The 20 Most Influential People in the World

Illustration of a variety of people of different ethnicities, professions and walks of life, standing together and smiling

Who have you looked up to that has played an integral role in your career? This person could be a superstar athlete, a politician who influenced society or an activist who has challenged the establishment one way or another.

In today’s world, it might seem like nobody is genuine anymore, and everything is corrupt. However, with a little bit of digging – at home or abroad – you can find people with remarkable achievements trying to better the planet.

Everyone needs a good old success story once in a while to elevate our spirits, particularly in this day and age.

We have compiled a list of 20 of the most influential people in the world. If you are curious about who they are, read on!

1. Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama, the first African-American First Lady in US history, is one of the most powerful and celebrated women today.

A lawyer by profession and the best-selling author of Becoming, she is not only a role model for women around the globe, but she has also proven how she can stand tall when faced with racial discrimination and stereotyping. 

She is a strong advocate of human rights and female empowerment and is primarily focused on encouraging young people to complete their education past high school through her Reach Higher initiative. 

2. Imran Khan 

The most famous cricketer of all time, and the captain of the Pakistan cricket team that won the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Imran Khan has proven to be a saviour for his home country. He is currently the Prime Minister of Pakistan and, in the past, has built a world-class cancer hospital in Lahore and a top-notch University in North-West Frontier Province. 

Imran Khan is not only a famous athlete but also a hope for the younger generation as they all work towards the dream of making a better Pakistan.

3. Mark Zuckerberg 

Mark Zuckerberg is the founder and CEO of Facebook, one of the most successful social media platforms in the world. It was his breakthrough idea that has changed the way people connect. Facebook has already surpassed one billion registered users, and it sits at approximately 2.5 billion monthly users. Instagram (owned by Facebook) is the sixth-ranked photo-sharing app and has one billion active monthly users.

One more slight tidbit of information: Zucker is one of the richest people in the world!

4. Zhang Kejian 

Zhang Kejian is the Director of the China National Space Administration. He has played a critical role in several successful orbital launches made by China in 2018. His Chang’ e-4 rover landed on the far side of the moon in 2019, and this was the first-ever touchdown by China in that lunar hemisphere. He has many other plans for China and is committed to making it an important player in this area.

5. Greta Thunberg 

Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist, gained significant international recognition in her quest to promote the crisis humanity is facing due to climate change. She is only 17 years old, but Thunberg has dared to criticise world leaders for their lack of action when addressing the climate crisis. 

She has already received numerous honours and awards, including the honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, inclusion in the list of Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women, youngest Time Person of the Year and two nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

6. Robert Mueller 

Robert Mueller is an American lawyer and governmental official. He served as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 2001 to 2013. He has also served as a Marine Corps officer during the Vietnam War and has received a Bronze Star for heroism and a Purple Heart. 

Mueller was appointed as special counsel overseeing an investigation into allegations of Russian interference during the Presidential election in 2016. His report, submitted in March 2019, caused quite a stir in the political realm in America. 

7. LeBron James 

LeBron James, an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, is considered to be one of the greatest basketball players in NBA history. His key achievements include three NBA championships, four NBA Most Valuable Player awards, three Finals Most Valuable Player Awards and two Olympic gold medals. He is loved and admired by millions of young people and has seen great success on the basketball court, in business, in Hollywood and media.

8. Nancy Pelosi 

Nancy Pelosi was appointed as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives in 2019. Pelosi was also the House Speaker from 2007 to 2011 and is the only woman in the history of the US to hold this position. She is also the highest-ranking woman elected official in US history. She is also second in the presidential line of succession, after the Vice President.

9. Xi Jinping 

Xi Jinping is the President of the People’s Republic of China since 2013. He is one of the most prominent figures in China and has received the title of leadership core from the Communist Party of China in 2016. President Xi is mostly known for getting a grip on the COVID-19 pandemic and getting into a landmark trade agreement with the US.

10. Spike Lee 

Spike Lee is an American actor, director, producer, screenwriter and professor. In his illustrious career, Lee has produced 35 films. Lee has been an influential voice in the war against racism, poverty, crime and other political issues. He has received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, a BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, two Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards and the Cannes Grand Prix. 

Several of his films have also been inducted into the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry.

11. Jacinda Ardern 

Jacinda Ardern is the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand and the Leader of the Labour Party. She is a social democrat with a progressive vision and has been praised for her leadership skills and her handling of major challenges, including the Christchurch mosque shooting and the COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand.

12. Pope Francis 

Pope Francis is the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City. He is the first Jesuit pope, and he is also the first Pope born outside Europe. He has garnered great respect for his kindness, humility, international vision, inclusiveness and commitment to interfaith dialogue.

13. Lady Gaga 

Lady Gaga, real name Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanatto, is a singer, songwriter, record producer, actress and businesswoman. Her five studio albums debuted atop the US Billboard 200, and her album, Born This Way, sold more than one million copies in one week. She was the first woman to win an Academy, Grammy, BAFA and Golden Globe within one year. Lady Gaga is also one of the highest-paid celebrities in the world.

14. Loujain al-Hathloul 

Loujain al-Hathloul is a women’s rights activist from Saudi Arabia. She was arrested for defying the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia and has also been arrested on the charge of attempts to destabilise the Saudi kingdom. In 2015, she appeared on the list of the Top Most 100 Powerful Arab Women and received the 2018 PEN America/Barbey Freedom to Write award.

15. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Party and came into the limelight when she won the primary election in 2018 after defeating long-time congressman Joe Crowley. This was seen as the biggest upset in the midterm election primaries. Alexandria is also the youngest woman to serve in the US Congress.

16. Benjamin Netanyahu 

Benjamin Netanyahu has been the Prime Minister of Israel since 2009, making him the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israeli history. He was also the head of state from 1996 to 1999. 

Despite being a controversial figure that has been under investigation for corruption, his leadership has impacted Israel’s growth significantly.

17. Crown Mohammed Bin Zayed 

Crown Mohammed Bin Zayed is the Crown Prince of the Emirates of Abu Dhabi. He is also the Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. MBS was named the most powerful Arab ruler by The New York Times and has also been called one of the most powerful men on Earth in 2020. He is also in the list of the 100 most influential people of 2019 by Time Magazine.

18. Donald Trump 

President Donald Trump has used a completely different approach as the leader of one of the most powerful economies in the world. In his first term in the White House, he has pushed for fairer trade agreements with China, Canada, Europe and Mexico and initiated peace efforts with North Korea. 

His controversial presidency has led to him being one of the most talked-about leaders in recent history.

19. Rami Malek 

Rami Malek is an American actor and producer He has received an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor. It’s worth noting that he was the first actor with Egyptian heritage to win the Academy Award for Best Actor and to garner such recognition.

20. The Bangtan Boys 

The Bangtan Boys (BTS) is a seven-member South Korean boy band that was formed in 2010. The group was the first to have an album sell a million copies in South Korea. By 2017, it penetrated the international music market. 

BTS was the first to receive a certification from the Recording Industry Association of America and was also the first Korean act to top the Billboard 200. They are also the fastest group since the Beatles to earn four number one albums in less than two years.

The group has sold more than 20 million albums on the Gaon Music Chart and is the best-selling music band in the history of South Korea. The group has received Top Social Artist award three years in a row and is also in the list of Time’s Next Generation Leaders.

Which of these entrants do you think has the best success stories? A girl from the Bronx who rose to political stardom or an Asian boy band that is as much of a juggernaut as Taylor Swift?

In this chaotic world, it can be difficult to find a bright spot in all the darkness. Many people may be too cynical to be influenced by somebody else’s success, contending that the world doesn’t make ’em like they used to. 

A lot of people may disagree with the politics and choices of some of these folks, but their success can be examples of either overcoming all odds or making a dent. Whatever their life story may be, they will go down in history for their influence on society.