We recently welcomed John A. Allison, former Chairman and CEO of BB&T Corporation, to campus. Hearing a speaker of Mr. Allison’s caliber is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Aspiring to build a career in financial services, I thought Allison’s views on leadership were inspiring, objective, and, during these trying times, unique.
Before the presentation, I was one of approximately 12 students selected to have lunch with Mr. Allison. He was not shy in sharing his opinions against the current presidency and financial reforms. I could feel Allison’s pain, however. Had the banks not failed in 2008, BB&T could be the leading banking firm today.
After lunch, Allison gave a presentation to the entire MMS class about moral and ethical issues we will face when embarking on our careers. Much of what he said was cliché, such as pursue happiness, use integrity, be honest, work hard, take responsibility for your work and actions, etc. But Allison took each of those ideas and presented them with incredible depth, providing real-world examples.
One of the counterarguments with Allison’s presentation: you cannot make someone live life. Libertarianism is all about free will and having the liberty to think and make one’s own decisions. So at the end of the day, we are all different, and we will have different ways of thinking and making decisions. Some of the ways could be different from Allison’s and wrong; others could be different from Allison’s yet right.
If everyone took Allison’s philosophies to heart and incorporated them into their regular lives, I believe they would be more enlightened, and even stronger, more ethical leaders.
I have already accepted a job, and I believe my value system is what got me ahead on the job scene. Even though I wanted to be a financial salesperson, I stayed realistic about the likelihood of that occurring. I reasoned all my options, and kept my self-esteem high. Had I turned my head down and sulked, I would be jobless.
Having studied objectivism, I could clearly tell it was no secret that Allison preaches the objectivist philosophy on life. Several fellow MMSers walked out of the presentation incredibly unhappy. As a practicing Hindu, I not only could relate to Allison’s words, but support his views. Having a philosophy to live by is much better than not having one. Just like in business, if you do not have a strategy or game plan, then life will become helter-skelter and unpredictable. During a time when technology is changing our everyday way of communicating and living, it is important to stick with fundamental principles to aid decision-making.
What I love about Allison: he is not shy to say that at the end of the day, delivering value to shareholders is the bottom line. Allison discusses happiness, productivity, and being realistic, but all these qualities contribute to a positive end result. And therefore, I also could not be happier to start work in the finance sector (at Wells Fargo) next July.