VOTE The Most Important Leaders in World History  

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802.2k votes 77.6k voters 1.8M views 401 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
11,064 10,728
George Washington is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
George Washington was the first President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He presided over the ...more

2
11,647 9,516
Abraham Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his life was taken in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States and its greatest moral, constitutional ...more

3
13,138 8,789
Alexander the Great is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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
5,380 6,650
Thomas Jefferson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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
10,133 7,887
Martin Luther King, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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
9,618 8,544
Napoleon Bonaparte is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Napoléon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution. As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814, and ...more

7
8,602 7,287
Augustus Caesar is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History

8
9,289 6,897
Julius Caesar is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

9
6,724 6,942
Charlemagne is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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
19,923 7,105
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

11
12,446 8,019
Mahatma Gandhi is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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
3,592 14,424
Donald Trump is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
thedonnyt added 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

13
6,453 5,874
Otto von Bismarck is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
DaleGribble added 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

14
5,889 4,965
John F. Kennedy is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

15
9,231 6,257
Nelson Mandela is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

16
1,892 4,114
James Madison is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
TammyWakefieldLaughlin added 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

17
9,463 7,111
Winston Churchill is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

18
4,255 1,671
Jesus Christ is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Andriy Synyshyn added 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

19
6,534 6,408
Elizabeth I of England is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her passing. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, the childless Elizabeth was the fifth and ...more

20
5,126 5,127
William the Conqueror is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

21
5,690 5,919
Joan of Arc is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Polar Bear added
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

22
4,847 3,747
Benjamin Franklin is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

23
3,821 3,232
Constantine the Great is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

24
3,988 3,237
Peter the Great is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Polar Bear added 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

25
1,350 2,963
Thomas Paine is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
j.aureliazenobia added 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