Interview with a Randian CEO

2 February 2010 at 4:02 am 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

Today is Ayn Rand’s birthday, so in her honor we direct you to the December 2009 issue of Academy of Management Learning and Executive, which features an interview with BB&T Bank CEO John Allison, a follower of Rand. Access appears to be restricted to AoM members (manuscript version here, published version here). Sample:

After I went to work I began to read philosophy, in search for the answers to the big questions of life. I became interested in what I consider to be the great reason/reality based philosophers — Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson and Ayn Rand.

That philosophical background combined with my own observations, which I call my inductions from life, together with my family upbringing, formed my philosophical framework as a young adult and executive. In 1993 or 1994 I read Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff. This book really integrated everything for me. It enabled me to focus my thinking. By this time, I had been CEO of BB&T for a few years and we were in the midst of a merger of equals. It was very important that we have a clearly defined value system. Two large organizations with cultures that had some differences had to come together with a single value system. Peikoff’s book put everything together for me. We had some of the basics of a value system — honesty, integrity, traditional conservative business values, but we also held a number of contradictions. What Rand’s philosophy did for me was to provide a framework for how to integrate all the disparate pieces. I could see everything in a different way than I had seen before. Rand’s philosophy provided an ordering. It also clarified concepts. For example, people often mix up justice with mercy. From Rand I learned that justice requires that you reward those who contribute the most with the most, which implied that paternalism is unjust; failing to deal with non-performance is unjust. Also, rationality is the foundation for values, and rationality can not be compromised.

NB: BB&T has funded a number of professorships in the last few years.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Classical Liberalism, Management Theory, Papers.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. clay barham  |  2 February 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Critics of Ayn Rand complain about her standing for selfishness, as if that means spoiled, self-centered two year old, instead of the self-interested individual with a dream or vision, such as cited in Save Pebble Droppers & Prosperity on Amazon and Howard Roark in his jury summation in Fountainhead explained her stand, one that represents what made America so great and prosperous with those pursuing their own dreams, making wakes and waves which would otherwise disturb the socialist elite few who rule everyone.

  • 2. Warren Miller  |  4 February 2010 at 8:06 pm

    Mr. Allison is a man who’s discussing his hair style when his feet are on fire. Our town of Lexington, Va., teems with stories of how badly managed the bank is. Nine years ago, the fools at its North Carolina HQ left a voice-mail for me to call them. When I returned from a long trip, I did. I was informed that I had failed to make my last two mortgage payments. I pointed out that it was pretty amazing that I not only had never missed a payment before, but that EVERY one of them had arrived on exactly the due date. The person at the other end of the line agreed. “Why do you think that is?” I asked. He said, “I don’t know.” I snapped, “It because your employer DRAFTS MY ACCOUNT bi-weekly.”

    “Oh,” the guy said. “We have a new computer system.”

    “Terrific,” I replied. “Tell the genius who oversees it to test it before turning you loose to waste my time.”

    Then there was the time they gave me a $50,000 cashier’s check. . .drawn on someone else’s account. As I left to catch an early flight, I routed the local bank president out of bed @ 6 a.m. on that one.

    Then there was the time they sent me an overdraft notice. . .for a SAVINGS account with no activity.

    We call it “Botch, Batch, & Trash,” and with good reason.

    Mr. Allison should pay attention to the business. He can spout Rand or anyone else when he’s done doing first things first.

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