Top 100 Leaders of All Time

September 20, 2022
The Most Influential People of

A program to engage people of all ages in a study of leadership and legacy in history

Dr. Cathy Gorn

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”—Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, Paris, France, April 23, 1910.

This program is sponsored by Kenneth E. Behring and is inspired by his journey from poverty to successful businessman to his leadership as one of the top 50 philanthropists in the world. Mr. Behring’s story is one of a journey on the road to purpose and leadership by giving back and inspiring the next generation to follow in his footsteps. Mr. Behring’s story inspires and teaches us about courage, determination, personal strength and the meaning of leadership. Stories like his show us that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Indeed, the past is about real people facing very real challenges.

National History Day (NHD) challenges students and adults alike to identify men and women who have taken leadership positions and left a significant legacy. These men and women, like Theodore Roosevelt said, entered the arena, strode valiantly, and worked toward what they believed were worthy causes. NHD’s 100 Leaders in World History is a resource designed to help people think about the ways in which leaders impact their societies. The program includes a gallery of 100 significant leaders in world history, 100 days in which the public can vote on the leaders by rating them on five dimensions of leadership, and a set of classroom lessons to help educators engage young people in a study of leadership and legacy in history.

Why Significant Leaders? Why not Great Leaders?

Our world is full of individuals who have risen to the occasions presented before them to provide guidance and direction to inspire others to follow. By uncovering the past, we find heroes and role models and are motivated to do as those who came before them — to become involved, to participate, to take a stand for what we believe in and to take action to improve their communities, country and even the world.

Studying leaders in history exposes us to what happens when leadership goes awry and allows us to examine the consequences that might start locally but reverberate globally. This is why we chose to refer to these leaders as significant, rather than great. Great leaders have a positive connotation to them. By focusing on significant leaders, we can consider the full spectrum of leadership, with all of its positive and negative implications. This gives us a more nuanced view.

Choosing 100 Leaders

Our first task was to compile a list of 100 leaders in world history. This was no easy task. Should the list be geographically, culturally, socially or ethnically and racially diverse? Should it have a balanced representation of women and men? Should the list include leaders who are less well known and whose impact was felt locally more so than globally? To help us compile the list we invited three historians, seven teachers, and four students to join us in a day-long debate about leaders across time and space. Panelists and award-winning Patricia Behring History Teachers from around the world sent in nominations, which were considered in a lively debate.

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Top 100 Most Downloaded Songs Of All Time
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Top 100 greatest military leaders of all times.IMO.
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Top 100 Songs of All-Time
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