It is obvious that there are certain qualities that make a leader great; a fact also revealed by taking a closer look at the Fortune ranking. Without a doubt, the commitment and enthusiasm with which the people on the list pursue their goals are the two most important characteristics. Pope Francis has a combination of other decisive qualities: The courage to change things and to break with conventions, and a healthy portion of common sense and down-to-earthness helped him to the top of the Fortune ranking.
A certain degree of tenacity and well-developed persuasive powers are also not to be underestimated. Bill Clinton (in 5th place), Kathy Giusti (CEO, Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, no. 19) or George Kennedy (head coach of the Johns Hopkins University swimming team, no. 36), for example, share the outstanding strength of being able to motivate others to collaborate, to take responsibility and to show more commitment.
That a great leader is nothing without a team that is as committed and loyal as they are, is a realization shared by Joe Dunford (current commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, no. 7) and Bono (no. 8): “Real leadership is when everyone else feels in charge.” All of the business world personalities honored this year as great leaders have a progressive leadership style in common. Geoffrey Canada (CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone, no. 12), for instance, sees success as a phenomenon that drives itself, and Howard Schultz (CEO, Starbucks, no. 29) recognized the value of socially fair working conditions and careful use of natural resources before many other company heads did.
However, particularly impressive are the background stories of those who, in the fight for what they believe is right, do not shy away from publicly addressing difficult issues, and from accepting the personal consequences of such action: Aung San Suu Kyi (no. 6) was placed under house arrest for a total of 15 years as punishment for her commitment to the nonviolent democratization of her home country Myanmar. And 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai (no. 34) continues to fight for the right of Pakistani women to education despite the fact that she was dreadfully injured when she was shot by the Taliban on her way to school at the age of 11.
Without a doubt: The success stories and background histories of each and every one of the top 50 leaders are all inspiring in their own different way. However, they all seem to have shared two things right from the outset: A vision, and a passion for it.