Fortune Magazine Picks Another Round of 50 Great Leaders

Fortune Magazine likes to publish lists of people and things. On April 1st (and isn’t that appropriate), the business magazine will publish its second annual list of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders,” which may be more interesting because of who isn’t on it, rather than who is. The 50 greatest leaders were selected from nominations received from the people who were on last year’s a list, along with a group of 28 “thought leaders” and the staff of the magazine.

Here’s the list of the nominators. See how many of them you know (no peeking on Wikipedia):

  1. Mildred Apenyo
  2. Dominic Barton
  3. Kathy Bloomgarden
  4. Ian Bremmer
  5. Kenneth Chenault
  6. Caitlin Colegrove
  7. Sen. Christopher Coons
  8. Rohitesh Dhawan
  9. Susan Desmond-Hellmann
  10. Charlotte Florance
  11. Laurie Garrett
  12. Ilene Gordon
  13. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg
  14. Richard Haass
  15. Rosabeth Moss Kanter
  16. Thomas Kolditz
  17. Anand Mahindra
  18. Rita Gunther McGrath
  19. Denise Morrison
  20. Alan Mulally
  21. Joseph Nye
  22. Jeffrey Pfeffer
  23. Zhang Ruimin
  24. Carol Sawdye
  25. Witney Schneidman
  26. Peter Thiel
  27. Paul Volcker

I knew – and I mean I really know of – four : Richard Haass, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Alan Mulally, and Paul Volcker. I recognised some of the other names, but I really couldn’t place them.

The actual list of the 50 greatest leaders for 2015 is only a little less enigmatic. Out of the 50 leading leaders, I really knew only 15. See if your list differs greatly from mine, because I am betting it won’t. Here’s a link to the entire list. See how many you can recognise without looking and let me know if you have beaten my score.

  1. Tim Cook
  2. Xi Jinping
  3. Pope Francis
  4. Taylor Swift
  5. John Roberts
  6. Howard Schultz
  7. Bill and Melinda Gates
  8. Elon Musk
  9. Mark Zuckerberg
  10. Jeff Bezos
  11. LeBron James
  12. Jamie Dimon
  13. Jimmy Fallon
  14. Narendra Modi

The full list of 50 great leaders features some interesting anomalies:

  1. Only one U.S. politician made the list (not surprising considering the nadir to which American politics has fallen): Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
  2. Fifteen out of 53 are women (there are three pairs of greatest leaders who got bundled together. Apparently Fortune can’t count all that well. )
  3. Just three – Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos – are on the list representing the Big Tech sector. Bill and Melinda Gates – a twofer everywhere they go, apparently – are on the list, but only as the scions of their Foundation. Elon Musk, who now has only a tangential relationship to the computer world, made the list. Conspicuously missing from the list: Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, or anyone else from Google for that matter.
  4. Only two “world leaders” made the list: China’s president Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Conspicuously missing: U. S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Putin should demand a recount. We may not like him but he is an obvious choice for a great leader list, even if you don’t like the direction he is leading Russia into.)
  5. Two American basketball players, LeBron James and Yao Ming, made the list but no baseball, football or hockey stars, reinforcing our notion that basketball players are, well, smarter than other athletes. (No jockeys made the list either, and they are usually smarter than other athletes.)
  6. Two other people with basketball connections also made the list, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Princeton University women’s basketball coach Courtney Banghart (and, well, isn’t that an incredibly appropriate name for a female basketball coach?)
  7. Taylor Swift – Taylor Swift? – is on the list as the sole representative of the music industry. Bono is not on the list. Nor is Bob Dylan, but I guess 50 years of industry leadership doesn’t count.
  8. Pope Francis is the only religious leader on the list. That makes sense. Can you name another religious leader from any denomination not your own?
  9. Only three of the great leaders – Howard Schultz, Mark Zuckerberg and Adam Silver – appear to be Jewish, which leaves the Jewish people strangely underrepresented on the list. At the very least, Benjamin Netanyahu should have gotten an honorable mention. You may not like his policies but there is no question that he is a very skillful leader on a very hot hot seat.

Lists like these don’t really mean anything. Just because you make onto the greatest leaders list doesn’t mean that you are really a great leader, and most of these leaders would agree, because leadership today is invested in the team not in individuals, a product of collective group think in the corporate arena. Just because you didn’t make the list, that doesn’t mean you are not a great leader, because truly great leaders don’t stand head and shoulders above the crowd. On the contrary, they often stand behind their followers pushing them toward greatness, because true greatness consists of helping other people to become better, if not great.

Share you thoughts about this list in our comments section. Who do you think should be booted off this list? Who do you think deserves to be voted on? We’ll publish the results, if there are any.