Influential
679 voters

The Most Influential CEOs of All Time

Updated April 15, 2020 5.7k votes 679 voters 20.2k 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.

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  • Steve Jobs1
    305
    116

    Steve Jobs

    Apple Inc., Pixar

    AgeDec. at 56 (1955-2011)

    BirthplaceCalifornia, United States of America

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

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  • Bill Gates2
    253
    91

    Bill Gates

    Cascade Investment, Microsoft Corporation

    Age64

    BirthplaceSeattle, Washington, United States of America

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

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  • Henry Ford3
    216
    76

    Henry Ford

    Henry Ford Company, James F. Flower & Bros

    AgeDec. at 84 (1863-1947)

    BirthplaceGreenfield Township, Wayne County, Michigan

    Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was an American industrialist and a business...  more

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  • Warren Buffett4
    171
    58

    Warren Buffett

    Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett Partnership Ltd.

    Age90

    BirthplaceOmaha, Nebraska, United States of America

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

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  • Walt Disney5
    171
    60

    Walt Disney

    Laugh-O-Gram Studio, Walt Disney Animation Studios

    AgeDec. at 65 (1901-1966)

    BirthplaceHermosa, Chicago, Illinois, USA

    Walter Elias Disney (; December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966) was an American entrepreneur,...  more

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  • John D. Rockefeller6
    150
    53

    John D. Rockefeller

    Standard Oil, Exxon Mobil

    AgeDec. at 98 (1839-1937)

    BirthplaceRichford, New York

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

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  • Sam Walton7
    135
    48

    Sam Walton

    Walmart, J. C. Penney

    AgeDec. at 74 (1918-1992)

    BirthplaceKingfisher, Oklahoma

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

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  • Elon Musk8
    223
    114

    Elon Musk

    SolarCity, Tesla Motors

    Age49

    BirthplacePretoria, South Africa

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

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  • Jeff Bezos9
    142
    71

    Jeff Bezos

    D. E. Shaw & Co., Kosmix

    Age56

    BirthplaceAlbuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America

    Jeffrey Preston Bezos (; né Jorgensen; January 12, 1964) is an American technology...  more

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  • Andrew Carnegie10
    114
    49

    Andrew Carnegie

    Homestead Steel Works, Pennsylvania Railroad

    AgeDec. at 84 (1835-1919)

    BirthplaceDunfermline, United Kingdom

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

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  • J. P. Morgan11
    103
    50

    J. P. Morgan

    J.P. Morgan & Company

    AgeDec. at 76 (1837-1913)

    BirthplaceHartford, Connecticut

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

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  • Lee Iacocca12
    78
    44

    Lee Iacocca

    Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation

    Age91

    BirthplaceAllentown, Pennsylvania, USA

    Lido Anthony "Lee" Iacocca ( EYE-ə-KOH-kə; October 15, 1924 – July 2, 2019) was an American...  more
  • Larry Page13
    93
    58

    Larry Page

    Google, Alphabet Inc.

    Age47

    BirthplaceEast Lansing, Michigan

    Lawrence Edward Page (born March 26, 1973) is an American computer scientist and Internet...  more

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  • Sakichi Toyoda14
    62
    37

    Sakichi Toyoda

    Toyota Boshoku Corporation, Toyota Industries

    AgeDec. at 63 (1867-1930)

    BirthplaceKosai, Japan

    Sakichi Toyoda (豊田 佐吉, Toyoda Sakichi, February 14, 1867 – October 30, 1930) was a Japanese...  more
  • Ray Kroc15
    67
    42

    Ray Kroc

    McDonald's

    AgeDec. at 82 (1902-1984)

    BirthplaceOak Park, Illinois, United States of America

    Raymond Albert "Ray" Kroc (October 5, 1902 – January 14, 1984) was an American fast-food...  more
  • Jack Welch16
    62
    44

    Jack Welch

    General Electric, MIT Sloan School of Management

    Age84

    BirthplacePeabody, Massachusetts

    John Francis "Jack" Welch Jr. (born November 19, 1935) is an American business executive,...  more
  • Cornelius Vanderbilt17
    40
    30

    Cornelius Vanderbilt

    New York Central Railroad, Grand Central Depot

    AgeDec. at 83 (1794-1877)

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

    Cornelius Vanderbilt (May 27, 1794 – January 4, 1877) was an American business magnate who...  more
  • Richard Branson18
    59
    54

    Richard Branson

    Virgin Broadband, Virgin Mobile UK

    Age70

    BirthplaceEngland, London

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

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  • Howard Schultz19
    45
    39

    Age67

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, USA

    Howard D. Schultz (born July 19, 1953) is an American businessman and multi-billionaire. He...  more

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  • Mark Zuckerberg20
    80
    83

    Mark Zuckerberg

    Facebook, Inc.

    Age36

    BirthplaceWhite Plains, New York

    Mark Elliot Zuckerberg (; born May 14, 1984) is an American technology entrepreneur and...  more

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  • Estée Lauder21
    38
    33

    Estée Lauder

    Estée Lauder Companies

    AgeDec. at 98 (1906-2004)

    BirthplaceCorona, New York City, New York

    Estée Lauder (; July 1, 1906 – April 24, 2004) was an American businessperson. She co-founded...  more
  • Conrad Hilton22
    36
    30

    Conrad Hilton

    Hilton Hotels & Resorts

    AgeDec. at 92 (1887-1979)

    BirthplaceSan Antonio, New Mexico, United States of America

    Conrad Nicholson Hilton (December 25, 1887 – January 3, 1979) was an American hotelier and the...  more
  • Jack Warner23
    42
    38

    Jack Warner

    Warner Bros.-Seven Arts

    AgeDec. at 86 (1892-1978)

    BirthplaceLondon, Canada

    Jack Warner may refer to:...  more
  • Larry Ellison24
    35
    32

    Larry Ellison

    Oracle Corporation, Ampex

    Age76

    BirthplaceLower East Side, New York City, New York, United States of America

    Lawrence Joseph Ellison (born August 17, 1944) is an American businessman, entrepreneur, and...  more

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  • Marjorie Merriweather Post25
    Marjorie Merriweather Post (March 15, 1887 – September 12, 1973) was an American...  more