Ron Clark hugging school children

The Power of Positive

Welcome to our “Profiles in Leadership” series where we’ll be sharing key insights and valuable learnings from some of the most extraordinary leaders across our country. Kelly King, BB&T’s chairman and CEO, has been on a personal mission to interview these values-based leaders and share their philosophies. The goal is simple – to help us all achieve and maintain a growth mindset. We think you’ll find these articles and interviews inspiring.

Our inaugural article presents Ron Clark, world-renowned educator and author. Our country initially became familiar with Clark when he won the Disney American Teacher of the Year award in 2000. Fitting for our initial highlighted leader, Clark is a native of eastern North Carolina and started his teaching career in Aurora, North Carolina — fewer than 90 miles from BB&T’s original headquarters in Wilson, North Carolina.


Clark’s values-based, innovative approach to creating excellence in the classroom and his confident attitude, dynamic personality and high expectations of his students proved successful teaching rural North Carolina students as well as children from inner-city schools in Harlem. At the end of his first year in New York, his “low achievers” excelled following his methods — achieving higher test scores than those of the “gifted” classes in his district.

What are some of his methods? “You have to be positive, in a good mood, to get these children to believe. They start thinking positively if you show a positive attitude – so, I am always positive. Leaders have the power to set the tone,” Clark said.

He also describes the importance of having high expectations of his students and staff, “The more you expect of them, the more you get. But, you have to be clear about what you expect – I believe with anyone you lead.”


In addition to his success as a teacher, in 2003, Clark introduced his first of five books, The Essential 55, a New York Times bestseller. His most recent book, Move Your Bus, focuses on his transition to a business leader, in addition to an educator, and how leaders need to understand the different members of their organizations.

Clark founded the Ron Clark Academy in 2006. The objective of the academy is “to demonstrate how to improve student engagement, increase academic rigor and create a school climate and culture that leads to success for all learners.” Clark and co-founder Kim Bearden have assembled a staff of master educators to run this fully functioning middle school in inner-city Atlanta. At the same time, the Ron Clark Academy has shared its methods and philosophies with more than 38,000 superintendents, district level administrators and teachers from 42 states and 22 countries.

Again, we invite you to view King’s video interview with Clark. It provides a wonderful opportunity to experience the energy and magnetism of this exceptional leader and learn from his extraordinary achievements.