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The ability of leaders to accurately access risk, determine how to mitigate it and take action is ever more golden these days as the economy sputters along, looking as if it’s turning the corner one day, only to reverse the next. Uncanny foresight and high-octane leadership were certainly at work under the hood at Ford Motor Co. when top management and treasury decided in 2006 to stockpile cash even though they paid a premium for it. Senior Contributing Editor Richard Gamble writes in this month’s cover story about the role treasury played in strengthening Ford to withstand the turbulent times, so now it’s the only one of the Big Three still rolling under its own power. Clearly, the economy has been in the driver’s seat since last September, when the global financial crisis hit full tilt, and that can’t help but be the main theme of Treasury and Risk‘s annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in Finance. As usual, the editors surveyed an array of executives, consultants, recruiters, industry groups, bankers and vendors to come up with our take on those who are dealing with the biggest challenges in finance today. The list features a wide range of leaders, from CFOs and treasurers who inspire their staffs daily to keep liquidity flowing and cash safe, to President Obama and federal officials who are working hard to stabilize the financial sector and turn the economy around. And don’t forget the regulators, who are preparing for their turn at fixing what caused things to go so wrong. Economists say the mixed signals in the news of late are the sort that typically foretell the end of a recession, but that’s hard to call in a financial crisis of this magnitude. Optimism is another valuable leadership quality. Yes, we can make it through.

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