Atlanta Business Chronicle has just named our list of Atlanta’s Most Admired CEOs of 2017. They will be honored on August 24 at an awards event at The Foundry at Puritan Mill. ( Learn more about the event here.) Here’s a Q&A with one of the honorees, T. Dallas Smith, president and CEO of T. Dallas Smith & Co.

Q: You’ve been named one of Atlanta’s Most Admired CEOs of 2017. Please share your thoughts about what other CEOs can do to win such great admiration from their stakeholders.

A: Be true to your calling and remember authenticity is the only currency that really matters.

Q: What are the keys to CEOs building a high level of trust in their organizations?

A: Put your people first.

Q: Please tell us what leadership and being a leader means to you.

A: My first job I washed dishes at Steak n Shake. I truly believe that you should serve before you can lead. I think you must treat the Shoeshine man and the CEO the same way.

Q: Who is a favorite leader you admire, and why?

A: Herman J. Russell. He was a very wise man. He had the ability to look at a very complex problem and break it down in a matter of minutes. He also saw trends very early.

Q: Please explain how you and your organization make tough decisions.

A: Tough decisions are made with my business partners. If we don’t have consensus, we won’t move forward.

Q: Please give some details about one of your top accomplishments of the past year that you are most proud of.

A: I’m most proud of the fact that this past year, we were the procuring broker for the Georgia’s Own Credit Union’s new headquarters move to 100 Peachtree Street. We were able to identify after the initial meeting and truly listening to the client the perfect long-term solution. My single greatest civic accomplishment occurred last year as chairman of the Real Estate Committee for Georgia State University Foundation, when Jeff Warwick and I co-led the acquisition of the 67-acre site formerly known as Turner Field on behalf of the Board.

Q: How is your organization changing or adapting to prepare for the future?

A: I have been training my replacement since I started the company in 2007. Leonte Benton started as a green blade of grass at 22 years old. He is now a seasoned professional at 33. In a few years, Leonte will be president of the company.

Q: What top piece of advice would you share with other CEOs?

A: Always stay green enough to grow!

Q: What’s one of the best books you’ve read recently, and why?

A: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The book help to assure me that you never know where your blessings might come from and to always remember the Golden Rule. Treat others how you would like to be treated.


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