Annetta Watkins Foard



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Leaders Under 40 (LU40) is a leadership development program that convenes and supports a diverse, cross-sector group of emerging community leaders to:

  • Build connections across difference,
  • Learn about their own leadership styles,
  • Explore more intentionally issues of inclusion and equity,
  • Become more aware of and educated about the community and community issues and
  • Connect with established leaders in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.


LU40 is founded on the premise that we live in a community that has been shaped by decisions made by leaders in years, decades, or even centuries past. Today, we have both the opportunity and responsibility to participate knowledgeably and actively in decisions being made that will impact our community in the present and for years to come. CBI believes today’s young leaders have a vested interest in assuring our community is both inclusive and equitable, and in advocating for change in both their personal and professional lives.


The success of LU40 requires an inclusive group of participants – including diversity across race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, time in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, employment, background and perspective – to form an active and engaged network of people.


CBI recruits a diverse group of up to 50 Leaders Under 40 from the public, nonprofit, corporate, education, and religious sectors of the community to participate in each LU40 class.  Candidates are nominated by leaders of community institutions, organizations and groups, and by individuals connected to CBI who identify within the nominee the potential for and commitment to leading for change within their spheres of influence.


LU40 was piloted in 2011, and since then 500 people have participated from 25 cross-sector organizations.


Nominations are accepted based on the following criteria:

  • Under 40 when the program begins;
  • Connection to a constituency / sector / organization;
  • Desire to participate in LU40 as a personal development process and as an opportunity to increase their awareness of and impact within the community;
  • A commitment to prioritize attendance and actively participate in all LU40 sessions.


All nominations are reviewed to assure the demographic balance of each LU40 Class. Acceptance of persons to fill any remaining open seats in a class – those not filled by LU40 sponsors or contributing organizations - is determined by CBI.


LU40 consists of 11 monthly sessions - plus an Orientation and a concluding Graduation.  All LU40 sessions are offered on weekdays and take place during the work day. From time to time, CBI may offer additional optional sessions for participants to increase their exposure on topics related to current events or issues.


Because LU40 is an iterative program and each session builds on the previous session(s), it is essential that participants prioritize attendance.  This is important not only because of the experiences and learnings being provided but also in order to support the building of authentic and meaningful relationships with other class members.  LU40 is not a “class” in which missed sessions can easily be made up; rather, consistent participation is crucial for achieving desired results – for participants, for their organizations, and for CBI as the program sponsor.  In order to maximize the experience or all participants, it is recommended that participants are not dually enrolled in other leadership development programs.


As a part of their leadership development, participants may be asked to contribute to the design and / or facilitation of sessions related to their area of expertise.


LU40 is made possible through the generous support that CBI receives from key LU40 Program and Session Sponsors and from community partners who underwrite the participation of their LU40 nominees.  This generous support allows CBI to recruit and accept a diverse and cross-sector group of participants for each LU40 class and involve representatives from organizations that have limited professional development dollars.


Non-profit or community organizations are asked to contribute $750 to defray costs associated with participation of their representative in LU40.  Opportunities for LU40 scholarships exist, and CBI is open to discussing this option with any nominating organization or nominee.

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