try pinning your tinder to the ground with the fire steel and allowing the sparks to be directed directly into the tinder
FIne knife shavings of dry wood, and fine strips of teaased birch bark are easy to ignite this way
also when selecting tinder the about the 3 F's fine, fibrous, fluffy something that is all of the above is ideal like fluffed up cedar bark, but something that has any of those qualities in various degrees will work.
as far as leaves go Dried beech leaves do seem to work well
my suggestion FWIW would be to think of this rod as your learning rod, and wear it down till you can make fire with that and natural tinder on a consistent basis, by the time you are ready for a new rod, your jedi skill will be complete
"Most people are like slinky's they are pretty much useless, But it's fun to watch them fall down the stairs." - Anonymoous