Experiential / Reality-based Learning / November 20, 2013

CEO@Smith: Kelly King, BB&T

“Enthusiastically go after every single day.” This was the message of BB&T Chairman and CEO Kelly King’s Nov. 6 CEO@Smith presentation at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

“Passion causes us to give it our all. Be passionate and purposeful about life – you can make a difference.”

These are words that King himself has lived by and words that are exemplified in his work at BB&T. King has served as chairman of BB&T since January 2010; president and CEO of BB&T Corporation and chairman and CEO of Branch Banking & Trust Company since January 2009; chief operating officer of BB&T Corporation and Branch Banking and Trust Company from June 2004 to December 2008; and president of BB&T Corporation from 1996 to June 2004.

He has forged a lifetime of leadership experience with BB&T, devoting 29 of his 41 years of service to the bank as a member of executive management. King is also responsible for a nationally recognized employee volunteer program – The Lighthouse Project.

His talk focused on the importance of strong leadership and living a life of which you are proud.

“At the end of the day it is important for all of us to understand we are leaders. The question is are you going to be a good leader or a bad leader?”

King explained to the students, faculty, staff and guests in attendance that at any moment we are either a follower or a leader. While you may not always be in a leadership role, you can still be a leader to others. Because of that, it is important to understand the essence of leadership.

At BB&T, their essence of leadership is simple and profound, according to King. They believe that “if you are going to change results, you are going to have to change behaviors.”

King further explained that most managers focus on results and hammer their employees to get the job done. This, however, is counterproductive because it creates anxiety and fear, reducing productivity.

“If you want to change those results, you have to change those behaviors. If you are going to change behaviors on a sustained level, you have to change beliefs,” King said. “As a leader, you are a teacher. Your primary job is to get those people to believe what you believe. And whether you are there or not, they will behave accordingly because they believe it is the right thing to do.”

“We’ve been working on this for 30+ years,” he added, “and it really, really works. Focusing on leadership is really critical to our future.”

His talk on leadership ended with the idea that each person is the CEO of their own company – “yourself.”

“You get to decide how you live your life. You can choose to choose how happy and successful you want to be,” King said.

People who are great personal CEOs:

  • Believe “to their toes” in what they are trying to accomplish, no matter what that may be.
  • Commit the time, energy and resources to make their goals happen.
  • Train to have the skills to accomplish their goal.
  • Enjoy the journey. Most people live in the past or the future. “Not a one of us can change yesterday and not a one of us has tomorrow promised.”
  • Have an enthusiastic and positive attitude to overcome obstacles and focus on your purpose in life. “Feed your brain with positive thinking and look for the positive side of life. You will be a positive person and have a big impact on life.”

Carrie Handwerker, Office of Marketing Communications

Media Contact

Greg Muraski
Media Relations Manager
301-892-0973 Mobile

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

Back to Top