700 voters

The Most Influential CEOs of All Time

Updated April 15, 2020 5.7k votes 700 voters 21.0k views54 items

List RulesUpvote your picks for the most important and inspirational CEOs in the history of business.

As business leaders, historical captains of industry and current CEOs inspire generations of entrepreneurs. They shape the commerce worlds of their day and beyond, influence political destinies - and make beaucoup bucks in the process. What does a CEO do, exactly? As a titan of the industrial revolution, Henry Ford perfected the assembly line to produce more affordable cars. Walt Disney brought "imagineering" to Hollywood with Disney animation studios, and later Disneyland and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Many contemporary "celebrity CEOs," aka famous CEOs, work out of Silicon Valley. Case in point: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who spun a social media and communications revolution from his Harvard dorm room to the halls of Congress.

While the leaders on this list are notable in their fields, not all fit the formal CEO definition in their time. What does CEO stand for? By strict standards, the CEO meaning is 'chief executive officer,' a relatively modern term that came into common parlance in the 1970s. Before then, company heads were more often referred to as 'Chairman' or 'President.' Some companies retroactively refer to their founders and figureheads as CEOs, while others do not.

For the purposes of this list, a person's stewardship and iconography are more important to consider when voting, rather than the formal title held during their tenure. Now that you know what a CEO is, share your opinions on the greatest CEOS of all time.

  • 1

    Steve Jobs

    Apple Inc., Pixar
    Steven Paul Jobs (; February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) was an American business magnate,...  more

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  • 2

    Bill Gates

    Cascade Investment, Microsoft Corporation
    William Henry Gates III (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate, investor,...  more

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  • 3

    Henry Ford

    Henry Ford Company, James F. Flower & Bros
    Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was an American industrialist and a business...  more

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  • 4

    Walt Disney

    Laugh-O-Gram Studio, Walt Disney Animation Studios
    Walter Elias Disney (; December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966) was an American entrepreneur,...  more

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  • 5

    Warren Buffett

    Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett Partnership Ltd.
    Warren Edward Buffett (born August 30, 1930) is an American business magnate, investor,...  more

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  • 6

    John D. Rockefeller

    Standard Oil, Exxon Mobil
    John Davison Rockefeller Sr. (July 8, 1839 – May 23, 1937) was an American business magnate...  more

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  • 7

    Elon Musk

    SolarCity, Tesla Motors
    Elon Reeve Musk (; born June 28, 1971) is a technology entrepreneur, investor, and engineer....  more

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  • 8

    Sam Walton

    Walmart, J. C. Penney
    Samuel Moore Walton (March 29, 1918 – April 5, 1992) was an American businessman and...  more

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  • 9

    Jeff Bezos

    D. E. Shaw & Co., Kosmix
    Jeffrey Preston Bezos (; né Jorgensen; January 12, 1964) is an American technology...  more

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  • 10

    Andrew Carnegie

    Homestead Steel Works, Pennsylvania Railroad
    Andrew Carnegie kar-NAY-gee (November 25, 1835 – August 11, 1919) was a Scottish-American...  more

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  • 11

    J. P. Morgan

    J.P. Morgan & Company
    John Pierpont Morgan Sr. (April 17, 1837 – March 31, 1913) was an American financier and...  more

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  • 12

    Lee Iacocca

    Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation
    Lido Anthony "Lee" Iacocca ( EYE-ə-KOH-kə; October 15, 1924 – July 2, 2019) was an American...  more
  • 13

    Larry Page

    Google, Alphabet Inc.
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  • 14

    Sakichi Toyoda

    Toyota Boshoku Corporation, Toyota Industries
    Sakichi Toyoda (豊田 佐吉, Toyoda Sakichi, February 14, 1867 – October 30, 1930) was a Japanese...  more
  • 15

    Ray Kroc

    Raymond Albert "Ray" Kroc (October 5, 1902 – January 14, 1984) was an American fast-food...  more
  • 16

    Jack Welch

    General Electric, MIT Sloan School of Management
    John Francis "Jack" Welch Jr. (born November 19, 1935) is an American business executive,...  more
  • 17

    Cornelius Vanderbilt

    New York Central Railroad, Grand Central Depot
    Cornelius Vanderbilt (May 27, 1794 – January 4, 1877) was an American business magnate who...  more
  • 18
    Howard D. Schultz (born July 19, 1953) is an American businessman and multi-billionaire. He...  more

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  • 19

    Estée Lauder

    Estée Lauder Companies
    Estée Lauder (; July 1, 1906 – April 24, 2004) was an American businessperson. She co-founded...  more
  • 20

    Conrad Hilton

    Hilton Hotels & Resorts
    Conrad Nicholson Hilton (December 25, 1887 – January 3, 1979) was an American hotelier and the...  more
  • 21

    Jack Warner

    Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
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  • 22

    Mark Zuckerberg

    Facebook, Inc.
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  • 23

    Richard Branson

    Virgin Broadband, Virgin Mobile UK
    Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson (born 18 July 1950) is a British business magnate,...  more

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  • 24

    Indra Nooyi

    ABB Ltd, PepsiCo
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  • 25
    Asa Griggs Candler (December 30, 1851 – March 12, 1929) was an American business tycoon who...  more