VOTE The Most Important Leaders in World History  

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709.2k votes 69.5k voters 1.7M views 354 items

For good or for bad, our leaders can be powerful forces for change in the world. But who are the most impaction people to ever hold prominent positions of power? This is a list of the most important and influential leaders in the history of the world. Who are the most important world leaders? Anyone can vote on this definitive list of the men and women who shaped our civilization – for better or worse – making it a collaborative list of the greatest leaders of all time.

Visionaries, pragmatists, conquerors, and humanitarians all share this list. Rank these famous world leaders in terms of importance and add anyone you see missing. But remember: the most influential leaders (those who changed the face of world politics and forever altered their own countries) weren't necessarily good leaders. Some famous conquerors changed the world but let destruction in their wake. Others actually worked for the good of their people and became the great leaders in history.

So, who are the historical leaders that left their permanent mark (for good or bad)? Find out below!

list ordered by

1
10,006 9,372
George Washington is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
George Washington George Washington was the first President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and one of the Founding Fathers of the ...more

2
10,409 8,426
Abraham Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War—its bloodiest war ...more

3
11,600 8,134
Alexander the Great is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Alexander The Great Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a King of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty. Born in Pella in 356 BC, Alexander ...more

4
4,877 5,548
Thomas Jefferson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and the third President of the United States. He was a spokesman for democracy, and ...more

5
9,002 7,016
Martin Luther King, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Martin Luther King Jr. Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr., January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for ...more

6
8,661 7,880
Napoleon Bonaparte is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Napoleon Bonaparte Napoléon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and its associated wars. As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from ...more

7
7,675 6,636
Augustus Caesar is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History

8
18,245 6,444
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was a Turkish army officer, reformist statesman, and the first President of Turkey. He is credited with being the founder of the Republic of Turkey. His surname, ...more

9
6,136 6,327
Charlemagne is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Charlemagne Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great or Charles I, was King of the Franks who united most of Western Europe during the Middle Ages and laid the foundations for modern France and Germany. ...more

10
8,331 6,455
Julius Caesar is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general, statesman, Consul, and notable author of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise ...more

11
11,130 7,480
Mahatma Gandhi is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Mahatma Gandhi Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was the preeminent leader of Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and ...more

12
2,791 11,158
Donald Trump is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
thedonnyt added Donald Trump Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is the 45th and current President of the United States, in office since January 20, 2017. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television ...more

U.S. Presidents with the Dirtiest Sounding Names

13
4,939 4,347
John F. Kennedy is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
John F. Kennedy John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), also referred to as John F. Kennedy, JFK, John Kennedy or Jack Kennedy, was the 35th President of the United States. He served from ...more

14
5,695 5,473
Otto von Bismarck is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
DaleGribble added Otto von Bismarck Lead to the unification of Germany in 1871, and first chancellor of the German Empire. Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg, known as Otto von Bismarck, was a conservative Prussian statesman who dominated German and European affairs from the 1860s until 1890. ...more

15
1,664 3,502
James Madison is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
TammyWakefieldLaughlin added James Madison James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman, political theorist, and the fourth President of the United States. He is hailed as the "Father of the Constitution" for being instrumental ...more

16
8,144 5,860
Nelson Mandela is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Nelson Mandela Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was South Africa's first ...more

17
5,993 5,999
Elizabeth I of England is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Elizabeth I of England Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, the childless Elizabeth was the fifth and last ...more

Conspiracy Theories We Think Will Be a Thing in 2015

18
8,415 6,748
Winston Churchill is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, DL, FRS, RA was a British politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. Widely ...more

19
4,329 3,372
Benjamin Franklin is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin FRS was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A renowned polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, ...more

20
5,061 5,451
Joan of Arc is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Polar Bear added Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans", is considered a heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. She was born to Jacques d'Arc and Isabelle, a peasant family, at ...more

21
2,845 1,184
Jesus Christ is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Andriy Synyshyn added Jesus Christ Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, is the central figure of Christianity, whom the teachings of most Christian denominations hold to be the Son of God. Christianity regards Jesus as ...more

22
1,175 2,573
Thomas Paine is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
j.aureliazenobia added Thomas Paine Thomas Paine was an English-American political activist, philosopher, political theorist and revolutionary. One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, he authored the two most influential ...more

Craziest Cannibal Attacks In History

23
4,521 4,856
William the Conqueror is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
William the Conqueror William I, usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. The descendant of Viking ...more

24
3,256 2,976
Constantine the Great is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Constantine the Great Constantine the Great, also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was a Roman Emperor from 306 to 337 AD of Thracian-Illyrian ancestry. Constantine was the son of Flavius Valerius ...more

25
3,457 3,009
Peter the Great is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Polar Bear added Peter the Great Important Russian Tsar from 1682 - 1721, enforced the Europeanisation of Russia. Maybe the greatest Tsar ever. Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from 7 May until his death, jointly ruling before 1696 with his half-brother. Through a ...more

26
1,723 1,328
Moses is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Moses Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible, a former Egyptian prince later turned prophet, religious leader and lawgiver, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed. Also ...more

27
2,779 2,253
Mother Teresa is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Florenc added Mother Teresa Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, MC, commonly known as Mother Teresa, was a Roman Catholic religious sister and missionary who lived most of her life in India. She was born in today's Macedonia, with ...more

19 Politicians Who Were Caught with Prostitutes

28
935 1,743
John Locke is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
hug05612736 added John Locke John Locke, was a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts. He was born in Hopkinton, Middlesex County, and attended Andover Academy and Dartmouth College, eventually graduating from Harvard ...more

29
1,812 1,782
Catherine II of Russia is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
sebbzor added Catherine the Great Yekaterina Alexeevna or Catherine II, also known as Catherine the Great, was the most renowned and the longest-ruling female leader of Russia, reigning from 9 July [O.S. 28 June] 1762 until her ...more

30
2,711 3,217
Arminius is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Polar Bear added Arminius Turned the tide in the endless wars for Germanic independence against the Roman suppressors with his great victory in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in the year 9. Arminius, also known as Armin or Irmin, was a chieftain of the Germanic Cherusci who defeated a Roman army in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Arminius's influence held an allied coalition of ...more

31
2,305 2,451
Alfred the Great is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Alfred the Great Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to 899. Alfred successfully defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, and by the time of his death had become the dominant ruler ...more

32
2,446 2,169
Leif Erikson is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Polar Bear added Leif Ericson Brave Viking explorer, discovered Vinland (America) in circa 1000 AD. Leif Erikson or Leif Ericson was an Icelandic explorer regarded as the first European to land in North America, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus. According to the Sagas of ...more

The 9 Strangest Deaths of the Renaissance Era

33
2,234 2,448
Richard I of England is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Polar Bear added Richard I. of England Great English king and Duke of Normandy in the 12th century, glorious crusader, scored much great victories against Muslim armies. Richard I was King of England from 6 July 1189 until his death. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Poitiers, Count of Anjou, Count of ...more

34
2,229 2,434
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Polar Bear added Otto I the Great, Holy Roman Emperor Founded the Holy Roman Empire in 962, defeated the Magyars in 955. Otto I, also known as Otto the Great, was German king from 936 and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 962 until his death in 973. The oldest son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda, Otto was ...more

35
3,464 2,177
Attila the Hun is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
kismarton0707 added Attila the Hun Attila, frequently referred to as Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in March 453. Attila was a leader of the Hunnic Empire, which stretched from the Ural River ...more

36
4,539 2,855
Mehmed the Conqueror is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Sultan Mehmed II Mehmed II, also known as Muhammed bin Murad, Mehmed the Conqueror, Grand Turk, Kayser-i Rûm and Turcarum Imperator, and Fatih Sultan Mehmed, was an Ottoman sultan who ruled first for a ...more

37
1,390 1,196
Leonidas I is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Leonidas I Leonidas I, was a Greek warrior king of the Greek city-state of Sparta. He led the Spartan forces during the Second Persian War and is remembered for his death at the Battle of Thermopylae. ...more

The 20 Most Epic Wedding FAILs of All Time

38
967 1,507
James Monroe is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
James Monroe James Monroe was the fifth President of the United States. Monroe was the last president who was a Founding Father of the United States and the last president from the Virginia dynasty and the ...more

39
700 673
Martin Luther is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Martin Luther Martin Luther was a German friar, priest and professor of theology who was a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation. Initially an Augustinian friar, Luther came to reject several teachings ...more

40
2,543 1,081
Muhammad is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
MuhammadAsad added Hazrat Muhammad Muhammad, full name Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim, from Mecca, unified Arabia into a single religious polity under Islam. Believed by Muslims and ...more

41
3,639 2,329
Suleiman the Magnificent is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
ozgursuer added Suleyman The Magnificent The Shadow of God and The Great Khan Suleiman I, known as “the Magnificent” in the West and “Kanuni” in the East, was the Caliph of Islam and the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, from 1520 to his death in ...more

42
3,101 4,336
Joseph Stalin is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Joseph Stalin Joseph Stalin or Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin was the leader of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953. Among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who took part in the Russian ...more

The Very Best BBQ Sauces

43
1,446 661
Genghis Khan is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Gengis Khan Genghis Khan, born Temüjin, was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his demise. He came to power by uniting many of ...more

44
3,427 2,880
Salah al-Din is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History

45
718 1,188
Robert F. Kennedy is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
StacyWolfe added Robert F. Kennedy Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy, commonly known by his initials RFK, was an American politician from Massachusetts. He served as a Senator for New York from 1965 until his assassination ...more

46
1,440 1,560
Nebuchadnezzar II is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
mikado added Nebuchadnezzar II Nebuchadnezzar II was a Chaldean king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, who reigned c. 605 BC – 562 BC. Both the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem's ...more

47
569 961
Patrick Henry is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
hug05612736 added Patrick Henry Patrick Henry was an American attorney, planter and politician who became known as an orator during the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the ...more

48
612 890
John Hancock is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
hug05612736 added John Hancock John Hancock was a merchant, smuggler, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third Governor ...more

49
1,680 1,794
Cleopatra is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Cleopatra Cleopatra VII Philopator, known to history simply as "Cleopatra", was the last active pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, only shortly survived by her son, Caesarion as pharaoh. Cleopatra was a ...more

50
1,944 1,662
Hammurabi is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Hammurabi Hammurabi was the sixth Amorite king of Babylon from 1792 BC to 1750 BC middle chronology. He became the first king of the Babylonian Empire following the abdication of his father, Sin-Muballit, ...more