music

With HI-USA in the midst of reinventing itself, a recent gathering of some of its most important stakeholders – our hostel managers – took on special meaning.   And so did a YouTube video of a “guy starting a dance party” at a 2009 music festival.

HI-USA annually convenes its National Operators Meeting, where managers nationwide, from hostels large and small, gather to talk and learn together.  Several days ago in Chicago, the meeting featured discussion of strategy development, a peek at our new web site, and plenty of focus on the transformation of HI-USA into a unified, more nimble and financially robust organization.

My own presentation was all about inviting hostel managers to step forward as leaders for organizational change.   And that’s where the YouTube video came into play. 

The video was surfaced by TED’s Derek Sivers as a three-minute primer on how teams are built and movements created.   It begins with the shirtless guy having the guts to stand up and dance, when he is joined initially by a single follower.   The follower, quickly empowered by the leader, calls over his friends to dance, who then are joined by others.    As its size grows, the group becomes a crowd and more welcoming for a tentative person to join; more and more eventually follow.  In the end, the single lone dancer with his handful of early followers generates a crowd that looks to be in the hundreds.

In three minutes, you see the power of an engaging leader, and the underestimated influence of early followers.  It takes both – leader and followers – to build a movement.

Yet let’s not forget the music.  It is the reason for the leader standing up in the first place (to dance), and for those who followed (as part of an expanding group).   When the music stops, so does the crowd.

For nonprofits, the mission is the music.  It’s the mission that brings to life the organization and the people in it.

HI-USA exists to promote international understanding through experiential travel.   It’s all about making travel affordable and engaging, through our hostels and our programs.   It’s a pursuit that is both fun and important … and compelling music for those who care about people, places and cultures.

By | 2018-04-19T17:46:47+00:00 September 18th, 2011|Thoughts From the Road|1 Comment

About the Author:

Since 2000, Russ has been the CEO of Hostelling International USA (HI USA), a nonprofit, member organization founded on an enduring belief in the power of travel to foster a deeper understanding of people, places, and the world around. The HI USA hostel network is consistently recognized as one of the best in world by the International Youth Hostel Federation and by independent rating agencies. Russ has been a featured speaker at national and international conferences on topics ranging from experiential education to nonprofit management. Russ serves on the Boards of the UNWTO, US Travel Association, and WYSTC.

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