The Most Enlightened Leaders in World History

List Rules
World leaders with progressive yet realistic (for their times) approaches that bettered the lives of their people. Can be from any time period.

Enlightened leadership takes on many forms. Sometimes, especially in the ancient world, it was the codifying of laws and precepts to ensure fair treatment for all. But it could also be taking control of a country after a particularly bloody time and ushering in peace and prosperity. Or it could be campaigning for equal rights, even at great risk to yourself. All of those qualities are what you'll find in history's most progressive world leaders. These are leaders with humane, intelligent, and compassionate leadership styles, that improved the lives of those living under their rule.

History is full of despotic leaders - presidents, emperors, kings, and popes who used their power and privilege to enrich themselves and their cronies. But there have also been enlightened and wise leaders, who have united their people, stood firm for peace and freedom, and enhanced the human condition for everyone.

Here are some of the most enlightened leaders in history, from ancient to modern. Upvote those you feel were the most progressive and enlightened, not just those you agreed with.
Ranked by
  • Leonardo da Vinci
    422 votes
    Dec. at 67 (1452-1519)
  • Otto von Bismarck
    592 votes
    Dec. at 83 (1815-1898)
  • Augustus
    692 votes
    Dec. at 76 (62 BC-14)
  • Mahatma Gandhi
    1,102 votes
    Dec. at 78 (1869-1948)
  • William Tell
    432 votes

    William Tell

    legendary Swiss freedom fighter

  • Eberhard I, Duke of Württemberg
    404 votes
    Dec. at 50 (1445-1496)

    founded the University of Tübingen; is said to have been "able to rest his head on the lap of every one of his subjects without having fear for his life or property" (Wikipedia)