Building Strong TeamsRufus Yates

When Rufus Yates, Financial Services and Commercial Finance manager, talks about leadership he uses language like “a strong foundation,” “lifting up others” and “community.”

His words point to essential elements for success – sharing a solid system of beliefs and values, being committed to common goals, encouraging each other and thriving on seeing others succeed.

These elements rise to the surface whether Yates is talking about his own career, his leadership style or how BB&T fared so well during the financial crisis.

A Survey on Leadership

When Yates reflects on what shaped his ideas on leadership, he recalls growing up in Chadbourn, N.C., where the sense of community made a lasting impression.

“It is a rural community where helping others is a way of life,” he said. “In a small town you quickly develop a strong sense of loyalty to faith, family and community. Improving the lives of others is always more important than your own success.” 

He carries those early influences with him as a member of BB&T’s Executive Management team.

A Foundation to Weather a Wicked Storm

The foundation Yates developed from childhood continues to influence his leadership style at BB&T. And he believes it was BB&T’s culture of caring for clients, associates and communities that prepared us to weather the financial crisis as well as we did.

“When faced with adversity, those who remain focused on their core values and guiding principles can always weather any storm. During the financial crisis we saw many companies lose sight of their obligation to serve clients first, often putting their interest and financial gain ahead of the best interest of their clients. It was common to hear comments like ‘the market knows the risk, so I’m not responsible.’ When you fail to put your clients’ needs ahead of your own, your integrity is compromised and trust is lost. Strong leaders owned the issues, took the time to understand what was going on and prepared their teams to calmly and rationally communicate with clients. Loyalty to clients and a firm belief in your mission to serve their needs was a real differentiator.

“While the financial industry was broadly painted with the same negative brush, companies like BB&T distinguished themselves and excelled through the cycle. It was a challenging time, but we weathered it extremely well, and our clients rewarded us with expanded relationships.” 

Underpinning Others’ Success

When those who work closely with Yates describe his leadership style they say he challenges, encourages and motivates people to be the best they can be. And his response to that is: “I think that’s the calling of a leader.”

“You’ve got to inspire and encourage people to achieve their goals. Those who are really successful – who have reached further than they thought they could ever climb – have had somebody beside them saying, ‘You can do it and when you do it, what a difference you will make in the lives of those around you!’”