What makes an individual powerful? Is it the amount of wealth they have in their control and the sphere of influence they possess as a result? Or is power the amount of authority one has over a given population? It’s not an easy question to answer, but there are certain individuals whose actions have a sizeable effect on the world in which we live. Based on findings by Forbes magazine in December 2016, this list rounds up the leaders who can stop the world with a single command.
20. Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu has been governing Israel since 2009, and he is perhaps the central figure in his nation’s ongoing conflict with Palestine. Throughout his leadership, the Prime Minister has ordered controversial airstrikes against the Gaza Strip and declined peace talks. However, in the face of mounting pressure from the UN, Netanyahu’s hard-line stance could finally be slipping.
19. Jamie Dimon
Besides overseeing JPMorgan Chase – a bank that manages $2.5 trillion in assets – Jamie Dimon also has a strong role within the political spectrum. Since Donald Trump’s inauguration, the CEO has acted as an advisor to the President and his opinions will certainly have an impact on America’s future economic direction.
18. Ali Hosseini-Khamenei
Despite brokering a deal limiting his country’s nuclear arsenal in 2016, Ali Hosseini-Khamenei remains a fiercely independent international figure. Since he came to power in 1989, Iran’s Supreme Leader has maintained a strong stance against Western influence – even in the face of debilitating sanctions. In addition, his total control over Iran’s media and military gives him absolute power within his country.
17. Carlos Slim Helú
Although he lost an estimated $6.5 billion in 2016, Carlos Slim Helu maintains his spot as Mexico’s wealthiest man. In fact, his economic influence is so great that investors have calculated he owns 40 percent of Mexico’s Stock Exchange listings. With stakes in telecommunications and real estate, Helu is worth an estimated $61.7 billion.
16. Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
As the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud rules over an estimated 32.5 million people. But that’s not what makes this leader so powerful. Due to his country’s plentiful oil fields, Al Saud controls 18 percent of the world’s petroleum reserves – leaving the world’s momentum firmly in his hands.
15. Warren Buffet
With over 60 corporations inside his portfolio, Warren Buffett is one of America’s most influential investors. Moreover, he’s also one of his country’s most charitable figures having vowed to donate 99 percent of his wealth to good causes. So far, Buffett has given $28.5 billion away – a sizeable chunk of his remaining $74.3 billion fortune.
14. Jeff Bezos
His company Amazon changed the face of online retail and entrepreneur Jeff Bezos continues to innovate in both technology and commerce. And like fellow billionaire Elon Musk, Bezos is making great leaps in space travel too via his company Blue Origin. Meanwhile, his 2013 purchase of The Washington Post has given him a vital position within the media.
13. Theresa May
Following David Cameron’s shock resignation last year, Theresa May quickly picked up the reins as the U.K.’s Prime Minister. And in just under a year, the new leader’s authority has been keenly felt. Indeed – having successfully triggered Article 50 to leave the European Union – May has no doubt altered Britain’s cultural and economic landscape forever.
12. Li Keqiang
With the world’s second largest economy under his command, China’s Li Keqiang certainly has a lot hanging over his head. Since taking office in 2013, the Premier has brokered trade deals with Germany and has worked to improve relations with the United States too, making him a key player in his nation’s foreign affairs.
11. Mario Draghi
Throughout his presidency of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi has faced many challenges. The Greek financial crisis and Britain’s upcoming exit from the European Union have posed many urgent problems in particular. Nevertheless, Draghi has made impressive contributions to the European currency and recently set Euro interest rates at new lows.
10. Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg may be the youngest entrant on this list at just 32 years of age, but that certainly doesn’t make him any less powerful. Thanks to a 1.65 billion user base, Zuckerberg’s Facebook is the world’s most popular social media tool. And with WhatsApp now under his control too, the entrepreneur remains the undisputed king of internet communications.
9. Narendra Modi
He’s gained international criticism for his nationalist politics, but Narendra Modi is still a cherished figure in his native India. Indeed, the Prime Minister’s recent demonetization policy has resulted in a 69 percent approval rate among his populace. And so from a population of 1.3 billion, Modi can presumably see re-election as a dead cert.
8. Larry Page
After revolutionizing digital communications by co-founding Google in 1998, Larry Page has quietly become the world’s most powerful CEO. Page now heads Google’s parent company Alphabet, where he oversees quarterly profits close to $8 billion and has an estimated $40 billion wealth. Meanwhile, he continues to aid technological innovation through aviation company Zee Aero and biotech group Singularity University.
7. Bill Gates
Despite relinquishing control of Microsoft in 2014, Bill Gates is still a highly influential figure. And thanks to his estimated $86 billion wealth – which remains the world’s largest personal piggy bank – Gates continues to contribute towards many philanthropic causes. In particular, the businessman has promised to eliminate polio by 2019.
6. Janet Yellen
Undoubtedly the most powerful economist in the world, Janet Yellen has overseen the U.S. Federal Reserve System since 2014. And besides managing the world’s largest economy, Yellen also made history by becoming the first woman appointed to the post. However, her position may now be under fire as incumbent president Donald Trump has previously expressed interests in replacing her.
5. Pope Francis
Although Pope Francis doesn’t hold any political seat, the spiritual figure is a leader to countless more individuals than any President or Prime Minister. With 1.3 billion Catholics looking to him for guidance, Francis has used his platform to champion numerous causes – most notably climate change, abortion and the Syrian refugee crisis.
4. Xi Jinping
Since gaining power in 2012, China’s Xi Jinping has enforced tough policies at home and abroad. To wit, the General Secretary has placed harsh restrictions on civil disobedience while he continually asserts sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea. And with the world’s largest army at his disposal, Jinping certainly has might on his side.
3. Angela Merkel
She may be Germany’s chancellor, but – for many – Angela Merkel is synonymous with her role within the European Union. And thanks to her efforts combating financial crises and her acceptance of Syrian refugees, she has become an icon of liberal democracy too – especially in light of today’s growing populist movements.
2. Donald Trump
Whether you love or loathe Donald Trump, there’s no denying the impact this U.S. president has had on global affairs. Nevertheless, Trump’s reign is far from stable. And with the recent federal blocking of his controversial travel ban and his numerous conflicts of interest, this leader is seemingly facing a less than certain future.
1. Vladimir Putin
As Russia’s president since 2012, Vladimir Putin has seemingly exerted an influence beyond his office. Besides his involvement in the Syrian conflict, Putin has also been accused by U.S. intelligence services of tampering with the last presidential election. Whether or not these allegations are proved correct, they still demonstrate just how far-reaching this leader’s authority stretches.