The World’s Most Powerful People

“I love power. But it is as an artist that I love it. I love it as a musician loves his violin, to draw out its sounds and chords and harmonies.” –Napoleon Bonaparte

Power has been called many things. The ultimate aphrodisiac. An absolute corrupter. A mistress. A violin. But its true nature remains elusive. After all, a head of state wields a very different sort of power than a religious figure. Can one really compare the influence of a journalist to that of a terrorist? And is power unexercised power at all?

In compiling our first ranking of the World’s Most Powerful People we wrestled with these questions–and many more–before deciding to define power in four dimensions. First, we asked, does the person have influence over lots of other people? Pope Benedict XVI, ranked 11th on our list, is the spiritual leader of more than a billion souls, or about one-sixth of the world’s population, while Wal-Mart ( WMT news people ) CEO Mike Duke (No. 8) is the largest private-sector employer in the United States.

Then we assessed the financial resources controlled by these individuals. Are they relatively large compared with their peers? For heads of state we used GDP, while for CEOs, we looked at a composite ranking of market capitalization, profits, assets and revenues as reflected on our annual ranking of the World’s 2000 Largest Companies. In certain instances, like New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller (No. 51), we judged the resources at his disposal compared with others in the industry. For billionaires, like Bill Gates (No. 10), net worth was also a factor.

Next we determined if they are powerful in multiple spheres. There are only 67 slots on our list–one for every 100 million people on the planet–so being powerful in just one area is not enough to guarantee a spot. Our picks project their influence in myriad ways. Take Italy’s colorful prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi (No. 12) who is a politician, a media monopolist and owner of soccer powerhouse A.C. Milan, or Oprah Winfrey (No. 45) who can manufacture a best-seller and an American President.

Lastly, we insisted that our choices actively use their power. Ingvar Kamprad, the 83-year-old entrepreneur behind Ikea and the richest man in Europe, was an early candidate for this list, but was excluded because he doesn’t exercise his power. On the other hand, Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin (No. 3) scored points because he likes to throw his weight around by jailing oligarchs, invading neighboring countries and periodically cutting off Western Europe’s supply of natural gas.

To calculate the final rankings, five Forbes senior editors ranked all of our candidates in each of these four dimensions of power. Those individual rankings were averaged into a composite score, which determined who placed above (or below) whom.

U.S. President Barack Obama emerged, unanimously, as the world’s most powerful person, and by a wide margin. But there were a number of surprises. Former President George W. Bush didn’t come close to making the final cut, while his predecessor in the Oval Office, Bill Clinton, ranks 31st, ahead of a number of sitting heads of government. Apple‘s ( AAPL news people ) Steve Jobs easily made the list, while Arnold Schwarzenegger, the movie star governor of California (which alone has an economy larger than Canada’s) did not.

This ranking is intended to be the beginning of a conversation, not the final word. Is the Dalai Lama (No. 39) really more powerful than the president of France (No. 56)? Do despicable criminals like billionaire Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán (No. 41) belong on this list at all? Who did we overlook? What did we get wrong? Join the conversation by commenting now.

  1. Barack Obama
  2. Hu Jintao
  3. Vladimir Putin
  4. Ben S. Bernanke
  5. Sergey Brin and Larry Page
  6. Carlos Slim Helu
  7. Rupert Murdoch
  8. Michael T. Duke
  9. Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud
  10. William Gates III
  11. Pope Benedict XVI
  12. Silvio Berlusconi
  13. Jeffrey R. Immelt
  14. Warren Buffett
  15. Angela Merkel
  16. Laurence D. Fink
  17. Hillary Clinton
  18. Lloyd C. Blankfein
  19. Li Changchun
  20. Michael Bloomberg
  21. Timothy Geithner
  22. Rex W. Tillerson
  23. Li Ka-shing
  24. Kim Jong Il
  25. Jean-Claude Trichet
  26. Masaaki Shirakawa
  27. Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed al Nahyan
  28. Akio Toyoda
  29. Gordon Brown
  30. James S. Dimon
  31. Bill Clinton
  32. William H. Gross
  33. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
  34. Lou Jiwei
  35. Yukio Hatoyama
  36. Manmohan Singh
  37. Osama bin Laden
  38. Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani
  39. Tenzin Gyatso
  40. Ali Hoseini-Khamenei
  41. Joaquin Guzman
  42. Igor Sechin
  43. Dmitry Medvedev
  44. Mukesh Ambani
  45. Oprah Winfrey
  46. Benjamin Netanyahu
  47. Dominique Strauss-Kahn
  48. Zhou Xiaochuan
  49. John Roberts Jr.
  50. Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar
  51. William Keller
  52. Bernard Arnault
  53. Joseph S. Blatter
  54. Wadah Khanfar
  55. Lakshmi Mittal
  56. Nicolas Sarkozy
  57. Steve Jobs
  58. Fujio Mitarai
  59. Ratan Tata
  60. Jacques Rogge
  61. Li Rongrong
  62. Blairo Maggi
  63. Robert B. Zoellick
  64. Antonio Guterres
  65. Mark John Thompson
  66. Klaus Schwab
  67. Hugo Chavez

#1 Barack Obama

President
United States of America
Age: 48

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
How powerful is he? Let’s count the ways: Presides over world’s largest, most innovative, most dynamic economy; commander-in-chief of planet’s richest, deadliest military; finger on button of nuclear arsenal containing more than 5,000 warheads; head-of-state of world’s sole superpower; his Democrats have majorities in both U.S. House and Senate; recently awarded Nobel Peace Prize, apparently for general awesomeness.

#2 Hu Jintao

President
People’s Republic of China
Age: 66

John Moore/Getty Images
Paramount political leader of more people than anyone else on the planet; 1.3 billion Chinese, some 70% in their prime working years of ages 15 to 64 powering world’s low-cost workshop, transforming nation. Biggest buyer of U.S. debt avoided Chinese meltdown during financial crisis with massive stimulus package to encourage domestic spending. “Coming-out party” at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games showcased young, modern, harmonious society; reality often quite different—few political, religious, press freedoms; brutal suppression of Tibet; refusal to acknowledge Taiwanese independence. Still, credible estimates have China poised to overtake U.S. as world’s largest economy in 25 years—although, crucially, not on a per-capita basis.

#3 Vladimir Putin

Prime Minister
Russia
Age: 57

ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images
Prime Minister might as well be known as Czar, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russians. Vastly more powerful than his handpicked head-of-state, President Dmitry Medvedev. Presides over one-ninth of Earth’s land area, vast energy and mineral resources. Former KGB officer unafraid to wield his power; invading Georgia, cutting off natural gas supplies to Ukraine or Western Europe (again). Declared nuclear power has veto on U.N.’s Security Council. The anti-Obama: “I’m deeply convinced that constant change is not for the better.”

#4 Ben S. Bernanke

Chairman
Federal Reserve
U.S.
Age: 55

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Former chairman of Princeton’s economics department and noted Great Depression scholar now guiding world’s largest economy through Great Recession; has overseen massive growth in Fed’s balance sheet, from less than $900 billion in liabilities in August 2008 to more than $2.1 trillion today. With federal funds rate now effectively 0%, the so-called Bernanke Doctrine calls for using monetary policy to stave off deflation. “The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press, that allows it to produce as many dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.”

#5 Sergey Brin and Larry Page

Founders
Google
U.S.
Age: 36

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
If knowledge is power, maybe information is too. Brainy duo met in Stanford computer science Ph.D. program, now trying to put all the world’s information at your fingertips. Known for collecting best and brightest young tech talent at Mountain View, Calif., “Googleplex”; employees encouraged to spend one day a week on personal projects; company often named “Best Place To Work” in America. Google guys’ combined net worth of $30.6 billion would place them third on the Forbes 400. Yet despite professed intentions to “do no evil,” Google is blamed in some quarters for decimating traditional publishing, journalism. Brin: “Some say Google is God, others say Google is Satan.”
You can read the rest information at: http://www.forbes.com

One thought on “The World’s Most Powerful People

  1. Pope Benedict XVI has the 11th ranking because of his brutal conversion practice in many third world countries as in India as a long traditional tactics of Popes. Some called it the terrorism to the diversity of indigenous cultures. He poured billions of Euros to convert people with money brainwashing them “Indigenous culture is evil”. Conversion has become illegal in India but he continues to do it by encouraging billions to be poured in and used in converting purposes. He must be prosecuted as a crime offender, the worst cultural terrorist. Indian Congress gets a lot of political benefits from these practices so it is supporting such illigal activities indirectly and making Indian culture to deteriorate. This should come in to attention of international eyes and media. and it has to be largely criticized and condemned.

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