Former CEO Teaches Business Students

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a seminar on leadership, which was led by John Allison, Distinguished Professor of Practice in the School of Business and former CEO of BB&T Corporation. While he was teaching a leadership class to staff members, he also instructs our business students. Which is a pretty remarkable thing – a former CEO of a major financial institution is in residence here and serving as a faculty member and mentor to young minds. 

John Allison’s profile is available online, and having sat in the class, I can vouch for him being an impressive person. But one of the things that impressed me the most was his philosophy on leading. He told us some of the beliefs that best served him in his career:

  • you must have vision and purpose
  • your principles need to be in harmony
  • you must choose to be responsible for yourself (because you are the only person that can change you)
  • you must mean what you say and know what you mean
  • it is important to keep your agreements
  • most failures of leadership are failures of self leadership
  • he always felt he “had to earn the right to be the boss every day, by his actions” 
  • In a certain sense, he said, nobody leads – people choose to follow you (or not) based on your actions.
  • A leader has to be the most ethical person on the team; he or she sets the culture

With as much recent news of business failures and unethical behavior, it was so refreshing to hear a former CEO-turned-faculty-member discuss principled leadership, values and ethics. For those of you with business students, make sure your students take advantage of opportunities to hear John Allison. There is much to be learned from this leader.

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