VOTE The Most Important Leaders in World History  

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774.7k votes 75.6k voters 1.8M views 398 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
10,815 10,403
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
11,354 9,201
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
12,597 8,657
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
5,249 6,400
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
9,870 7,685
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
9,373 8,404
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
8,325 7,145
Augustus Caesar is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History

8
19,625 6,935
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is listed (or ranked) 8 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

9
9,029 6,806
Julius Caesar is listed (or ranked) 9 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

10
6,587 6,825
Charlemagne is listed (or ranked) 10 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

11
12,167 7,899
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
3,392 13,668
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
5,664 4,826
John F. Kennedy is listed (or ranked) 13 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

14
6,168 5,790
Otto von Bismarck is listed (or ranked) 14 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

15
8,980 6,160
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
1,844 3,973
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
9,200 7,036
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
3,896 1,553
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
6,393 6,318
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 death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, the childless Elizabeth was the fifth and last ...more

20
4,731 3,668
Benjamin Franklin is listed (or ranked) 20 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

21
4,820 5,063
William the Conqueror is listed (or ranked) 21 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

22
5,401 5,816
Jeanne d' Arc is listed (or ranked) 22 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

23
2,159 1,632
Moses is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

24
1,313 2,891
Thomas Paine is listed (or ranked) 24 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

25
3,523 3,175
Constantine the Great is listed (or ranked) 25 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

26
3,701 3,191
Peter the Great is listed (or ranked) 26 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

27
3,148 2,573
Mother Teresa is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Florenc added 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

28
2,006 1,969
Catherine II of Russia is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
sebbzor added 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

29
3,848 2,301
Attila the Hun is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
kismarton0707 added 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

30
1,902 793
Genghis Khan is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

31
2,838 3,429
Arminius is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Polar Bear added 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

32
2,587 2,363
Leif Erikson is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Polar Bear added 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

33
1,055 2,009
John Locke is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
hug05612736 added 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

34
2,379 2,597
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Polar Bear added 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
2,412 2,634
Alfred the Great is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

36
4,924 2,994
Mehmed the Conqueror is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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
2,329 2,622
Richard I of England is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Polar Bear added 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

38
951 826
Martin Luther is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

39
1,546 1,343
Leonidas I is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

40
3,990 2,439
Suleiman the Magnificent is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
ozgursuer added 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

41
3,115 1,308
Muhammad is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
MuhammadAsad added 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

42
1,042 1,690
James Monroe is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

43
1,349 439
Albert Einstein is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
David Tolner added Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist. Einstein's work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He developed the general theory of relativity, one of the ...more

44
3,363 4,664
Joseph Stalin is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
Joseph Stalin or Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin was the leader of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until 1953. Among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who took part in the Russian Revolution of ...more

45
3,614 2,988
Salah al-Din is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History

46
1,539 1,668
Nebuchadnezzar II is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
mikado added 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
843 1,424
Robert F. Kennedy is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
StacyWolfe added 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 to 1968. He was ...more

48
1,872 1,962
Cleopatra is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

49
2,102 1,754
Hammurabi is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
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

50
619 1,133
Patrick Henry is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Important Leaders in World History
hug05612736 added 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