Leadership workshops lack direction

Eric Yi, Opinions Writer

Supposedly back by popular demand, the Winter 2019 session of the Dale Carnegie Young Adult Leadership Program at Richard Montgomery finally finished at the end of January. Comprising eight weekly classes, the program culminated in a final presentation that allows participants to show off their growth.

Though the program sells itself as the perfect opportunity to sharpen one’s communication, leadership, and social skills, the program is not worth the thousand dollar price tag. 

First of all, the program’s required classes are time-consuming, which can interfere with the busy life of a RM student who has to already handle school, work, and numerous other extracurriculars. Senior Ayesha Khawaja, a Dale Carnegie program alumna, said, “I remember that while I was doing it, I hated it because it was four hours a week, and it was a huge time commitment.”

For the high price, Dale Carnegie also does not teach students enough. Some classes dwell on trivial topics, such as ways to remember people’s names, that most students can learn from a quick YouTube video for free.

Additionally, half of every class is spent practicing speech delivery. Each student will come to the front of the class and deliver a two-minute speech to the audience, and the instructor will provide feedback. Though the feedback is helpful,  students spend the majority of each class listening to other people’s presentations, allowing for less time to develop necessary leadership skills. 

Consequently, Dale Carnegie begins to feel more like a public speaking class rather than a leadership program. Despite the fact that communication is vital for strong leadership, the program fails to emphasize other areas or skills required of leadership, such as improvisation. Khawaja said, “[Improvisation] is a big thing that we didn’t practice in Dale Carnegie that I think is a really big part of leadership, which is being able to think on your feet and adapt to a new situation really quickly.”

Admittedly, leadership workshops such as the Dale Carnegie program can be effective for some because they provide an opportunity to practice important soft skills like communication. However, once the program is over, the majority of students quickly forget what they’ve practiced in the program. This is especially true for the many who are dragged unwillingly into participating in the first place after their parents sign them up. Ultimately, leadership workshops are only valuable if the participants regularly practice the concepts learned in the program in their everyday lives.

“I don’t necessarily think that leadership workshops will teach you anything you don’t already know, but it will illuminate some things you don’t often think about.” Khawaja said. “It’s more of a subtle, subconscious thing that you keep using whenever you have to do anything related to leadership.”

Perhaps instead of trying to learn directly about leadership from such a workshop, students can actually gain better leadership training when they apply it  both directly and indirectly throughout their extracurricular activities and their school classes. For example, clubs such as mock trial and debate provide direct opportunities to practice public speaking outside of formal workshops, and group projects in classes often provide the resources to develop interpersonal skills. While the idea behind leadership workshops is admirable, when put into practice, at least for high school students, it unfortunatelymay not be particularly effective. Given the high price and time commitment, leadership workshops feel like a waste.

 However, if the price were lowered and the curriculum refined, then leadership workshops may be a beneficial resource for kids who lack those skills. When asked to sum up Dale Carnegie, Khawaja said, “It was a good class, but I don’t think I would do it again.”