Fortune’s six annual list of 50 of the “World’s Greatest Leaders” came out in their May 2019 issue and it’s a fascinating read, both for some noteworthy exclusions, some other choices that may come as a surprise and just for learning about some amazing people you may not have heard of before.
Fortune chose leaders, in government, business, or even sports, that showed courage to tackle issues head on where there was also great personal risk involved, whether it was career, fortune or esteem, and are inspiring others to do the same.
The first one on the list is Bill and Melinda Gates. More than just enormously wealthy, the couple are co-founders of the Gates Foundation which has donated an unfathomable $45.4 billion to what is considered some of the most successful international, private and public health partnerships. Initiatives include immunizing over 700 million children, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The second on the list is Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand. Ardern may be my new hero. Not only is she an inspiring female figure, giving birth in office and leading a nation, she is compassionate.
She showed true leadership with how she handled the shooting at the Kilbirnie Mosque in March. Fifty people were killed, making it the worst mass shooting in that country’s history.
Ardern wore a Muslim head scarf, a hijab, without show, in a profound statement of solidarity and respect for mourners, even opening her remarks in Arabic.
Some may recall Justin Trudeau’s displays while visiting India, dressing up in traditional Indian garb (though some say his family’s clothing was more costume than actually authentic) and posing for photos.
So what makes Ardern’s actions deeply moving and profound, and Trudeau just look like a clown? Some may ask if both weren’t just culture appropriation.
The difference is all in the execution and the intent. Ardern showed real humility, respect and sincerity, sharing in their grief and didn’t appear to just be putting on a show for the cameras.
Sincerity is something intangible. Comparing their actions, they may seem similar, but emotional undercurrents can not be faked.
There are many other fascinating people doing marvellous things on the list and it’s certainly worth the read, to hear about people doing good in the world instead of just about all the problems.
Africa’s wealthiest person, Aliko Dangote, estimated to be worth $16.4 billion, made the list at No. 11. Dangote is credited for making Nigeria self-sufficient in cement, agriculture, mining and petroleum.
Marilyn Bartlett, special products coordinator, is No. 13 for pushing for transparency from hospitals and doctors and negotiating better deals, possibly single-handedly saving the state’s health plan from bankruptcy.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the duke and duchess of Sussex, even made the list at No. 42, and not for naming their first born “Archie.” Fortune mentions their nearly unlimited audience and how the couple uses that status to promote “taboo” causes such as mental illness and women’s empowerment.
Claudia Dobles, first lady of Costa Rica, is No. 15. Fortune says she helped her husband win the 2018 election with a pledge to de-carbonize Costa Rica by 2050. She’ll back up that promise with her expertise as an architect and urban planner. Her first priority is replacing antiquated buses and trains with electric models.
It’s somewhat amusing to note that neither Canada’s prime minister or America’s president made the cut, though that isn’t really a shocker.