THE POWER OF 500
There are advantages and disadvantages to selecting 500 of our city’s top leaders. Yes, it’s a large enough universe to cast a wide net, so we have defined power and influence very broadly—including not just corporate CEOs, but also the people who shape what we eat, the music we listen to, and the causes we embrace. However, having such a long list made us itch to be comprehensive. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in compiling this book, it’s that Atlanta’s leadership bench is deep and wide. We’ve only skimmed the surface of some industries. I’m pretty sure we could compile a list of 500 superstars in health care alone.
In selecting our list, we didn’t so much have rules as guidelines. If you’re new to your job or were appointed by the outgoing governor, you might be on hold for next year. And, yes, CEOs of our city’s largest corporations or firms’ top producers were likely candidates; but we also looked to see if those achievers were plugged into the city—serving on nonprofit boards, spearheading programs for their communities, and creating opportunities for their employees. In fact, some of our picks came from the second or even third tiers of management if they struck us as particularly visionary.
You’ll notice that each sector also includes a list of Legends. These honorees are the indisputable forces who’ve shaped our city. Though many of them are indeed retired, this category was not determined by age—at least one is not yet 50. It is for the acknowledged pioneers in their respective fields, whose names really need no introduction.
To compile our list, we spent months consulting experts across different sectors, and we sought nominations from the public through social media. In the end, our editorial staff and writers spent a lot of time arguing for our choices. And we tried to spread the love, though some organizations could’ve easily produced a dozen candidates.
In the end, such a list is always subjective. We look forward to debating with you about the people we inevitably forgot—or deliberately omitted. And I hope that next year you nominate your favorites. —Betsy Riley