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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Ranked by
  • Henry Ford
    1
    Henry Ford Company, James F. Flower & Bros, Detroit Dry Dock Co
    • Age: Dec. at 83 (1863-1947)
    • Birthplace: Greenfield Township, Wayne County, Michigan
  • Steve Jobs
    2
    Apple Inc., Pixar, Atari
    • Age: Dec. at 56 (1955-2011)
    • Birthplace: California, United States of America
  • John D. Rockefeller
    3
    Standard Oil, Exxon Mobil
    • Age: Dec. at 97 (1839-1937)
    • Birthplace: Richford, New York
  • Elon Musk
    4
    SolarCity, Tesla Motors
    • Age: 51
    • Birthplace: Pretoria, South Africa
  • Andrew Carnegie
    5
    Homestead Steel Works, Pennsylvania Railroad, Keystone Bridge Company
    • Age: Dec. at 83 (1835-1919)
    • Birthplace: Dunfermline, United Kingdom
  • Sakichi Toyoda
    6
    Toyota Boshoku Corporation, Toyota Industries
    • Age: Dec. at 63 (1867-1930)
    • Birthplace: Kosai, Japan
  • Walt Disney
    7
    Laugh-O-Gram Studio, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Kansas City Film Ad Company
    • Age: Dec. at 65 (1901-1966)
    • Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA
  • Sam Walton
    8
    Walmart, J. C. Penney
    • Age: Dec. at 74 (1918-1992)
    • Birthplace: Kingfisher, Oklahoma
  • Warren Buffett
    9
    Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett Partnership Ltd., Graham-Newman Corp
    • Age: 92
    • Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska, USA
  • Ray Kroc
    10
    McDonald's
    • Age: Dec. at 81 (1902-1984)
    • Birthplace: Oak Park, Illinois, United States of America
  • Bill Gates
    11
    Cascade Investment, Microsoft Corporation
    • Age: 66
    • Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, USA
  • J. P. Morgan
    12
    J.P. Morgan & Company
    • Age: Dec. at 75 (1837-1913)
    • Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut
  • Jack Welch
    13
    General Electric, MIT Sloan School of Management
    • Age: 86
    • Birthplace: Peabody, Massachusetts
  • Jack Warner
    14
    Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
    • Age: Dec. at 86 (1892-1978)
    • Birthplace: London, Canada
  • Cornelius Vanderbilt
    15
    New York Central Railroad, Grand Central Depot
    • Age: Dec. at 82 (1794-1877)
    • Birthplace: New York City, New York
  • Conrad Hilton
    16
    Hilton Hotels & Resorts
    • Age: Dec. at 91 (1887-1979)
    • Birthplace: San Antonio, New Mexico, USA
  • Andrew W. Mellon
    18
    T. Mellon & Sons, Alcoa, Carborundum Company
    • Age: Dec. at 82 (1855-1937)
    • Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Jeff Bezos
    19
    D. E. Shaw & Co., Kosmix, Fitel
    • Age: 58
    • Birthplace: Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America
  • Larry Page
    20
    Google, Alphabet Inc., PageRank
    • Age: 49
    • Birthplace: East Lansing, Michigan
  • Larry Ellison
    21
    Oracle Corporation, Ampex, Precision Instruments
    • Age: 78
    • Birthplace: Lower East Side, New York City, New York, United States of America
  • Lee Iacocca
    22
    Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation
    • Age: 97
    • Birthplace: Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States of America
  • Estée Lauder
    23
    Estée Lauder Companies
    • Age: Dec. at 97 (1906-2004)
    • Birthplace: Corona, New York City, New York
  • Ingvar Kamprad
    24
    • Age: 96
    • Birthplace: Agunnaryd, Sweden
  • Indra Nooyi
    25
    ABB Ltd, PepsiCo, Motorola
    • Age: 66
    • Birthplace: Chennai, India