What makes a person powerful? Is it the amount of money in their checking account? The positions they hold within a huge company or a government institution? For the most influential people in the world, it’s a combination of these things.
It’s no secret that with great money comes advantages very few people have. You can influence the world around you in a much bigger way than the average white collar worker can. And combine that with a platform, say, as the leader of a large country, and the choices you make will be affecting millions of people.
That’s power most of us will never experience. Sure, people have control over their own lives, and with hard work and luck the average person can even run a business or become CEO of a large company some day. But for most, even the greatest of personal and career achievements won’t come close to the world leaders on this list.
Not that everyone would want the level of responsibility that comes with this power, though; it just seems like a lot of work. Most would probably rather sit at home and watch the power struggles of the world play out in the news. It’s less stressful that way.
10. David Cameron
It comes as no surprise that the most powerful people is populated with political figures from across the globe. David Cameron, the tenth most powerful person in the world, is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
In September, Cameron risked losing some of the power when Scotland voted on whether or not to remain part of the United Kingdom. Ultimately, however, the Scottish chose not to part with the U.K, and thus Cameron still has control over Scotland. Otherwise, his place on this list may have changed, at least slightly.
Cameron, like many people these days, enjoys posting selfies to his Twitter account. Unlike most of us, he regularly captures selfies hobnobbing with other extremely powerful people.
9. Sergey Brin/Larry Page
Yes, two people occupy the 9th spot for the World’s Most Powerful Person, and the reason for that is because their power comes from the same source: Brin
Page, on the other hand, is still CEO of Google, the company he cofounded with Brin. Google, which dominates online search engines, has tens of thousands of employers in 40 different countries, and both men aren’t faring so badly in the wealth department either.
Page is also an advocate for clean energy, living in a home that utilizes fuel cells, rainwater capture and other green technology. In addition, his family has also donated $15 million to help fight the Ebola epidemic.
8. Mario Draghi
Mario Draghi’s nickname of “Super Mario” is no laughing matter when you consider he’s in charge of not one, not two, but eighteen countries financial matters. Draghi is the president of the European Central Bank, which is obviously no small task.
In fact, Fortune magazine even mentions that he likely has one of the toughest and most significant jobs in the world, and this is one reason they voted him as the 2nd Greatest Leader in the World.
Prior to his position at the Central Bank, Draghi was also governor of the Bank of Italy and previously worked at Goldman Sachs as well, giving him experience in both the political and corporate sectors of finance.
7. Bill Gates
Many of the people who follow on the list are heads of government or political figures, which should come as no surprise. The fact that Bill Gates ranks as high as some of them, well, that’s no small feat. Especially since he’s pretty much completely self-made, both in terms of power and money.
Gates, as everyone in the world already knows, heads Microsoft, and happens to be the richest person in the world (again). He’s held the spot on the famous Forbes list for the last 16 out of 21 years. But not only is he wealthy beyond belief; he and his wife also run The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation dedicated to charitable giving and causes. And so far, Gates has donated $29.5 billion to the foundation, which in turn, is making the world around us a better place. Not a shabby way to use all that power, or money.
6. Janet Yellen
Having control of a lot of money can often do a lot to make someone more powerful. And in the case of Janet Yellen, the first woman to head the Federal Reserve of the United States, that’s a whole lot of money.
With $4.5 trillion in assets, the Fed is considered one of the most influential central banks in the world, and Yellen is the one in charge of all that. What does Yellen intend to do with this power? Well, she claims she wants to “repair the American dream.”
Yellen is taking a look at income inequality in the US, and says the disparity goes against the values of the American people. Will the sixth most powerful person in the world manage to have an effect on income inequality in America? Time will tell.
5. Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel cemented her spot as the most powerful woman in the world as German chancellor. She’s the first female in history to hold that position, as well as the longest-serving EU head of state elected to office. Both feats are impressive in and of themselves, but Merkel is making sure she uses her power to make a difference in the world around her.
Unlike others who came before her, she’s not avoiding military involvement in world events. In fact, Merkel has sent German arms to Kurdish fighters in the war against ISIS, and she’s also been involved with the Ukraine in helping against Russian threats.
4. Pope Francis
Pope Francis is a famously revolutionary leader of the Catholic church. At one time, the pope was considered one of the most powerful people in the world, if not the most powerful.
A lot has changed over the centuries, but one reason why Pope Francis in particular is catching the world’s attention now is that he’s trying to bring some of that change to the church itself. And considering he’s the spiritual leader to 1.2 billion people in the world, that brings a lot of power in and of itself.
His message, which has been radically different to those of many popes who came before him, is something even non-Catholics are finding themselves getting behind. Pope Francis not only advocates for more compassion and help for the poor; he also pushes for the church to soften their stances on issues such as gay marriage, contraceptives, and even abortion.
3. Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping is being called the most powerful Chinese ruler since Mao Zedong. Considering he’s the president of the world’s largest economy, it should come as no surprise that he’s easily one of the most powerful people in the world. Jinping is expected to lead China into the next decade; he isn’t ceding his place on the world’s most powerful list any time soon.
Jinping is known as a “princeling” in China, a term that means he owes at least some of his political success to his family connections. Jinping is the son of one of the Community’s Party’s founding fathers, Xi Zhongxun. His wife, Peng Liyuan, was once better known than her husband until he became leader of the Community Party. Liyuan is a folk singer and actress who regularly appears on the most-watched TV program in China.
2. Barack Obama
The President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, may not be loved by everyone, but as the leader of a nation the size of the US, he does hold a lot of power in his hand.
Sure, there are checks and balances to make sure he doesn’t have too much power or abuses that power (though some would argue he does that anyway, depending on who you ask). During Obama’s second term in office, he’s dealt with issues like the Ebola breakout, ISIS, the Ferguson, Missouri riots and more.
Though he holds a lot of power over the United States, overall, he appears cautious to use it… Which is why he’s only delegated to the number two spot on the list, not number one.
1. Vladimir Putin
Forbes got some flack last year for naming Putin as the most powerful person in the world last year, but it didn’t stop them from doing the same this year. And well, they have a point.
Considering all that has happened with Russia and the Ukraine, and the $70 billion gas pipeline deal with China, it really looks like Russia (and its leader) is holding a lot of power on a world scale both logistically and financially.
Putin seems completely unconcerned with world opinion, and simply does whatever the heck he wants. As the leader of the biggest country in the world, he’s both incredibly powerful, and extremely frightening when he wields that power irresponsibly.
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