Garden lessons: planting the seeds of leadership

Large group of students surrounding their teacher, taking a selfie by a large tree trunk.

Students in the Master of Global Management program participated in a special session called “Plant a Seed” led by former RRU head gardener, Paul Allison, that inspires them to approach management, leadership and global business from the lens of nature, science and sustainability.

Students standing in garden, looking at teacher.

Allison began by sharing with students his love of plants, and promising that there would be many things that would wow them on the tour, even designating a few of the students to count the number of ‘wows’ they experienced in the two-hour course and report back at the end.

Before entering the garden, Allison promised the students they would learn about people-plant relationships and experience the landscape. He had just one request: no phones. Instead, he asked them to be in the moment and enjoy the wonder and delight of the gardens.

Students looking at tree trunk, listening to teacher.

Allison engaged his audience by asking students what their national flower was. The exercise helped highlight Allison’s lesson that the entire planet is a garden. People-plant relationships are critical worldwide, and it’s important that we care for them.

Students standing in a garden looking at teacher, who is holding up a flower.

“We live in a world of seeds,” Allison told students as part of a quick economics lessons after polling the students on their breakfast choices that morning and connecting their favourite foods – coffee, tea, cereal, toast, peanut butter – with the plants required to produce them.

Student walking on nature path.

Allison shared the interconnectedness of nature and geopolitical issues using several examples throughout the garden. As students walked along the path to the Langford Aquifer (spring water which helps feed the gardens year-round with fresh water), he shared insights from a conversation with a general from NATO, “We discussed the role of water with security. The Syrian crisis started because of a drought. The Arab Spring started because of a drought. That was the major cause of it and then it rolled into more political things, but it was because people didn’t have enough water.”

Students sitting in open air wooden hut, listening to classmates reading.

The group paused to challenge their perceptions of leadership by examining optical illusions and how individuals can see vastly different things. Allison segued this into a discussion of business, and how commonly held beliefs like “work life balance matters the most” are proving to be inaccurate – studies show that love in work matters the most  – and encouraged the students to look at everything from a fresh perspective.

Students smiling at camera, posting next to a large tree trunk.

At the close of the class, a minor reprieve from Allison’s cell phone ban allowed the whole group to capture a class selfie by one of the garden’s majestic trees.

And the “wow” count by the class? Too many to count.

Learn more:

A Vision in Bloom

Royal Roads University

Master of Global Management program