The Highlands Company Blog

Over Two Decades of the HAB Supporting the Mission of UGA’s Institute for Leadership Advancement

Institute for Leadership Advancement

The Institute for Leadership Advancement (ILA) is an innovative, ever-evolving certificate program that combines coursework with real-world experience to sharpen the next generation of values-based, impact-driven leaders. ILA students and alumni exemplify the institutes’ core values of responsibility, stewardship, excellence, integrity and purpose. ILA’s one and two-year leadership development programs have graduated more than 1,500 UGA students.

We’re proud that The Highlands Ability Battery (HAB) is integrated as a key component in the introductory course for all ILA Fellows and Leonard Leadership Scholars. This introductory course, Leadership and Personal Development “provides the tools and knowledge to complete an in-depth examination of self, as self-awareness is a key leadership competency.” Students realize their leadership capabilities in a discovery process of identifying their personality, strengths and core values.

After piloting the HAB with Dori Stiles, Ph.D., Industrial/Organizational Psychology, in 2000, ILA contracted Dr. Stiles to facilitate the HAB and provide group feedback as a mainstay of Leadership and Personal Development. In 2015, Courtney Aldrich, Associate Director of ILA, became certified in the HAB to provide ongoing HAB support to students during and after they finish the introductory course. Courtney’s training and availability after Dr. Stiles’ work are invaluable as the “aha” moments don’t always happen right away. “Using insights from the HAB, I can sit down with students, one-on-one, to help them integrate their natural abilities into a career plan,” says Aldrich.

Personalized Leadership Development

A guiding philosophy of ILA is that “knowing yourself is key to effectively leading others.” Put simply, to lead others, you must know yourself first. Not only does the HAB generate in-depth self-awareness, but it also helps cultivate empathy, another core leadership skill. By first identifying their own personal style, the frame of reference in which one approaches their work, students then learn how classmates differ in personal style preferences (e.g., Networker, Detailed Communicator), problem-solving approaches (e.g., Pragmatic, Analytical) and the variety of ways people acquire and communicate information.

Because the HAB comprises objective, performance-based work samples, it offers students a tool to differentiate their natural abilities from acquired skills. Combined with other assessments, this self-exploration helps students appreciate and understand the personal side of leadership, contributing to each individual’s journey to incorporate soft skills such as networking, communication, and emotional intelligence. It also provides a lens through which they can actively learn about leadership theory through research and analysis of mini case studies.

Dr. Dori Stiles, Director of Training and Research for the Highlands Company and founder of Turning Points Coaching and Consulting guides students through this interactive HAB process. As part of the experience, students meet in pairs to discuss each other’s “superpower” that they present to the group on their partner’s behalf. Describing their partner’s superpower rather than their own encourages students to understand how others experience their natural abilities.

The HAB generates so much information that it can become overwhelming. Focusing on a “superpower” allows the students to concentrate on specific components of their results.

“It’s always rewarding to hear students begin using the language of the HAB to describe their superpowers,” Dr. Stiles says. “I’m fascinated by the lightbulb moments that lead to students embracing a specific talent, having the language to describe it, and feeling confident in advocating for themselves.”  Some examples:

“My superpower of high Idea Productivity makes me a great explainer and communicator – I can almost always find a way to get the point across.”

 “I didn’t know it was a ‘thing’ to see a process and priorities mentally. I thought everyone did that!”

 “I’d never heard of timeframe orientation. Now I know how my long-term focus helps me keep my eye on more distant targets and not feel deflated by short-term setbacks.”

22 Years Strong … and Expanding

ILA provides future leaders with the type of professional development typically reserved for employer-provided programs. This gives these students a competitive advantage — before graduating college.

The program’s success is evidenced not only by its longevity but also by its expansion.

For more than two decades, students enrolled in UGA’s Terry School of Business have been eligible to apply to ILA’s Leonard Leadership Scholars Program. In 2003, the application-based program was expanded to all eligible UGA undergraduate students, regardless of major, through the Leadership Fellows Program.

Every year, more and more students apply to the program —from all over the University. There is great diversity in the background of students in ILA – there are Engineering students, Education students, PR & Advertising students, all offering a variety of perspectives. More than 1,500 students have graduated with a Certificate in Personal and Organizational Leadership.

Though students are exposed to other assessments, bringing a research-based tool like the Highlands Ability Battery™ into a large university-based program provides them with an early opportunity to experience a psychometrically validated evaluation as part of their self-exploration.

Understanding their leadership style sets these graduates apart from their peers by empowering them to clearly articulate their core leadership competencies to prospective employers, whether engineering companies, law firms or non-profit organizations. Even better, it positions them for leadership success throughout their careers.

Students’ Thoughts … In Their Own Words

“The Highlands Ability Battery not only allowed me to understand my strengths but to delve into what comes naturally to me. Having this understanding allows me to pursue an occupation that fits my innate skillset, which will place me in a position that I genuinely enjoy and feel passionately about. This assessment helped me to recognize my unique qualities that have shaped my interests, allowing me to appreciate more of who I am and why certain things do and do not click with me.”

-Jacey Lynn Conti, 2021 Fall-Fellow, Advertising major

“The Highlands Ability Battery was a turning point in my ILA experience. After taking the various assessments and reviewing all the explanations, I discovered that the little things I thought were quirks in my behavior are, in fact, due to my abilities and strengths. Taking the Highlands Ability Battery allowed me to see my abilities objectively and gain tangible and attainable techniques to enhance my strengths and adjust to my ‘weaknesses.’”

-Amit Nechmad, Class of 2023 Leonard Leadership Scholar, Marketing major

“I love the HAB’s ability to outline how we learn/consume information, which has been pivotal for me in understanding myself and recognizing that others consume information in other ways. So much of my career and current job is about consuming, translating, and presenting operational, technical, talent, and market insights for executives to build strategies and make tradeoffs. Having a baseline from HAB, not only for how I best learn but also for how I can tailor messaging for others, has been critical to my success.”

Kyle Larson, Class of 2016 Leonard Leadership Scholar, Management Information Systems major

Dori Stiles, Ph.D.

Dori is the founder of Turning Points Coaching and Consulting, and the Director of Training and Research for The Highlands Company, test publisher of the Highlands Ability Battery.  Dori’s work in personal and professional development with individuals, groups, and organizations spans over 3 decades.  Her approach of creating Awareness, providing Clarity, designing realistic Actions, and developing Accountability creates lasting results.  Self-awareness is at the foundation of her work and her assessment of choice is the Highlands Ability Battery.

In addition to her work in the private sector with companies such as IBM, JPMorgan Chase, Manheim Automotive and Kaiser Permanente, Dori works with public sector organizations such Georgia School Superintendents Association, the CDC, and her alma mater, UGA.  For more than 20 years she has been honored to support the Terry College of Business’s Institute of Leadership Development with the Leonard Leadership Scholars Program and the Leadership Fellows Program.

Courtney B. Aldrich, M.Ed.

With over 25 years of experience in higher education, Courtney serves as the Associate Director of the Institute for Leadership Advancement where she oversees operations and teaches career and professional development and provides career development coaching to over 150 students annually. The Highlands Ability Battery and the whole person approach has been an integral part of her methods.

Courtney has undergraduate degrees in Public Relations and Advertising from Florida Southern College and a Master of Education in Occupational Studies from The University of Georgia. Courtney’s purpose is to help develop others which she does through her full-time role and volunteering with youth leadership development organizations in her free time.