To demonstrate that ways to be a growing a leader are metaphorically like growing one’s garden. These ways are explored in this hands-on activity and that includes planting some real seeds.
- To help leaders note the similarity between their development and growing a garden.
- To recognize key aspects of leadership that participants need to nurture and develop.
- Hands-on project
Equipment and Supplies
- A bag of dirt
- Garden gloves
- Quick-dry spray
- Packets of seeds
- Pots (one for each participant)
- Variety of small plants
- Variety of ink stamps and colored-ink pads
- Watering can
- Chairs arranged in a circle facing one table
- Two to three tables (to hold all of the supplies)
Consider doing this activity outdoors, especially if you are in a location that would set the mood for gardening.
Step by Step Instructions
- Introduce the topic by explaining that leaders always try to continue developing their skills so they can be the best leaders possible, that is, someone who is equipped to lead others and the entire organization toward their goals.
Tell the group, that you will be giving them a metaphor to help identify how one can develop themselves as a leader. This will be followed by a crafts project that will help participants remember their leadership goals.”
- Hand out the gardening items to the group.
- Present the garden metaphor by saying, “Layout in front of you the garden items, so that as you talk about each item in your metaphor, you can use it as a prop.” Explain that a metaphor helps in comparing two dissimilar objects or ideas in order to understand them better, such as, “Life is like a lemon because it can be bitter or sweet.” Ask for other examples of metaphors.
- Explain that you have chosen to compare leadership development to gardening. Find out who has an experience with gardening, so you can draw on their experience during the discussion. Try to elicit the answers from them.
- Develop your metaphor, using the following objects:
Garden gloves: These items represent the preparation you must do because you know that gardening and personal development require “down and dirty” work.
Bag of dirt: This represents the necessary foundation for growing flowers, trees, and vegetables. Ask participants what an individual’s foundation consists of. Answers may include one’s experiences, education, heredity, and learned traits, and financial resources available for development.
Seeds: These are a representation of the potential that will grow if properly nurtured.
Fertilizer: This depicts the boosts that aid in our development, such as a good guru or mentor, a champion, or sabbatical time to work on professional development.
Light and water: Just as we need the know-how of the amount of light and water our flowers will need, the leader needs to gauge the amount of direction, guidance, and nourishment each employee needs.
Shovel and spade: These items represent the tools needed to garden. Ask what tools participants need for their development.
Pots: These represent the containers in which things grow. Ask participants what kind of containers contain their growth.
Watering can: This item represents the essential ingredient plants need to grow. Ask what their most essential ingredient is that will ensure their success.
Sun: This important element symbolises a manager who provides guidance and nourishment.
- Get into action. Have participants move to the tables you have already set up for the craft project. Continue discussing the garden metaphor as you explain that they are going to spring into action and plant a spring flower: first by “stamping” the pot, and then by adding a plant. To “stamp” the pots, have participants select stamps that represent their own growth or what they want to achieve in themselves: pictures of birds, flowers, the sun, and so on. Show them how to ink the stamp, apply it to the pot, and then clean the stamp afterward. Suggest that they use the quick-dry spray to help speed the process. The pots will need time to dry, so emphasize the importance of patience if you want good results. Don’t let them rush through this part of the activity. Once the pots have dried for a few minutes, have participants move to the second table to add dirt, seeds, plants, and water.
- Summarize saying: “Today though this activity we had some fun thinking about how our own professional and personal development is like gardening. Put your pot in a place where it will serve as a daily reminder of what you have learned here. Don’t forget to give it what it needs to grow!” Discuss how participants can use this same metaphor and the craft project with the people they lead, to help them accomplish their development goals.
Post Activity Review
Take time shortly after conducting this activity to reflect on how it went, how engaged the participants were, and what questions they raised. Then, make notes that include how much time you actually spent on the activity.