We live in a complex world. Organizations face a barrage of information and choices about how to proceed. The job of the leader is to make sense of all this and give direction. This involves the critical skill of clarification. I have found that great leaders know how to step back and sort through the complexity to create clarity and focus. This skill takes practice and the ability to get out of the “trees” and examine the “forest.” These type leaders usually apply this skill in their own lives as well. They have identified their priorities and seek to live by them. They set boundaries for their lives. Best-selling author Stephen Covey describes this as identifying your “big rocks” and making sure you build them into your life first. He has a great YouTube video in which he illustrates this point using a glass jar and rocks, pebbles and sand. As he has stated, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
Ronald G. “Ronnie” Smith, Southwest Region president of Regions Bank is one of these kind of leaders. He knows his priorities — God, others, self. He acknowledges, “I wish I had always succeeded at this aspiration; I have not but it is my goal.” These priorities reflect his view of success. To Smith, “success is measured in parts, and the key is to enjoy, have fun and build relationships each day.” He wisely noted, “Life is too short and careers are too long to not do our best to enjoy each day.”
Smith grew up in Natchez, Miss., and early on he learned the value of relationships. He shared, “Whether in our family of four children, teammates on a sports team, or the relationship between teachers and students, it became obvious to me that we are dependent on others and others count on us.” This lesson was further driven home watching his father operate a small business. He observed his father’s interactions with customers and how his “no quit” philosophy helped build deep relationships. Smith said, “To me that’s the beauty of building relationships; some deepen and new ones are introduced and the multiplier effect takes over.”
In his almost 30 years in the banking business, Smith has repeatedly observed that all customers are important — no matter the size of the relationship. He shared, “You never know when a small client may turn into your best or what new referral is being created.” Smith noted the interdependency of co-workers, customers, shareholders and communities. He referenced a quote by President Lyndon B. Johnson to emphasize this point: “There are almost no problems we cannot solve together and very few we can solve by ourselves.”
Smith has proven himself as a leader within his industry as well as the community. He is an active member of numerous organizations including the Mississippi Higher Education Assistance Corporation, Mississippi Economic Council, Mississippi Bankers Association, Mississippi Baptist Health System, Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership and Andrew Jackson Council Boy Scouts of America. He and his family are active members of Broadmoor Baptist where he serves as a deacon and leader. Even though Smith has many work and community responsibilities as well as his commitments to being a good husband and father, he navigates these challenges well by having a strong sense of clarity about his priorities.
Knowing his “big rocks” has helped him be a successful leader and positively impact the organizations he is involved.
Smith started his career in Jackson with Deposit Guaranty and spent 14 years in Louisiana before returning back to Mississippi seven years ago. I am glad that his career has brought him back home to help our community and state continue to advance.