Influential

The Most Influential CEOs Of All Time

List Rules
Upvote 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.

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  • Steven Paul Jobs (; February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) was an American business magnate, entrepreneur and investor. He was the chairman, chief executive officer (CEO), and co-founder of Apple Inc., ...more
  • John Davison Rockefeller Sr. (July 8, 1839 – May 23, 1937) was an American business magnate and philanthropist. He is widely considered the wealthiest American of all time, and the richest person ...more
  • Andrew Carnegie kar-NAY-gee (November 25, 1835 – August 11, 1919) was a Scottish-American industrialist, business magnate, and philanthropist. Carnegie led the expansion of the American steel ...more
  • Samuel Moore Walton (March 29, 1918 – April 5, 1992) was an American businessman and entrepreneur best known for founding the retailers Walmart and Sam's Club. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. grew to be the ...more
  • Andrew William Mellon (; March 24, 1855 – August 26, 1937), sometimes A.W., was an American banker, businessman, industrialist, philanthropist, art collector, and politician. From the wealthy Mellon ...more
  • Jack Warner may refer to:
  • Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was an American industrialist and a business magnate, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line ...more
  • Raymond Albert "Ray" Kroc (October 5, 1902 – January 14, 1984) was an American fast-food tycoon. He joined the California company McDonald's in 1954, after the McDonald brothers had franchised 6 ...more
  • Elon Reeve Musk (; born June 28, 1971) is a technology entrepreneur, investor, and engineer. He holds South African, Canadian, and U.S. citizenship and is the founder, CEO, and lead designer of ...more
  • John Pierpont Morgan Sr. (April 17, 1837 – March 31, 1913) was an American financier and banker who dominated corporate finance on Wall Street throughout the Gilded Age. As the head of the banking ...more
  • Sakichi Toyoda (豊田 佐吉, Toyoda Sakichi, February 14, 1867 – October 30, 1930) was a Japanese inventor and industrialist. He was born in Kosai, Shizuoka. The son of a farmer and sought-after carpenter, ...more
  • Warren Edward Buffett (born August 30, 1930) is an American business magnate, investor, speaker and philanthropist who serves as the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He is considered one of ...more
  • John Francis "Jack" Welch Jr. (born November 19, 1935) is an American business executive, author, and chemical engineer. He was chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001. During his ...more
  • Walter Elias Disney (; December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966) was an American entrepreneur, animator, voice actor and film producer. A pioneer of the American animation industry, he introduced several ...more
  • James D. Sinegal (born January 1, 1936), also known as Jim Sinegal, is a retired American billionaire businessman who is the co-founder and former CEO of the Costco Wholesale Corporation, an ...more
  • Lawrence Joseph Ellison (born August 17, 1944) is an American businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who is a co-founder and the executive chairman and chief technology officer (CTO) of Oracle ...more
  • Howard D. Schultz (born July 19, 1953) is an American businessman and multi-billionaire. He was Chairman and Chief Executive of Starbucks from 1986 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2017, as well as its ...more
  • Marjorie Merriweather Post (March 15, 1887 – September 12, 1973) was an American businesswoman, socialite and the owner of General Foods, Inc. She used much of her fortune to collect art, ...more
  • William Henry Gates III (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate, investor, author, philanthropist, and humanitarian. He is best known as the principal founder of Microsoft ...more
  • Tony Hsieh (December 12, 1973 – November 27, 2020) was an American internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He is the CEO of the online shoe and clothing company Zappos. Prior to joining Zappos, ...more
  • Martha Helen Stewart (née Kostyra; Polish pronunciation: [kɔ'stɨra]; born August 3, 1941) is an American retail businesswoman, writer, television personality, former model, and convicted felon. As ...more
  • Estée Lauder (; July 1, 1906 – April 24, 2004) was an American businessperson. She co-founded her eponymous cosmetics company with her husband, Joseph Lauter (later Lauder). Lauder was the only woman ...more
  • Indra Nooyi (née Krishnamurthy; born 28 October 1955) is an Indian American business executive, serving on the board of directors of Amazon, the largest eCommerce business in the world by net ...more
  • Feodor Ingvar Kamprad (Swedish: [ˈɪŋːvar ˈkamːprad] (listen); 30 March 1926 – 27 January 2018) was a Swedish business magnate best known for founding IKEA, a multinational retail company specialising ...more
  • Jacki-O
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    Angela Kohn (born November 24, 1975), better known as Jacki-O, is an American rapper who is signed to her own label Jack Movement Entertainment. She got her first break in 2003 with the bawdy sex ...more