Hart Leadership Assessment


The Hart Leadership Assessment (HLA) is a self-assessment developed exclusively for the Hart Center for Engineering Leadership, and is based on the Hart Leadership Framework. It can be taken at the beginning of a student’s first year and reveals baseline leadership strengths and areas for growth. We help students review and analyze results, then customize a Personal Development Plan.

The HLA contains 60 adjectives or descriptive phrases, each focused on a specific leadership characteristic. The 60 phrases have been grouped into 12 attributes that describe critical aspects of engineering leadership. These attributes are further organized into four major focus areas: personal leadership, relational leadership, functional leadership, and contextual leadership.

While taking the HLA, students are first asked to identify a specific “good leader” and a specific “poor leader” they know. Students then rate themselves on each leadership attribute in comparison to the "good leader" and "poor leader."  Afterwards, students are able to compare their self-ratings to those of the "good leader" and "poor leader." This process helps students identify personal leadership strengths and shortcomings and provides insight into areas for growth.

Hart Center Leadership Arch

Hart Leadership Framework

The Hart Leadership Framework—our guide to leadership and professional development—emphasizes these key elements of leadership growth:

Effective leadership is built on a solid foundation. Personal leadership encompasses the self-awareness, knowledge, and personal management required of a leader. Leadership development begins with self-discovery: acknowledging personal strengths and shortcomings and developing one’s capacity for self-management. Students take responsibility for personal and professional development, a commitment that enriches them regardless of the career path they choose.

A Good Personal Leader:

Is Self-Aware: Exhibits knowledge of personal values, strengths, shortcomings, and developmental opportunities. Uses self-assessment strategies to inform personal growth and development.

Learns Intentionally: Has knowledge of personal learning style and leverages this knowledge to enhance personal performance, knowledge of self, others, and leadership ability.

Communicates Effectively: Has the ability to communicate effectively through a variety of methods and media and within a range of contexts.

We believe success hinges on an ability to work with and through others. Students must learn to form and maintain quality relationships built on mutual understanding, respect, compromise, and diligence. This capacity increases as students learn to understand differences, value diversity, inspire people, and hold others accountable. Throughout one’s leadership journey, well developed relational networks can provide a critical source of support and guidance.

A Good Relational Leader:

Develops Relationships: Creates a positive, welcoming environment; sees issues from multiple points of view; and builds effective inter- and intra-group relationships.

Embraces Diversity & Differences: Recognizes the value of different perspectives, skillsets, and people; is able to facilitate productive outcomes in diverse groups.

Engages Others: Enables others to step up and lead; creates conditions for others to shine; generates collective commitment and learning.

Engineering leaders have a responsibility, where possible, to help workgroups and organizations operate more effectively. All Lyle students have the opportunity to learn skills and processes that positively influence group functions, outcomes, and their ability to learn from experience. These practices are equally important for positional leaders, as well as for members of self-directed teams.

A Good Functional Leader:

Sets Direction: Coordinates members and maintains accountability for effective outcomes. Sets direction, communicates expectations, and monitors progress.

Champions Effective Processes: Establishes systems and processes that facilitate efficient and effective outcomes.

Solves Problems: Facilitates effective problem identification and solving strategies; identifies and cultivates resources; delivers results.

Leadership is best learned through practice. No leadership theory, model, or media resource conveys the fluid nature of leading in context. Environments are shaped by a dynamic array of situations and circumstances, where conditions change as people engage and disengage. Experience helps students learn to assess their context and appropriately adapt their style. The Hart Center encourages students to venture into their context, perform leadership and then absorb the lessons of experience.

A Good Contextual Leader:

Seeks Innovative Solutions: Displays the courage to initiate positive change, is innovative, and will risk failing in front of peers.

Upholds Ethics & Integrity: Knowledgeable of and committed to a meaningful set of ethical guidelines and principles. Actions are consistent with personal values.

Keeps Strategic Perspective: Able to evaluate issues from multiple perspectives and identify the core problem; considers options and trade-offs; makes effective use of resources.

After students take the initial HLA assessment, they are encouraged to attend a debrief session with Hart Center Leadership Coaches, and are given The Hart Leadership Assessment Workbook. This resource provides information about the HLA as well as guidance on how to make sense of the individualized data each student receives on their HLA feedback report.  It includes:

  • Exploratory questions to help students think about and evaluate results
  • Instruction for using results to create a Personal Development Plan tailored to individual interests and development goals
  • General thoughts about effectively developing leadership skills
  • Information about specific programs and courses at SMU and in the Lyle School that will enable students to practice leadership and grow as a leader

Once students complete the HLA Workbook, they are able to do the following:

  • Describe the four Focus Areas and related components of the Hart Leadership Framework
  • Evaluate leadership strengths and shortcomings in comparison to a “good leader” and a “poor leader” they know
  • Develop a personalized action plan tailored to personal interests and developmental goals

The assessment, advising, and practicing process can be repeated before, during, and at the end of a student’s academic experience to ensure they are consistently making and reaching their leadership and professional development goals. We recommend follow-up assessments based on the needs of individuals and teams. After the initial HLA, students can take follow-up assessments two more times:

  • The Hart Leadership Follow-Up Assessment is a self-assessment that can be taken at the end of the first year to help measure improvement, refine a student’s Personal Development Plan, and customize activities for the student to further practice leadership and professional development skills.
  • The Hart Leadership Team/Peer Review Assessment can be taken by teams or groups of students to give feedback, measure a member’s perceived leadership skills, further areas for growth, and encourage lifelong improvement.


“The Hart Center’s work to include leadership development in engineering coursework at the Lyle School through the Hart Leadership Assessment and KNW 2300 gave me the chance to study creativity in leadership. I continued this interest and went on to study my curiosity in a master’s program for engineering education at the Lyle School.”

~Graduate Student, Engineering Education