Last Updated on December 5, 2022
In this article, let’s go over who are some great leaders.
What this post aims to achieve is to help you understand what a great leader is and who are some great leaders. This way, you’ll know a great leader when you encounter one and they can be a source of motivation.
Who are some great leaders and what makes them great?
Legendary names like Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi are some great leaders in the world. There’s also Winston Churchill, MLK or Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela.
Some of these leaders led their country in peace and the others helped their fellowmen win the war. Regardless of their style, they’re great leaders because they’re effective. They motivate other people to be the best version of themselves.
Here are more characteristics that define great leaders:
- Bravery – They fight for what they believe in. And they do it even if the odds aren’t in their favor.
- Self-awareness – They have an unbiased understanding of their behavior, strengths, and weaknesses. Because they know who they are, they’re more effective.
- Integrity – They always do the right thing. Even when there’s nobody to impress, they choose right over wrong.
- Patience – They wait for the best outcomes. They know there are things you can’t rush.
- Gratefulness – They’re appreciative and thankful. Because they don’t take anything for granted, they make great leaders.
Who are some great leaders in the 21st century?
Another defining trait in great leaders is their respect towards other people. They ease tensions, resolve conflict, create trust, and more.
Here are some great leaders — men and women who embodied exemplary 21st century leadership:
1. Elon Musk
PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX are three of the companies he launched. And there are more!
His brand of leadership shines through because he’s a game-changer with an entrepreneurial mindset. He’s not afraid to be different and shoot for extravagant goals. He’s also committed to giving everybody a better quality of life.
2. Muhammad Yunnus
He’s a Nobel Peace Prize winner who made a reputable name for himself as an educator and banker. The micro-finance and micro-credit space are his.
He emerged successful because he’s unafraid to present what’s on his mind — even if he’s the only one who thinks the way he did. When financial institutions viewed some people as high-risk individuals for credit, he proved them wrong.
3. Howard Schultz
Billions of coffee lovers worldwide praise this innovative and resilient founder of Starbucks. With him in the driver’s seat, Starbucks became the world’s largest coffeehouse. He went from one coffee store to a coffee empire with stores in over 20,000 locations.
He makes a great leader because he’s passionate about everything he involves himself with. His unwavering focus on customer experience is also impressive.
4. Jeff Bezos
Amazon became a giant because of his exemplary leadership — task-oriented and transformational leadership. His long-term goal aligns with what the public wants and needs.
And he’s willing to always invest in more business ventures. When he bought The Washington Post, rumor has it he’s about to disrupt American politics.
5. Emmanuel Macron
When he ran for office and aimed for the presidency in 2017, almost everybody in France and many people around the world saw an ambitious man. It was his first time to run for elective office and he was an independent candidate. He was also up against a tried and tested member of the nationalist party.
However unfavorable his odds seemed, he ran for president anyway. Because he was bold and passionate, nothing stopped him from shooting for what he wanted — and soon got. He was also technocratic and had an admirable political dexterity.
6. Steve Jobs
He was focused to a fault. Some even considered him nuts back in his days. When he envisioned something, he would do whatever it takes to make it happen.
When he was fired from Apple, a company he started and built from the ground, he slowed down a bit. However, that didn’t get in the way of his commitment to innovation and creativity. Even if he’s the only one who had an unobstructed view of his vision, he committed to it.
7. Marc Edwards
At Virginia Tech, he’s a professor of engineering. He’s the man behind the discovery of government failures.
He shows one-of-a-kind leadership because he believes in his ability and other “small town” people’s abilities to contribute to a cause. He insists that people shouldn’t “sit and watch” as the world crumbles into pieces. Instead, everybody shouldn’t feel powerless and should bring the help they can offer during public crises.
8. Mark Zuckerberg
Other than the genius behind Facebook, he’s famous for embodying a transformational leader. He has a clear vision of what he wants to do and he motivates his team to always be their best.
What makes him so effective is his fiery determination in understanding people. He acknowledges and values everybody’s ideas regardless of experience and age.
9. Scott Harrison
In 2004, he left his luxurious life behind and founded charity: water, a non-profit group that brings clean and safe drinking water to residents of developing countries. He makes a great leader because he finds happiness in helping the less fortunate people. He’s also an advocate of radical transparency and encourages others to always be transparent.
He designed a model that 100% of donations went to his charitable cause. And he pulled it off with the help of his peers in New York and social media.
10. Bill Marriott
His excellent people skills are what make him a great leader. He knows what makes his employees tick. And he carefully minds this information.
He spearheaded Marriott International, the hospitality brand his father launched in the late 1920s and helped it reach new peaks. He’s a great leader because he believes in people. He believes if people are treated well, these people will also perform well, too.
Related: What Makes Someone Inspiring?
11. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez
She’s a millennial who made heads turn when she entered American politics. She’s not afraid to express her opinions even if it means going against “big” politicians like Donald Trump.
Unlike “the old guards” in government, she documented her journey and was always fearless about using social media. She also used leadership styles that paved the way for fresh perspectives and risk-taking.
12. Jacinda Ardern
She encouraged the people of New Zealand to keep things together during an earthquake, Covid-19, and other challenging events. According to the experts who analyzed her leadership style, she’s effective because she focuses on solidarity.
Another reason she’s a force to be reckoned with? She has a profound love and understanding for people. She’s kind, empathic, and authentic.
13. Angela Merkel
She’s the first woman to be elected chancellor of Germany. From then on, she earned her way to become one of the most powerful women in the world.
She knows that it’s a leader’s responsibility to make tough decisions. For that, she’s also referred to as “The Decider” and Europe’s de facto leader. What makes her so great is her fierceness for always honoring her word and getting things done.
14. Tsai Ing-Wen
What makes her a great leader is her ability to always strive to be first. In 2012, when she ran for Taiwan’s presidency and won, she stirred things up.
For the first time back then, Taiwan bowed their heads to the first female president. Back then, she was also an unmarried president — also a first for the nation.
In 2020, she won reelection by 57% of the votes. From the moment she took office, she had straightforward intentions to improve life for her fellowmen. And this is despite creating tensions in between.
15. Sheryl Sandberg
She’s the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of Facebook from 2008 onwards. She’s also an esteemed American business executive, philanthropist, and billionaire.
Like Mark Zuckerberg, she’s also a transformational leader. And she’s great at handling people, too. Because she takes the time to listen to truthful feedback (from her employees), she can function better and create a more harmonious workplace.
16. Indira Nooyi
She’s PepsiCo, Inc.’s CEO (Chief Executive Officer) with an effective and well-rounded leadership style. She got far in life because of her admirable organizational skills. People also credit her honesty and willingness to work with others.
Plus, she always has a plan. All throughout her career, she stayed true to her version of the 5 Cs of Leadership. These 5 Cs are Confidence, Courage, Competency, Compass, and Communication Skills.
17. Kamala Harris
She’s an American attorney and politician who became the first female US vice president. After years of public service, she earned her spot as the highest-ranking female officer in US history. She’s also the first African-American and the first Asian-American vice president.
What makes her a great leader is her purpose-driven life and goal-oriented governance. Even as a child at the age of 7, she led a protest when she saw problems. And all throughout her life, she showed fearlessness about challenging the laws she didn’t agree with.
18. Erna Solberg
As Norway’s Prime Minister since 2013 and the Conservative Party’s leader since 2004, she leads by example. She’s been in politics for years and over time, she served as the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development.
She doesn’t take shortcuts, and her years of experience strengthens her position in government. She believes nothing could substitute that.
19. Wendy Kopp
She’s the co-founder and CEO of Teach for All, a network of independent groups that help children reach their full potential.
Her vision of a greater good is why she’s a great leader. She knew that “making the world a better place” was too vague a statement. However, she persisted in figuring out a way to erase the vagueness, and truly make the world a better place.
20. Mel Robbins
She’s the author of The 5-Second Rule, a bestseller that helps people transform their lives for the better. As she champions a person’s ability to respond smartly, she’s brimming with inspirational and insightful speeches.
What makes her a great leader is her commitment to putting value in everything. For her, nothing and nobody should feel useless. She admits she’s only strong enough to face adversities in life because of her weaknesses and failures.
Related: Inspirational Stories of Great Personalities
Who are some great leaders for you?
Great leaders are great because they’re also hardworking. Next to their bravery, self-awareness, integrity, patience, and gratefulness, their relentless will to work hard makes them laudable.
By that definition, who are some great leaders for you?
Who you consider great leaders is up to you. They could be among the men and women in this article. Or they could be great leaders only you have heard of.
Related: 5 Short Stories on Leadership
She freelances as a web content writer from home. And she lives with the prettiest dog in the world.