13 Business Leaders Who Changed the World

Just like empires, companies can come and go over time. However, some continue to exist for centuries, and the secret to this is successful leadership.

Great leaders can motivate employees, help others see and believe in a constructive vision, and lead to innovation. Having a great leader is something that all investors, consumers, and employees want. Here is a list of the 13 most influential business leaders who are changing the world.

Tim Cook

Cook is the CEO of the most valuable company in the world, Apple. He took over Apple after the company’s founder, Steve Jobs, succumbed to cancer in 2011. Cook has helped navigate Apple through the transition since Jobs’ death, as well as developing new product lines and opening Apple Stores in China. He also waged a very public battle against the FBI and their demand that Apple creates a “secret loophole” for users’ iPhones.

Sheryl Sandberg

Sandberg has been Facebook’s COO since 2008. A nonprofit organization, Lean In, is named after her best-selling book. She has been an influential advocate for women in the business world. She made the successful transition from government work at the Treasury to the tech industry at Google and Facebook.

Bob Iger

Iger is the CEO of the Disney Corporation. He oversaw the acquisitions of major companies such as Marvel, Pixar, and, most recently, Lucas Films. His leadership also led to the expansion of Disney’s theme parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Reid Hastings

Hastings is the co-founder and CEO of Netflix. What originally started as a lag-free, unlimited-dates subscription service soon transitioned into online streaming, which shook the very foundation of digital entertainment. In addition, Hastings has consistently used his position of influence to promote change and reform within the California State Board of Education and through charter schools.

Mary Barra

Barra is the chairman and CEO of General Motors Company. Before that in 2014, she was GM’s executive vice president of global product development, purchasing, and supply chain. It is currently competing for a place in the electric car market. In 2016, it released the Chevrolet Bolt EV with a battery that outbids Tesla. In late 2017, Barra was elected to the Disney board and is highly regarded by Robert Iger.

Huauteng “Pony” Ma

Also known as Pony Ma, he is the founder and president of Tencent, Inc. Tencent is one of the largest Internet companies in China. He has twice been named to Time’s Most Influential People list (2007 and 2014). Ma is known for his secretive lifestyle but wields considerable power in both domestic and foreign companies.

Reshma Saujani

Saujani is the founder of Girls Who Code, she promotes technology education (specifically coding) to girls. She is an American lawyer and politician. Her company, Girls Who Code, has camps set up in 42 states with over 10,000 girls participating.

Jack Ma

Ma was the first mainland Chinese entrepreneur to appear on the cover of Forbes magazine. He is also the founder of Alibaba Group, a group of Internet companies. Before being accepted into the Hangzhou Teachers College, Ma had been rejected from the university three times. After graduating, he applied for 30 jobs and was rejected for all of them. He first learned about the Internet during a short trip to the US, and when he returned home, he created a small website about China and Chinese products. This was his first step toward creating a company that would hold the record for the largest IPO in history.

Jan Kum

Kum was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, but moved to the United States when he was 16 years old. He soon discovered his passion for programming and enrolled at San Jose State University. After a brief stint at SJSU and working as a security tester at Yahoo, Koum started WhatsApp. WhatsApp quickly became one of the fastest downloaded apps on the App Store and one of the most used apps internationally. Koum sold WhatsApp to Facebook in 2014 for approximately $19.3 billion.

Bill Gates

Gates founded Microsoft, the world’s largest computer software company, and every year he consistently tops the list of the world’s richest people. Over the years, Gates slowly transitioned away from Microsoft and became a philanthropist. His foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, works to provide clean water and sanitation (among other things) to third-world countries. Like Warren Buffett, Gates has also pledged to leave the vast majority of his wealth to charity.

Elon Musk

Musk was born in South Africa and is a businessman, inventor, and investor. Musk is best known for founding PayPal and SpaceX and his involvement in Tesla Motors. His vision and passion for pushing the boundaries of technology and user integration have led to increased exposure to solar energy, high-speed transportation, and artificial intelligence.

Warren Buffett

Buffett is one of the most successful investors in the world. Some people call him the “Wizard of Omaha” (his birthplace is Omaha, Nebraska) and he is consistently ranked as one of the richest people in the world. He also promised to give away nearly 99% of his accumulated wealth to charitable causes after his death.

Jeff Weiner

Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn. Although LinkedIn was founded in 2002, it was under Weiner’s leadership that LinkedIn completed its IPO and became one of the most used social media platforms in the world. Weiner is also extremely active in many non-profit organizations.

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