Fortune Magazine names the world’s 50 best leaders


Pope Francis celebrates a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (Andrew Medichini/Associated Press)

Fortune Magazine published a ranking of the world's 50 best leaders late last week, pulling together a global list that includes heads of state, nonprofit leaders, sports luminaries and -- this being Fortune -- plenty of CEOs. Rounding out the top five are Pope Francis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally, investor Warren Buffett and former president Bill Clinton, who also answered a few questions about how he thinks about leadership for the magazine.

Such a list is, by definition, subjective. (The magazine says it limited its list to currently active leaders; it asked leadership experts and Fortune reporters to suggest candidates and then vetted the ideas with people in each industry.) Any ranking of something as abstract as leadership -- particularly one that crosses industries -- is hardly something that can be judged by hard numbers or strict data, and is bound to generate plenty of debate. Indeed, that's probably the point: Is Alan Mulally a better leader than Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi? Should DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman rank above Apple's Tim Cook? Why is Bono listed ahead of the Dalai Lama?

But whatever inherent arbitrariness may exist in such lists, they can also be quite revealing. In this case, what's most telling is not just whether certain individuals were missing -- for example, it didn't go unnoticed that President Obama didn't make the list -- but that there was not a single currently active U.S. politician among the top 50. Bill Clinton is there, as is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Hillary Clinton shows up on a list of "9 power couples" but not on the main list. But no other current U.S. political leader -- or hopeful -- is among the top 50.

It's hardly surprising that no one from the 113th Congress -- which made Fortune's "Leadership Infamy Awards" -- is on the list. And the absence of political types may say something about the source -- Fortune is, of course, a business magazine. But the utter lack of a single current political leader -- not even any up-and-coming governors or mayors were included -- is a disheartening sign for our future.

What do you think? Who should or shouldn't have been on the list? Leave your thoughts below in the comments.

Read also:

Pope Francis on what leadership should look like in the Catholic Church

These are America's best-rated CEOs, according to their employees

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.
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