Time To Lead

As we were beginning to prepare this issue for the printer—after the stories were completed—all hell broke loose in the financial markets. You know what happened next. I'm writing this as we go to press, and we still don't know what will become of Wachovia. The banks run this town, and the banks are in turmoil. Everyone else is scrambling to keep up.

So you might say that we couldn't have picked a worse time to try to rank the city's most powerful people. I prefer to think that we couldn't have picked a better time. More than anything, this city is going to need leaders. Strong ones. As Ken Allen, former editor of this magazine, writes on page 92, the Wachovia breakup will be a tough one, and it will mean a serious short-term hit. In the old days, Hugh McColl and Harvey Gantt and Bill Lee and Rolfe Neill would have huddled together, maybe over breakfast at Anderson's or lunch at The City Club or dinner in the NationsBank boardroom, and figured out a solution. That's not going to happen this time. As has been well documented and often lamented in local media, the old power oligarchy has moved on (although McColl and Gantt are still plenty influential individually), and influence in Charlotte is more spread out than ever before. The people we write about in this issue are going to have to work together to keep Charlotte moving forward.

And they'll need some help. As we reported this issue, we kept hearing a version of the same refrain: "Charlotte is a meritocracy." That means anyone can make the Power List. Raise your hand, pick up the phone, volunteer for a committee. You'll be amazed at where you might land. I've found that the secret to being in charge of something is simple. Show up. I'll make this guarantee to you: pick a local nonprofit organization (and in a time of corporate disarray, our city's nonprofits are going to play an increasingly important role). Doesn't matter which one; just make it something you care about. Call the executive director or the CEO or the board chair. Tell him or her you want to help. He or she will let you.

Keep helping, and you'll be asked to join the board. Show up to the meetings, don't say dumb stuff, act with the best interests of the organization in mind, donate money (doesn't have to be a lot, but you have to give) and get others to do the same, and you'll be asked to join a leadership committee. Keep doing the same, and eventually you'll be in charge.

That's all it takes to make an impact in this town. Promise. I've seen it happen, and it's happened to me more than once. (In a way, that's how I became editor of this magazine. Walked in Ken's office, volunteered my services, kept showing up, didn't say too many dumb things, and when he left I got his job. For better or for worse.)

We're going to need a lot of that in the next few years. Now is not the time to sit around and speculate about how bad it's going to get. Now is the time to lead. I promise you this magazine will do its part. We'll keep telling stories about Charlotte, introducing you to the power players and the up-and-comers, challenging the city to get better, pointing out where we're already pretty damn good. We'll tell you where to eat, what to go see, suggest where to shop. We'll make you laugh, we'll make you angry. Because we have to do all those things to keep this city great.

And if none of that works, there's always college basketball. It's my favorite sport, because the fans care and the players care. Frankly, I can't wait for the season to start. The Charlotte area is blessed with one of the game's best players in Davidson's Stephen Curry. If you haven't seen him play in person, you need to. Michael Kruse knows more about Davidson basketball and Stephen Curry than any writer in America, and he's a helluva writer. His fascinating profile of a fascinating player ("Staying Stephen") begins on page 94. I recommend it.

Categories: Editor’s Note, Opinion, The Buzz