Influential

The Most Influential CEOs of All Time 

Ready To Startup
Updated April 15, 2020 3.9k votes 580 voters 16.5k views 54 items

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.

list ordered by
1
Steve Jobs is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Apple Inc., Pixar, Atari

Age: Dec. at 56 (1955-2011)

Birthplace: California, United States of America

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 ...more

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2
Bill Gates is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Cascade Investment, Microsoft Corporation

Age: 63

Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, United States of America

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

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3
Henry Ford is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Henry Ford Company, James F. Flower & Bros, Detroit Dry Dock Co

Age: Dec. at 84 (1863-1947)

Birthplace: Greenfield Township, Wayne County, Michigan

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

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4
Walt Disney is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Laugh-O-Gram Studio, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Kansas City Film Ad Company

Age: Dec. at 65 (1901-1966)

Birthplace: USA, Chicago, Hermosa, Illinois

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 ...more

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#15 of 753 People We Wish Were Still Alive #29 of 2,437 The Most Influential People of All Time #207 of 1,344 The Greatest Minds of All Time

5
Elon Musk is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
SolarCity, Tesla Motors

Age: 47

Birthplace: Pretoria, South Africa

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

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6
Warren Buffett is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett Partnership Ltd., Graham-Newman Corp

Age: 88

Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska, United States of America

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 ...more

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7
John D. Rockefeller is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Standard Oil, Exxon Mobil

Age: Dec. at 98 (1839-1937)

Birthplace: Richford, New York

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 ...more

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8
Sam Walton is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Walmart, J. C. Penney

Age: Dec. at 74 (1918-1992)

Birthplace: Kingfisher, Oklahoma

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 ...more

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9
Jeff Bezos is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
D. E. Shaw & Co., Kosmix, Fitel

Age: 55

Birthplace: Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America

Jeffrey Preston Bezos (; né Jorgensen; January 12, 1964) is an American technology entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. He is the founder, CEO, and president of Amazon.com, Inc. ...more

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10
Andrew Carnegie is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Homestead Steel Works, Pennsylvania Railroad, Keystone Bridge Company

Age: Dec. at 84 (1835-1919)

Birthplace: Dunfermline, United Kingdom

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

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11
J. P. Morgan is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
J.P. Morgan & Company

Age: Dec. at 76 (1837-1913)

Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut

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 ...more

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12
Larry Page is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Google, Alphabet Inc., PageRank

Age: 45

Birthplace: East Lansing, Michigan

Lawrence Edward Page (born March 26, 1973) is an American computer scientist and Internet entrepreneur who co-founded Google with Sergey Brin.Page is the chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc. ...more

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13
Lee Iacocca is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation

Age: 91

Birthplace: Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States of America

Lido Anthony "Lee" Iacocca ( EYE-ə-KOH-kə; October 15, 1924 – July 2, 2019) was an American automobile executive best known for the development of Ford Mustang and Pinto cars, while at ...more

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14
Ray Kroc is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
McDonald's

Age: Dec. at 82 (1902-1984)

Birthplace: Oak Park, Illinois, United States of America

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 ...more

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15
Sakichi Toyoda is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Sakichi Toyoda Toyota Boshoku Corporation, Toyota Industries

Age: Dec. at 63 (1867-1930)

Birthplace: Kosai, Japan

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 ...more
16
Mark Zuckerberg is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Facebook, Inc.

Age: 34

Birthplace: White Plains, New York

Mark Elliot Zuckerberg (; born May 14, 1984) is an American technology entrepreneur and philanthropist. Zuckerberg is known for co-founding and leading Facebook as its chairman and chief ...more

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17
Jack Welch is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
General Electric, MIT Sloan School of Management

Age: 83

Birthplace: Peabody, Massachusetts

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 ...more
18
Richard Branson is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Virgin Broadband, Virgin Mobile UK, Virgin Mobile France

Age: 68

Birthplace: England, London

Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson (born 18 July 1950) is a British business magnate, investor, author and philanthropist. He founded the Virgin Group in the 1970s, which controls more than ...more

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19
Jack Warner is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Warner Bros.-Seven Arts

Age: Dec. at 86 (1892-1978)

Birthplace: London, Canada

Jack Warner may refer to:
20
Estée Lauder is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Estée Lauder Companies

Age: Dec. at 98 (1906-2004)

Birthplace: Corona, New York City, New York

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 ...more
21
Cornelius Vanderbilt is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
New York Central Railroad, Grand Central Depot

Age: Dec. at 83 (1794-1877)

Birthplace: New York City, New York

Cornelius Vanderbilt (May 27, 1794 – January 4, 1877) was an American business magnate who built his wealth in railroads and shipping. After working with his father's business, Vanderbilt worked ...more

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22
Howard Schultz is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Starbucks

Age: 65

Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA

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 ...more

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23
Indra Nooyi is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
ABB Ltd, PepsiCo, Motorola

Age: 63

Birthplace: Chennai, India

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 ...more

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24
Jack Ma is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Alibaba Group

Age: 54

Birthplace: Hangzhou, China

Jack Ma, or Ma Yun (Chinese: 马云; [mà y̌n]; born 10 September 1964), is a Chinese business magnate, investor, politician and philanthropist. He is the co-founder and executive chair of ...more
25
Conrad Hilton is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Influential CEOs of All Time
Hilton Hotels & Resorts

Age: Dec. at 92 (1887-1979)

Birthplace: San Antonio, New Mexico, United States of America

Conrad Nicholson Hilton (December 25, 1887 – January 3, 1979) was an American hotelier and the founder of the Hilton Hotels chain.