Leadership Lessons from a Hippie Bus

For the past 20 years I have worked in technology, but a great deal of the leadership training that I have found effective in my professional life I actually learned while driving a hippie tour bus.


Rule #1 — The value of a really good ice breaker

The Kitchen — One person's pain is another person's pleasure

Breakdowns — The positive impact of mechanical difficulties

Days 3 & 10 — The predictable rhythm of team development

Noisy Brakes — How to make crisis decisions

Confrontation — Dealing effectively with personal confrontations

Communication — The difference between communication and understanding

Talking the Talk — The value of trying to speak the local language

The Man — How to successfully deal with (possibly unfriendly) authorities

The Vision — Communicating a vision leads directly to postive experiences

The Fun Bus — Bringing it all together


Education is Where You Find It

I first rode the Green Tortoise because I needed to get somewhere and it was an interesting way to travel. I then started driving the bus because it looked like the coolest job in the world. At 22 years of age I was looking for travel and adventure, not an education in leadership and organizations. In the end I got both.

What Happened on the Trips

In the days before cell phones and GPS, Green Tortoise drivers would leave San Francisco with 35 - 40 passengers and a bus. They would travel up to 10,000 miles over the course of 4 to 6 weeks. During that time the two drivers would be responsible for every aspect of the trip and the passengers. While the technical and operational components demanded a lot of attention, I quickly found that it was the softer aspects of how I worked with the passengers that made the difference between a good trip and a great trip, and that these were learnable and repeatable.

Realizing How Much I'd Learned

Several years after leaving the road I was finishing my degree at Antioch University in Seattle where I realized that my years on the Green Tortoise had amounted to a two and a half year leadership intensive training.

Each of the following 'chapters' relates how I learned a particular lesson in group leadership. The events in these stories actually happened (though exact names, places, and minor details of sequence may have been changed).