The World's Most Powerful People
What do the president of the United States, the Pope and the founder of Facebook all have in common? They’re all featured on Forbes’ 2012 ranking of the World’s Most Powerful People—an annual look at the heads of state, financiers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs who truly run the world.
To compile the list, we considered hundreds of candidates from various walks of life all around the globe, and measured their power along four dimensions. First, we asked whether the candidate has power over lots of people. Pope Benedict XVI, ranked #5 on our list, is the spiritual leader of more than a billion Catholics, or about 1/6th of the world’s population. Michael Duke (#17), CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, employs two million people.
Next we assessed the financial resources controlled by each person. Are they relatively large compared to their peers? For heads of state we used GDP, while for CEOs, we looked at measures like their company’s assets and revenues. When candidates have a high personal net worth –like the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim Helu (#11)– we also took that into consideration. In certain instances, like Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, we considered other valuable resources at the candidate’s disposal –like 20% of the world’s known oil reserves.
Then we determined if the candidate is powerful in multiple spheres. There are only 71 slots on our list – one for every 100 million people on the planet – so being powerful in just one area is often not enough. Our picks project their influence in myriad ways: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (#16) has power because he’s a politician, because he’s a billionaire, because he’s a media magnate, and because he’s a major philanthropist.
Lastly, we made sure that the candidates actively used their power. Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin (#3) scored points because he so frequently shows his strength — like when he jails protestors.
To calculate the final rankings, ten senior Forbes editors ranked all of our candidates in each of these four dimensions of power, and those individual rankings were averaged into a composite score.
Any ranking of the world’s most powerful people is going to be subjective, so we don’t pretend ours is definitive. It’s meant to be the beginning of a conversation, not the final word. So tell us what you think: Is ex-president Bill Clinton (#50) really more powerful than the current Prime Minister of Russia (#61)? Does someone like the chief of the Internal Federation of Association Football (#69) belong on the list at all? Who did we miss? What did we get wrong? Join the conversation by commenting below.