1 . Tim Cook
There is no true preparation for replacing a legend, but thats what Tim Cook had to do three and a half years ago following the death of Steve Jobs. Cook has led Apple so strongly, including in some surprising directions, that he has earned the No. 1 spot on Fortunes list of the Worlds Greatest Leaders. Apples stock has hit all time highs, in Apple Pay and the Apple Watch the company has shown its continued appetite for innovation, and it is gradually becoming more open and outspoken, including on a variety of non corporate social issues. By announcing that he is gay, Cook also has done something few would have predicted: become a global role model.
2 . Mario Draghi
Mario Draghi, as president of the European Central Bank, surely has one of the toughest and most significant jobs in the world. Growth and stability in the eurozone, and more broadly in the European Union, should be an anchor for the world economy. But its weaker economies have floundered for years, and Europe has long lacked the political leadership to address their problems. Draghi, drawing on long experience in both government and business, has moved to fill that void. Taking full advantage of the instruments available to the central bank and his personal powers of persuasion, he has carried out his own pledge to do whatever it takes to hold the eurozone together.
Draghis role requires him to balance widely divergent national views and circumstances. Ultimate success is dependent upon confidence in the skill, capacity, and integrity of a man able to reconcile the different positions. Draghi, born of Italy but a man of Europe, has provided that leadership.
Victory in the battle for growth and stability and political reconciliation within Europe has not yet arrived. However, there is little doubt that Draghi has provided a beacon of needed leadership. Given the weight of Europe in the world economy, we all have a stake in his work.
3 . Xi Jinping
There hasnt been a stronger leader in China since the reformer Deng Xiaoping or maybe the revolutionary Mao Zedong. Xi shares traits with both. He has consolidated power; fired, fined, or jailed a quarter of a million cadres in his massive corruption purge; and cracked down on dissidents. Hes also behind Chinas robust nationalistic message directed at world powers. At the same time he has preached meaningful reforms including, importantly, strengthening the rule of law. Much now depends on his ability to advance those reforms while managing the economys inevitably slowing growth and its transition from being investment based to consumption based. Thats a monumental job, of course. A stumble could spark insurrection and disaster, but so far Xi is holding things together. Veteran China watchers in the West consider him a true leader, albeit one whose record remains incomplete. Thats why many are calling this the most interesting time in China in decades.
4 . Pope Francis
Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis (the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio) has been shaking up the management of one of the worlds largest bureaucracies: the Roman Catholic Church. That earned him the top spot on Fortunes list of Worlds Greatest Leaders last year but his vision, fortitude, and commitment to reform were so extraordinary in 2014 that were including him again this year. It is not just that he has led by example by now its well known that the pope, who has long championed the virtues of charity and modesty, has forgone the traditional suite in the Apostolic Palace, opting instead to reside in a one bedroom apartment in the Vatican guesthouse. Less known is how decisive he is in personnel choices, replacing the boards of the Vatican Bank and its main regulatory body with highly respected business people from around the globe. And though there has been pushback from entrenched interests at the Vatican, this pontiff is not easily conned: He gets information on all important church personnel and organizations from a variety of sources and shuns toadies and cronies.
Operating budgets are now pruned to ensure that as much money as possible can go to charity. This, after all, is a pope who lives his own lessons.
5 . Narendra Modi
Modi rode to victory in elections last year on a wave of economic dissatisfaction. But while many reformers before him have talked a good game, Modi has actually begun to deliver on his promises making genuine progress in his efforts to make India more business friendly and less regulated, addressing violence against women, improving sanitation, and patching up relations with other Asian countries and the U.S.? There is, to be sure, a long way to go. Fully achieving any of his goals will require reforming Indias powerful, widely corrupt bureaucracy. But he has put the bureaucrats on notice while taking action where he can for example, by substantially increasing allowable foreign investment in the insurance industry. And in greatly simplifying the procedure for getting a visa to visit India, he has symbolically lowered the status of bureaucrats and raised that of potential outside investors. Modi still faces such huge challenges as privatizing Indias vast portfolio of state owned businesses and deregulating labor markets.
But simply by declaring those as goals, he has seized control of the national agenda and sent a message that its time for all of India not just its infotech services sector to join the 21st century. The IMF and other forecasters now believe India will be growing faster than China in a year or two.
6 . Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift didnt become the highest paid woman in the music business by accident. Pops savviest star has crossed swords with Spotify, embraced corporate sponsorship, and moved to secure dozens of trademarks (including phrases like This sick beat) plus she has proved shrewder at honing a brand in the social media age than virtually any other person or company. And shes done it without resorting to dumbed down salacious gimmickry. (Swift, ahem, is arguably the anti
7 . Joanne Liu
Liu, a Canadian born physician, has worked with MSF since 1996, when she took on her first field assignment: caring for Malian refugees in Mauritania. Since then she has taken part in more than 20 missions on four continents helping victims of the Indonesian tsunami and Haitian earthquake, as well as refugees and survivors of sexual violence in Somalia, Congo, and Sudans Darfur region, to name just a few. But Lius job got even more demanding in October 2013, when she was named the groups international president just two months before the first West African patients were diagnosed with Ebola, the start of what became the deadliest and most widespread outbreak of the horrific disease to date. Liu and MSF didnt dither for a second. She helped lead the organizations fast and aggressive response to the virus, establishing field hospitals in the middle of the hot zone and pressing African leaders and public health officials worldwide to step up their efforts. The pressure worked. At least for the time being, this contagion has been contained.
8 . John Roberts Jr
No one doubts its the Roberts Court now. At age 60, and already in his 10th year in the role, the Chief Justice of the United States commands universal respect, even from the far older members of the ferociously polarized panel. Administratively, he leads not only the nine, but also some 180 appellate judges, 680 district judges, 350 bankruptcy judges, 550 magistrate judges, and the 28 judge Judicial Conference. In the Supreme Courts rightward journey, it is Roberts, one the capitals few remaining statesmen, who is setting the pace on how fast and the limit on how far. This term his historic votes (and behind the scenes influence) will very likely determine if Obamacare survives and same sex marriage receives constitutional benediction.
9 . Mary Barra
Immersed in GMs ignition switch megacrisis almost since day one as CEO, Barra has deftly juggled the demands of investors, regulators, customers, plaintiffs, and employees on one of the business worlds most visible stages. Shes a company lifer, but her insistence on greater openness nonetheless broke the long standing GM pattern of downplaying responses to product defects and she is making a genuine, if still far from complete, effort to transform the automakers sclerotic culture.
10 . Joshua Wong
Slight, and with a bowl cut and black framed eyeglasses, the 18 year old Wong doesnt look like Hollywoods idea of a charismatic rebel leader. But Wong, a co founder of the student activist group Scholarism, was one of the most compelling figures in Hong Kongs pro democracy Umbrella Revolution last year. His nonviolent protest message and energetic idealism galvanized crowds that, over months, numbered in the hundreds of thousands.