677 voters

The Most Influential CEOs of All Time

Updated April 15, 2020 5.6k votes 677 voters 20.1k 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.

  • Steve Jobs1

    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

    More Steve Jobs 

    28 Things You Didn't Know About Steve Jobs#235 of 269 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World

  • Bill Gates2

    Bill Gates

    Cascade Investment, Microsoft Corporation


    BirthplaceSeattle, Washington, United States of America

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

    More Bill Gates 

    How Steve Jobs And Bill Gates Went From Friends To Bitter Enemies#157 of 403 Famous Role Models We'd Like to Meet In Person

  • Henry Ford3

    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

    More Henry Ford 

    #31 of 80 80 Famous People with ADHD#9 of 20 Appalling Anti-Semitic Remarks by Famous People

  • Warren Buffett4

    Warren Buffett

    Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett Partnership Ltd.


    BirthplaceOmaha, Nebraska, United States of America

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

    More Warren Buffett 

    The Best Warren Buffett Quotes#12 of 15 The 15 Most Famous Introverts In World History

  • Walt Disney5

    Walt Disney

    Laugh-O-Gram Studio, Walt Disney Animation Studios

    AgeDec. at 65 (1901-1966)

    BirthplaceHermosa, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

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

    More Walt Disney 

    #21 of 753 People We Wish Were Still Alive#29 of 583 The Greatest Entertainers of All Time

  • John D. Rockefeller6

    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

    More John D. Rockefeller 

    The Best John D. Rockefeller Quotes#14 of 25 The Best Life Magazine Covers

  • Sam Walton7

    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

    More Sam Walton 

    #104 of 432 The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History#33 of 38 Famous People You Didn't Know Were Boy Scouts

  • Elon Musk8

    Elon Musk

    SolarCity, Tesla Motors


    BirthplacePretoria, South Africa

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

    More Elon Musk 

    Things You Didn't Know About Elon Musk#2 of 133 The Best Joe Rogan Podcast Guests

  • Jeff Bezos9

    Jeff Bezos

    D. E. Shaw & Co., Kosmix


    BirthplaceAlbuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America

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

    More Jeff Bezos 

    Things You Never Knew About Jeff Bezos#686 of 904 Celebrity Death Pool 2021

  • Andrew Carnegie10

    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

    More Andrew Carnegie 

    Robbing From The Poor To Give To The Rich: Andrew Carnegie And His Mega-Legacy#62 of 102 102 Celebrities Who Have Entire Species Named After Them

  • J. P. Morgan11

    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

    More J. P. Morgan 

    #29 of 108 Famous People Who Use Initials In Their Names#2 of 5 'Self-Made' Historical Figures Who Were Actually Already Rich

  • Lee Iacocca12

    Lee Iacocca

    Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation


    BirthplaceAllentown, Pennsylvania, USA

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

    Larry Page

    Google, Alphabet Inc.


    BirthplaceEast Lansing, Michigan

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

    More Larry Page 

    #876 of 2,443 The Most Influential People of All Time#16 of 53 The Most Influential Software Programmers of All Time

  • Sakichi Toyoda14

    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

    Ray Kroc


    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

    Jack Welch

    General Electric, MIT Sloan School of Management


    BirthplacePeabody, Massachusetts

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

    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

    Richard Branson

    Virgin Broadband, Virgin Mobile UK


    BirthplaceEngland, London

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

    More Richard Branson 

    #247 of 439 Famous Men You'd Want to Have a Beer With#23 of 25 Wealthy People Who Are Basically Supervillains

  • Howard Schultz19


    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, USA

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

    More Howard Schultz 

    #14 of 20 The Worst NBA Team Owners of All Time#1 of 7 The Best 2020 Independent Candidates

  • Mark Zuckerberg20

    Mark Zuckerberg

    Facebook, Inc.


    BirthplaceWhite Plains, New York

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

    More Mark Zuckerberg 

    Weird Facts About Mark Zuckerberg Most People Don't Know#2 of 50 Celebrities You're Sick Of In 2021

  • Estée Lauder21

    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

    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

    Jack Warner

    Warner Bros.-Seven Arts

    AgeDec. at 86 (1892-1978)

    BirthplaceLondon, Canada

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

    Larry Ellison

    Oracle Corporation, Ampex


    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

    More Larry Ellison 

    #256 of 258 The Best Marvel Movie Actors Ever#6 of 6 The Real Life Inspirations for Tony Stark

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