I lead in my church. My husband leads in his work place. We lead as parents and our son is beginning to show leadership qualities. I was given the opportunity to review the Leadership Garden Legacy. On the website it states that “A Leadership Garden is a fun and engaging metaphor for growing leadership.”
These are the six components I was given:
U.N.I.Q.U.E. KIDS: Growing My Leadership Garden (ages 5-12; $18.95)
U.N.I.Q.U.E.: Growing the Leader Within (high school-adults; $18.95)
The Leadership Garden Guidebook (high school-adults; $18.95)
U.N.I.Q.U.E. KIDS Activity Guide & My Leadership Garden Journal – PDF Downloads (Grade 3-5; $8.95)
U.N.I.Q.U.E. KIDS Audio Book MP3 Download ($8.95)
U.N.I.Q.U.E.: Growing the Leader Within – Audio Book MP3 Download ($14.95)
Because of all the leadership opportunities my husband has been given, he is always interested in new podcasts and mp3s that might help him cultivate stronger leadership skills. So he took the adult version to listen to and I played the kids’ version for the kids and me.
The book is an allegory of sorts. A metaphor, the website says. I love allegories. This story is about a little, scared lamb who stumbles onto a farm. He meets the farmer and other farm characters who help him understand that he can cultivate his individual garden and be a leader.
My son really enjoyed listening to the mp3 as he read the book, and the kids enjoyed the different voices the reader gave the characters. But I had some difficulties with this curriculum.
When I first received the links for the downloads, for some reason, they didn’t download properly. So I went onto the website and entered my info to get into my account. I still had issues with something and I had to email the author for help. Debra Slover was very gracious and helped me get the file I needed. The kids and I listened to the U.N.I.Q.U.E. KIDS Audio Book in the car. I don’t have an mp3 player, so I burned the files onto a CD. Each chapter didn’t have it’s own number in the file. Therefore we had to listen to the whole thing without stopping to listen to other CDs, or else we’d have to start the entire book over again.
I’m not sure what the objectives are for this book. The kids’ activity guide and journal attempt to match some of the Oregon standards (the author is in Oregon) with language arts, social science, and health activities. There are journal entries, filling out some graphic organizers, and some hands-on science, like growing a plant. At the end, there is a culmination activity, but no real measurable assessment of anything. Leadership isn’t really something that can be measured, but it can be demonstrated. I never saw anything that has the students be placed in a situation where they would be leaders and actually use the concepts found in the book.
The kids and I started listening to the story of Hugh and how he becomes empowered to grow characteristics in his leadership garden. After the first chapter, as a Christian mom, I started to become wary of the subject matter of the book. The more I listened, the more concerned and confused I became. We listened to the entire book, but the language was ambiguous and I’m not a fan of “self esteem” type self-help curricula. Because I did not agree with what the author was trying to communicate, I chose to not do the journal or other activities with my children.
At this point, I will let you hear from my husband about his experience with the adult version of the mp3, U.N.I.Q.U.E.: Growing the Leader Within:
I have listened to some leadership podcasts because it is a skill I know I should improve. When my wife told me she found a leadership curriculum, I was interested. I downloaded and listened to the “Growing the Leader Within” audio book. Most of the leadership content I have found on the Internet concerns managing people professionally and running a business. I was hoping this curriculum would teach me how to improve my skills at leading people such as my church small group, my household, as well as my co-workers.
I would describe what I perceive as the objectives of this curriculum as follows:
The students will analyze themselves and “weed out” destructive experiences and feelings.
The students will be encouraged to believe in themselves.
The students will change themselves for the better and (incidentally) become leaders.
I would describe the content that I listened to as more of a self-help book than a discussion of leadership. The author spends her time teaching how to be a good person, and not how to be a good leader. In fact, I felt like the book sometimes read like a piece of religious literature. It did not suggest anything about any particular god. Instead I would describe it as humanistic in nature.
“They’re not in this garden, but in your body, mind, heart, and spirit. Tending your Leadership Garden is the way you grow your leader and express your purpose and aim.” (p. 6)
“Aristotle and Leda walk toward the barn. Aristotle turns back to Hugh and says, ‘Now remember, you create your own reality, so create one that makes you strong.'” (p. 26)
“‘On the farm, we don’t believe in bad people or animals,’ Blossom says. ‘By nature, all people and animals are primarily concerned with survival. Coyotes are predatory animals and unfortunately, sheep and cattle are some of their prey. It’s their nature but it doesn’t make them bad.'” (p. 67)
“Growing the Leader Within” alternates between a story and author commentary. In the allegory, I think the garden is a metaphor for who you are in your mind (your self image). Both the story and commentary introduce a significant amount of what I will call “proprietary vocabulary.” There are many words that are redefined to express the ideas in the book. There are so many, that I found the book hard to understand. I feel the proprietary vocabulary was over-used and it decreased the book’s effectiveness with me.
“I was unaware I had gone into my old survival condition until our communication differences collided. I realized my accusatory statement had been unwarranted and I had been stubborn, just like the weeds in my garden, and I had grown persistent about my point of view. I knew in my heart that if I left Terry now it would destroy the special garden we had been cultivating.” (p. 11)
“‘The point is, Hugh, when you accept a situation without judgement, you have the power to choose and be responsible for your experience,’ says Blossom. ‘When you resist the reality of a situation and fail to see it for what it is, you lose power, become a victim, and love disappears from your heart.'” (p. 69)
When the book alternates to author commentary, Ms. Slover shares personal experiences to illustrate her points. I gathered that this book is the result of her own self analysis and self betterment. She suffered some difficult experiences (her mother’s suicide and a failed marriage) that became “source events” and “weeds” that were impacting her life negatively. She divorced her husband and started to reconstruct her self. She started a new relationship and remarried. Through this journey, she created this curriculum that she teaches. I have read numerous books on marriage and parenting. I have found that many of the authors present their own personal experience as “The Answer”. However, in my experience, the authors’ discoveries were effective in their households, but less effective in my household. I have a feeling that the Leadership Garden series, although generalized well, might be another example of an author’s personal experience being presented as a general purpose solution. This does not suggest that there is not something to be gained, but your mileage may vary.
As I said previously, I found the text to be rather difficult to understand. I became impatient with the lack of directness. I would have appreciated more clear statements like, “When you lie, you lose your influence with the people you lead.” I found the book annoying and impractical. Later, I looked at the workbook, “The Leadership Garden Guidebook.” This book had what the audio book lacked, practicality. Let me say that I did not spend a lot of time reading the workbook. However, it has sections for the student to write about themselves and self-analyze. Self analysis is very valuable. There is a significant deficit of this in school, church, and in family. This text has a deliberate process for making the student describe their past behaviors and relationships and analyze them.
In closing, let me point out that the quotes I selected above are not representative of the entirety of either text. The quotes do help to illustrate my points. In context, the hard to understand passages will obviously make more sense. I feel like it is unfair for me to present examples that are possibly extreme without mentioning that they were not randomly selected.
If you are interested in learning more about this curriculum or buying it, the author of Leadership Garden Legacy is offering the TOS Community a “Spring Special Discount” of 20% on all the Empowerment Tools. This is in addition to the already discounted Tool Kit bundles.
To receive your discount, enter the discount code: TOS-SS20D upon checkout. This is a limited time offer and the code will expire on May 31, 2013.
Preview the bundled Tool Kit Discount options at:
Preview all product tools at:
Visit the Leadership Garden Legacy to learn more at:
With the bundle price of the Family Empowerment Tool Kit and the TOS extra 20% discount this is a $28.70 TOS savings off the retail price of the products.
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