What This Blog Is About

Our local elementary school introduced a new program in 2012 year called The Leader In Me.  This program is integrated into every class, every day.  I wanted to know more about what my children were being taught, so I did some research.  I became very concerned about this program and its motives.  I am creating this blog so other concerned parents can find a place to share their concerns.

On the site you will find content about:

Is it Really Teaching Leadership?

How Much It Costs

FranklinCovey’s Marketing Genius

Research on The Leader in Me

Religious Content in The Leader in Me


35 thoughts on “What This Blog Is About

  1. Dear “leaderinmeconcerns”!
    I want to thank you for the information you bring in this blog. I also thank you for inspiring to resist against the Leader in Me-program. In my daughters public school they started with the Leader in Me in May and I was suspicious since the first day, when she come home telling me that they learned that they should be proactive – not reactive. She is seven years old and of course the word didn´t make any sense to her.

    This autumn a growing group of skeptical parents tried to explain our concern both to the superintendent and to the local school administration. I must say I have been very surprised of how they could take this unproven program with religious shade in a Swedish public school. To let a private company have so much influence and possibilities to marketing through the school is rather untypical for Sweden – or at least I thought so until this happened! My daughter’s school is the eighth in Sweden buying the Leader in Me-concept.

    This has been a hard week for FranklinCovey/Radical Change Sweden and for our superintendent. Our protest has reached the media and on Monday there were articles in one of our two largest morning papers and in one of our two largest tabloids. I and other parents published two debate articles in rather big internet-media, and the protests were also highlighted in the news in television. Tuesday two rather big debaters wrote about it in the largest morning paper and in another important paper and it was a documentary about the program and our concern in the radio. Sweden is rather small and I hope this will leave some traces. Unfortunately, the program is still on in my daughter’s school.
    I suppose you don´t read Swedish but I give you the link to my blog about this anyway. Maybe some of your readers are Scandinavian and find my blog through yours. I also link to the relevant articles.


    Best wishes
    Ylva Sjöstrand

    • Ylva, I’m so glad you found this blog and that it helped you. I don’t read Swedish, but using Google Translate I read through everything on your blog – you’re doing a great job with it!

      The experience you describe sounds very similar to what happened at my school – a relatively new principal bought the program for our school with little to no oversight from the School District or the School Board. When we raised concerns, first to the principal, then to her boss, then to the Superintendent and the School Board, they didn’t seem to understand our concerns at all, and mostly they just seemed to want us and our complaints to go away. They had little to no knowledge about the program itself. We wondered if this was part of Franklin Covey’s way of working – go straight to a principal to get into a specific school, and then grow out from there, rather than seek approval from those higher up in the chain. Once a principal has committed to and paid for 3 years, it’s much harder for the school district to say “whoops, we made a mistake”, and then get out of the 3 year contract.

      We also found that the majority of parents were upset by our protests, even though they knew very little information about the program or its materials. Although they didn’t actively support the program, they seemed to fall on the side of supporting of the principal because they didn’t like the fact that we were complaining, and they didn’t like it that we were giving our school a bad name. They thought we should trust the school system, and not make waves.

      I thought your blog was great. There were 3 things that especially interested me. One was how much your school stressed the “you choose how you feel” phrase. I completely agree that this can teach the kids to stifle their bad feelings, and that’s never ok.

      The second was the “Leader vs. Victim” theme at your school. For us, it was “Leader vs. Non-Leader”, but that same polarization definitely happened with this program – in a BIG way. That “In or Out” feeling permeates the program, and is a horrible feeling at an elementary school. The teachers each had a poster where they put the names of each kid who they saw being Proactive. My kids talked often about who was and who wasn’t Proactive, because it was so visible. Another teacher chose 11 kids and called them into the hallway to say that they weren’t being “Leaders”, and they needed to work harder and write an essay about how they could become a Leader. These were 4th graders – every single kid in the class knew who was a Leader, and who was Not a Leader after that exercise. And the parents heard immediately when 11 Non-Leaders reported home that they were not succeeding at the new program. More Us vs. Them. It just felt so wrong. And I think this teacher is a GOOD teacher – but this program can actually bring out the worst in teachers.

      Third, I really liked your discussion of the problems with “Common Language”. That was always held up at our school as one of the great things about the program, but you are very right that this can add to the cult-like nature of the program when the rest of the world doesn’t internalize “Proactive” and “Synergy” and “Sharpen the Saw” the same way the Leader in Me does.

      I also love that you tried to get the FranklinCovey representative to respond to your concerns publicly and transparently on your blog instead of going behind closed doors to do it. Interesting that he really thinks the problems are just miscommunications, and that the absolute majority of parents and students are in support of the program. It’s easy to take lack of complaint as support when it’s much more likely, as you said, that it’s just parents who are busy working and living and trusting the school system.

      I hope you are successful in getting this program removed from your school! Let us know so that others can follow your example if it works!

  2. Hello! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give
    a quick shout out and tell you I truly enjoy reading
    your blog posts. Can you recommend any other
    blogs/websites/forums that cover the same subjects?
    Thank you so much!

  3. Hi Tim,

    One of the reasons I started this blog is because there is so little negative information about The Leader In Me on the Internet. Here are links to external sites I found as I was researching this program:

    http://www.apologeticsindex.org/c13.html – Religious origins of the 7 habits

    http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/hnttv.htm – Teaching Values to Kids (not directly about The Leader in Me)

    http://www.sbnonline.com/component/k2/12-los-angeles-editions/6843#.UthWLJ6wLYg – Andrew Cherng, owner of Panda Express who is giving schools grants to implement The Leader In Me

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_48/b4205098143983.htm – More about Andrew Cherng and Stephen Covey

    http://busineslandmark.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/cheng%E2%80%99s-landmark-forum/ – Andrew Cherng and Landmark Form

    http://skolkritik.wordpress.com/ – a blog created by other concerned parents (Google translate can turn this into English for you if you need it)

  4. I’m sad that you clearly haven’t read the book you complain about. Covey did NOT start the leader in me. It was started by a principal in NC who had learned his 7 habits for adults and wanted to reach younger kids with what she saw as positive behaviors. To claim that it was not started by educators is false. In addition, if you’d read Sean’s 7 habits for teens, you’d know that he acknowledges that these are guidelines, not absolutes. Perhaps your school’s implementation was off. I recognize the concern about marketing and corporate interest but at this time there is no evidence that these have occurred to the detriment of kids. FYI, I am not connected with Covey in any way or with a school that has completely implemented it. My child’s school is looking at it currently.

  5. Thank you for this blog. I am currently a teacher at a Leader in Me school. I was skeptical from the beginning of the implementation of this program. I have never been comfortable with the way it puts kids into a “mob mentality” and discourages free thinking. The students, especially the younger ones, just become robots spitting out catch phrases. The amount of money the program costs makes me sick. There are so many other needs we have at school… Like books and new technology! Anyway I wanted to give a little bit of a teacher perspective. Thank you for this blog.

    • I agree with what you have said. We use this program at the school where I work and I HATE it! Talk about herd mentality. The kids don’t know what these phrases mean. They just know that if they repeat them, they are praised. There is no room for free thinking or individualism. Just learn those precious phrases and drill them into the kid’s heads over and over and over. Bad thing is, not only are we using it at my school, it is being used by every school in my district. The rep for the company came by recently spewing more verbal vomit and trying to convince us that we needed to buy MORE books and new material to implement with this program. Thankfully, we passed on her sales pitch. She could not understand that we have kids who can’t afford food and proper shoes and we have teachers who need things like pencils and paper in their classrooms, not to mention computers and other technology. We do NOT need more books to make someone else some money.

  6. I´ve read the blog and I really think that you are looking TLIM from your own paradigm. I think I could personally respond to every single of this questions, and yourself as a concerned parent, would be happy to have the program on your school.

    • Broken English and “paradigm”? Sounds like a disgruntled Scandinavian Covey employee! You fine folks just love to spam anyone who dares dislike this horrible program. This is the worst thing to happen to my beloved public school, and I can’t wait to sell our home and move our children the heck out of here.

  7. Thank you for your blog. It encouraged me to further research the company,the TLIM and its claims. This program should have no place in our public schools for many reasons. It is a “secular distillation of Mormon teaching” said Clayton Christensen, a Harvard management guru and a Mormon, though in my opinion it is not secular and if you dive into Covey’s work you early realize the religious concepts in the 7 Habits. It is without a doubt an indoctrination of our children. I started a FB page in hopes to educate people about this very misleading program.
    http://www.facebook.com/leaderinmeindoctrination and wrote an op-ed about it,http://flaglerlive.com/72427/leader-in-me-indoctrination-sanford/ unfortunately is still new at my child’s school and teachers fail to see indoctrination aspect of it. School officials unable to look past the “innocuous” 7 Habits.

    • Karmen, I’m glad you found this blog and that it helped you. I read your article and thought it was great – good for you for you! I also read the comments, and they are very similar to the comments I received from other parents and teachers at our school when I started expressing concerns. If nothing else, this program is extremely polarizing. People either love it to death or hate it with every bone in their body. It split our school an extremely detrimental way. That alone should raise red flags about the program!

      I encourage you to head down the path of investigating how this curriculum was approved for your school. FranklinCovey seems to be very good at finding an individual who will help them get the program into schools and then encouraging that person to bypass usual curriculum reviews because they explicitly say that this as NOT curriculum. It’s a great way for them to avoid the scrutiny that other classroom materials have to go through, but if you encourage that scrutiny you may find people on the school board who will agree that this is not appropriate in a public school. We failed completely on getting our district to see this as religious material, but we did get people to recognize just how big this program is since it touches every classroom, cafeteria, hallway, teacher, staff member, etc., and that helped us get some traction on the program needing more review if nothing else.

      I think that FranklinCovey’s approach of 1) finding a supporter in a school 2) bypassing a curriculum review since it’s not curriculum and 3) providing the funding via third party is brilliant, and school systems who are cash poor see this as a free way to improve their schools so they stop looking any deeper. You’re fighting a good fight. Keep after it!

  8. As a parent and school volunteer, I am saddened to see so much negativity about a program that is giving our children a positive direction towards success! My daughter started 5th grade last year in a Leader in me school after we moved out of state. She went from an average student in a good school IL who disliked school to a high honor roll student who now loves it! She has gotten straight A’s since she has been in this program. This entire district is doing well on the program. Have you actually checked out student scores before and after before running your mouths negatively or are you just not interested in having your kids succeed?

    • Jen, your comment is typical of parents who did not bother to research the program or parents who fsil to recognize how this program discourages free thinking. Your daughter’s success has nothing to do with memorizing and reciting the 7 “habits”. To answer you question some of us parents who oppose this program have researched the program, its “origin”, and the company itself and understand this is nothing but a multilevel marketing product that idiots like yourself buy into. The company claims will no longer tout their academic achievments because they were busted for lying!! Do the research yourself! Many schools test scores have decreased after the implementation of this BS. Sad to see how many stupid parents are out there!!

      • My school is considering implementing the Leader in Me program. I believe 2 schools in the district already have. Lesson plan meetings have turned into Leader in Me discussions.

        My concern is no one at my school as I know of has researched any opposing viewpoints about the program. They are just ready to jump in head first. Why does it cost so much. Where is the money go to to–or to whom?

    • There are a couple of schools referenced in Franklin Covey’s LIM companion book that are used as positive examples. However, when you look at the academic results pre LIM to post LIM, they are actually declining in many areas.
      I’m glad that your daughter has improved, but my son does not need this type of guidance. He is a well balanced individual who learned this from his home environment, not from inspirational material flooded into his educational environment.
      Please give other parents on this blog credit for having researched LIM in depth and having formed their personal opinions based upon what they have found.

  9. Hello, everyone.

    My daughter’s school has just started to implement the LIM programme for Primary (don’t know about other levels). We were only emailed a formal notice on this decision; no information was shared with parents about what this would mean in the curriculum or school dynamics. I have asked the school for real information on this, but I have been repeatedly referred to the official LIM website, which is bursting with self-advertising material and generic press-heading-like captions. No real information. Nothing to THINK, consider, further process, UNDERSTAND… the possibility of thinking doesn’t seem to belong. 😦

    It frightens me. I don’t know why, I don’t have elements to trust or mistrust. But it is an instinctive reaction I always have when I’m prevented from thinking. For weeks I have been looking for critical thoughts on the programme from someone who already had the experience or who knows the programme from inside. I am astounded at how hard it is to find some criticism on the web. That is why I’m writing this comment. I just found this blog and have not read it yet, but finding it has given me new hope to finally understand; to compare opinions, to listen to all possible points of view, to weigh up pros and cons, and to eventually (and hopefully) arrive to my own conclusions.

    Thank you for the opportunity!

    • I extensively researched the program and published an article about it. It’s an intrusive, rapacious Mormon company allowed into our public schools with the help of their sly marketing tactics. Be ready to what comes next in your child school. A complete take over by a private company. Good luck! 😦

      • Allergic to Dogmas – I know the exact unsettling feeling you’re having right now. I hope this blog helps. I also found that that our school administration only pointed me to the LIM marketing material when I started delving into it, and no one had done a critical review of the program. They seemed so happy to be getting this “free” program, no one bothered to look at what it really was all about. And critical thinking does not seem to be important to anyone involved in this program – the people approving the program for public schools aren’t doing any critical thinking about it, and the program itself does the opposite of teaching critical thinking skills to our kids.

        SzeklerCanvas, I just looked at your article and am going to link to it from here so others can be sure to find it:


  10. The Leader in Me was incorporated into my child’s school years ago. When it was introduced, I was just on the PTA, and I was made fully aware of the entire process, as was everyone. I live in Utah, where I am VERY aware of Mormon influence and VERY familiar with their religion.
    We loved the program. I am not religious at ALL, and don’t want my kids to be either. I went through all of the training for the KIM program and have all the materials. Never once did I feel like religion was being taught to me or pushed on my kids. Sure, if you choose to make God one of your important priorities, it mentions it. So does Public school!!! We just don’t do that in our house.
    This program has taught us to not react negatively and quickly, to instead be proactive and think of a solution before throwing your emotions out there. It has taught us to listen to each other. Really listen, without sitting and thinking of your reply. Understanding the person you are communicating with before speaking and trying to get them to understand you. The habits our family learned with this program were amazing, helpful, non religious, successful, and we do not advocate churning out little CEO’s or desk workers. It doesn’t matter. The program teaches best effective communication and time management. Who couldn’t use that? Being NON religious and VERY familiar with LIM and Mormons, I do not understand those so against it. It’s awesome for kids to learn to have self control and say what they mean.

    • Thank you Annie! I am an educator that wants my students to feel that they have power – to choose, to respond thoughtfully and to be ultimately successful. I want my second graders to feel that they matter, they count and they are in control of their destiny. You see – many of my students are immigrants, or come from severely economically disadvantaged families. NO ONE tells them that they are important, have value, are the Leaders of tomorrow. I want them to learn that at least. Not too sure about herd mentality, religious overtones or all that. Just to love themselves and others.I mean if we win, we all win right? 🙂

      • I assumed educators are intellectuals. Tour answer proved me wrong. No wonder our educstion system suffers so greatly when our educators need a “secular distillation of Mormon teachings” to inspire our children. Did you think about using poetry, literature, history etc. to give hope to your “poor immigrant” students while you may also teach them criticsl thinking, reading and provide them with REAL material? How can you allow yourself to be so easily manipulated by a greedy corporate company whose only interest is profiting off of our kids? Sad, really sad.

  11. I am so sad to read what you are talking. I feel so blessed that In my school it really works. My exprerience so far isy really good, we spend money on other things that are not important but in this case it really worth. So sad to heard, we would love to help, maybe can be the way it is implemented what didn´t work, but doesn´t has to do with the process is the people. Change begind with us!

  12. My opinion of the program is that it presents the habits as absolutes, they are repeated over and over and over, and the absolutes strip our the individual and highlight the group. It’s a horrible message overall… in some cases the habits are good guidelines but they are not life absolutes and should not be presented as such. Also, they should not put so much emphasis on these things. Perhaps the kids would be better off memorizing their multiplication tables to the same degree. At least that is how it is at our school. What happened to the message the “you can do anything you want as long as you put your mind to it” or “If you want to get something done you have to do it yourself” or how about the simple message of rugged individualism?… these foundations are being removed and replaced with group-think and save the world goal setting. It’s a problem that so far has flown under the radar.

  13. Here is a recent summary article of the program from a practical standpoint. I think beyond the absolutes and repetition I am most concerned by the limitation of the values to ones that might make good worker bees but strip the values that create innovators or entrepreneurs. In some ways the program fails greater by what it removes from minds even though the ideas it adds are not healthy either. https://littlepuppydogs.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/10-reasons-to-avoid-the-leader-in-me/

  14. Problems with The Leader in Me Program

    When I first heard of The Leader in Me program I decided to do some
    research and in speaking with fellow educators, parents and students I
    have learned a few things.

    1. Cost.
    In asking local administration what the cost are I can never get any
    direct answers. Estimates range from $10,000 to $75,000 a school.When
    schools are laying off teachers and cutting funding for many programs,
    the decision to pay for high-priced child behavior modification
    program definitely raises eyebrows.

    2. The feeling that the program creates a brainwashed, cult-like atmosphere.
    Kids talking about their “emotional checkbooks” and “Synergy” is
    simply odd and some would say disturbing. The book that teaches the
    Leader in Me process recommends the “ubiquitous” approach, where the
    “language” of the Seven Habits is inserted into the day’s routine in
    any way possible: A lunchroom supervisor who sees a kid eating cookies
    before his sandwich might remind him to Put First Things First. A
    history teacher might ask students if either side in an international
    conflict was looking for a Win-Win solution. According to the leader
    in me everything can be a Win-Win, teaching our kids the ultimate
    participation trophy of life approach.
    In listening around schools that have the program I was hearing things
    like, “Well, if we begin with the end in mind, then that will be a win
    win for everyone, so let’s be proactive and put first things first,
    and then we’ll really be able to synergize.”
    Parents of kids have also expressed that they feel undermined by the
    Leader in me program and that the kids use these “word games’” to
    argue with them and try to get out of responsibility at home.

    3. The question of efficacy.
    The Leader in Me Website is filled with videos and quotes from
    teachers, parents, and principals who talk about how much they love
    the program.
    But if you look carefully, you will notice the following:
    No legitimate 3rd party studies or research has been done to show The
    Leader in Me improves academic performance or reduces disciplinary
    problems. All studies have been based on data provided by The leader
    in me.
    With each anecdote you read the cause and effect between The Leader in
    Me and the school’s improvements are never proven.

    4. Corporate ties and corporate “vibes.”
    Some who question the program are bothered by the fact that the
    training is being “pushed” on schools by local Chambers of Commerce.
    Others dislike the way the program’s structure tends to mimic
    corporate models. The fact that part of implementation required
    promoting the program to other schools sounds alot like pyramid

    5. The latest Fad in education.
    Public education has long been plagued with fads that have failed to
    improve educational performance. Consider just a few of the
    now-discredited ideas and fads:
    The”open education” fad — which sought “openness” by doing away with
    walls between classrooms —
    “Year round school” Fad. It was supposed to keep kids from forgetting
    over the summer break. Instead they forgot every 9 weeks when they
    were out for breaks.
    No Child left behind and Common Core

    6. Concern that the program has religious roots.
    While I am no expert on the Mormon faith or belief system when you
    start studying, the author of The leader in me, Franklin Covey’s, work
    you find the deep religious aspect hidden in the habits. The simple
    fact that the program is headquartered in Salt Lake City UT and that
    its strongest supporters are people of the Mormon faith should be
    enough to raise concerns. Would we implement an obviously Catholic
    program? Or a Muslim or Jewish one?

    Theses are just some concerns and problems I found with the Leader in
    Me program using limited time and resources available to me. I pray
    that you, the leaders elected, will take more time and research into
    this matter before furthering it.


    An Educator who can not sign their name due to fear of
    reprimand and dismissal.

    • Above is a letter I sent out to my local school board, I never heard of the program until they started talking about it in my district. The more i learned the more i did not like about it. Feel free to use and redistribute the information as you see fit.

      • Update: The school board announced that this year they will no longer fund the leader in me program. The schools that already have implementation of it have the option to Perdue their own funds from the county commissioners but I feel that will be unlikely. Not sure if my letter had any impact but my understanding is that the flaws I pointed out have become more apparent.
        To anyone else fighting the battle against the leader in me best of luck. I’m not sure it’s totally gone in my area but it has definitely been dealt a major setback.

    • There is a strong common theme among people who dislike this program that they do not want to use their name for fear of reprisals. I also have kept my name off of this blog for the same reasons. It says something important about The Leader In Me that we all feel the need to hide our true identity when speaking out against this program.

  15. Our school district approved this last spring. The cost…$250,000…out of the general fund. While they touted the fact they were soliciting contributions from local businesses and grants to help with the cost, they were unwilling to share how much that might be. To date it hasn’t been more than about $10,000. Parents felt as though they didn’t have an opportunity to ask questions about it as the first reading was suddenly changed to a final reading at the last minute.

    • At our school, Franklin Covey matched us with a company that provided our grant. The company was Panda Express – there isn’t a Panda Express in our town. This was actually one of my first flags – why would a restaurant chain with no presence in our town provide a grant for an education program at our elementary school? I learned that the owner of Panda Express is a big fan of Stephen Covey. So basically a guy who started a Chinese Food chain is picking the values program taught in our school by providing a grant for a specific program. That’s just weird. According to The Leader In Me website they’ve sponsored 880 schools so far: http://www.theleaderinme.org/sponsors/.

      • My research found that Panda Express has a non-profit operating as The I am a Leader Foundation. This non profit provides the grants to “approved schools,” and the grant money then shifts to the for profit, Franklin Covey ( distributor of The Leader in Me.) The school never sees that grant, only books, posters and propaganda valued at the grant amount. ($40,000 at our school. ) When we recieved the materials, we were required to pay an annual commitment fee of $5 950. Ironically, our school received a $40,000 grant from Panda Express ( I am a Leader Foundation,) and that’s close to the exact amount our school has funneled to Franklin Covey over the past 5 years.

  16. We left the school district and left the Leader in Me program behind. It is even more ridiculous viewing it from the outside now. It really does teach sheep-skills, not leader skills. It is great to be able to laugh at the program and the followers of it from afar with the kids instead of having to unlearn them daily.

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