Friday, May 24, 2024

Power List 2023: North Carolina’s most influential leaders


By David Mildenberg

Welcome to Business North Carolina’s annual snapshot of the state’s most influential private-sector leaders. It’s our chance to spotlight power brokers with the stroke to make things happen at their enterprises and in their communities.

The nation’s ninth-most populous state, and among the most economically dynamic, relies on great leadership to excel. Having among the nation’s most favorable business climates and fastest population growth rates doesn’t just happen. With the benefits of power comes great responsibility, of course.

North Carolina has thousands of talented leaders, making this a small sampling of those with  noteworthy power. It’s based on nominations, talking with many sources, undertaking considerable research and enjoying years of experience covering North Carolina’s business community from the magazine’s unique statewide perspective. We love to hear feedback from readers reminding us of omissions. Political leaders are not included.

In compiling the list, it’s fascinating to consider the different ways that powerful leaders exert their influence. The examples of two North Carolina iconic businessmen, who died earlier this year, reflect that dichotomy. While leading with contrasting styles, their impact will extend for generations.

Bob Ingram joined Glaxo in Durham in 1990 and became CEO of Glaxo Wellcome. Over more than three decades, he played a pivotal role in promoting the Triangle area’s life sciences and tech sectors, including his post-retirement work with the Research Triangle Foundation, other nonprofits and an investment partnership. He helped sustain North Carolina as a globally important research center.

Rockingham native Leon Levine opened his first Family Dollar store at age 21 in 1959, then worked for four decades building a 4,300-store discount chain. His hard-driving, detail-oriented approach was legendary. After retiring in 2003, he spent two decades giving away $450 million to hospitals, universities, arts groups and other nonprofits. He died at age 85, leaving a $600 million foundation that will keep sharing his blessings.

Beyond the capsule biographies, we have found that readers enjoy learning about the philosophies and personalities of Power List members. This year, we asked them to share some thoughts on family traditions, favorite hobbies, career highlights and a few other matters. The responses inevitably provide some insight and humor.

Our personal favorites:

“You can fake sincerity, but you can’t fake showing up. You have to be present and engaged. It takes time to build relationships but it is worth the effort. You never know when you’ll need to call on those people to help get a deal done, to collaborate on a project or to solve a problem.” 
Adrienne Cole | president, CEO | Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce

“Make a plan. The business does not just come to you.”
Perry Safran | principal | Safran Law Offices

“Always be open to the ‘A-Ha’ moments that can change the course of your life and career.”
Wesley Burks | CEO | UNC Health

“Recognize when to stop digging a hole. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and it’s OK to walk away.”
Jim Goodnight | CEO | SAS Institute

“Stay grounded in your ‘why’ and don’t let what you can’t do get in the way of what you can do.
Cecilia Holden | CEO | myfutureNC

For 40 years, sharing the stories of North Carolina's dynamic business community.

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