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Highlands College hosting free, virtual leadership conference

Birmingham-based Highlands College is hosting its annual Leadership Impact Conference on Dec. 6, with guest speakers including Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-a, and John C. Maxwell, a New York Times bestselling author.

Mark Pettus, the president of Highlands College, said the rationale behind starting the conference, which he said has attracted over 10,000 virtual participants in previous years.

“Our conference was an opportunity to bring in world-class leaders for our students to experience, but also … to invite other leaders,” Pettus said. He added that the conference is open to everyone, without a religious focus.

The theme of the conference this year is “how to lead in turbulent times,” Pettus said.

“As a leader, oftentimes you can feel overwhelmed with just everyday leadership, much less with things happening in culture and around the world,” Pettus said. “Over the last three or four years, so much has happened.”

He said that each speaker was provided with the overall theme of the conference, and will tailor their individual talks to that theme.

“The heart of the college is recognizing that the problems we have in the world are all opportunities for leaders to step in,” Pettus said on Capitol Journal recently.

The private college was created in 2011 by the Church of the Highlands to educate future ministry leaders. Pettus said one of the mission’s of the school is instilling a leadership mindset in students. 

He hopes that attendees leave the conference not only with tools to address those turbulent moments, but also with the encouragement that they are capable of handling those difficult times.

Doris Kearns Goodwin is another guest speaker. Her books include “Leadership in Turbulent Times, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream” and “No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II.” The latter won a Pulitzer Prize.

Participants will also hear from Chris Hodges, chancellor of Highlands College and senior pastor at Church of the Highlands.

To learn more about the conference and to register, visit

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