Time and again the world has seen change. These changes have often come around as revolutions against oppression or the endeavour to increase an empire. Whichever the case may have been, the common factor across all change is the people.
Without the masses change is difficult because after all, the masses embody and live with the change. What leads people to a change is a person with a vision. A person strong enough to fall and heed to adversity. This is what true leaders are made of, time and again there have been leaders who have stood up and led the people to a more prosperous time.
Every leader has their own strong point, which differs from everyone else. That’s what makes them unique and incomparable. In the chronological order in which they led their people, these are the top 15 memorable leaders of all time:
15. Alexander the Great
Born in 356 BCE as the prince of the Ancient Greek Kingdom of Macedon, this member of the Argead dynasty was named Alexander III of Macedon. It was through his conquests and expanding his empire from Greece to Pakistan that he came to be known as Alexander the Great.
A name truly befitting for someone who was never defeated in a battle in his 15 years of conquest. Putting to good use the exceptional knowledge he received from many teachers like Aristotle.
He was made the king of the Macedon after his father King Phillip II of Macedon, husband to Olympias was assassinated. He proved himself to be a great king and military genius, as is evident by his work. There were many local languages spoken at that time, but Alexander imposed the use of the Greek language that played a major role in the unification of his forces.
Perhaps his rampant desire to conquer, and being the superior among all men led to him succumbing to megalomania later in life and subsequently dying in 323 BCE at the age of just 32.
The Mauryan dynasty is one of India’s greatest dynasties, founded by Chandragupta Maurya, a great leader in his own regard. However, the expansion of the kingdom was taken up by the grandson of the founder named Ashoka, often called Ashoka the Great.
Ashoka went on to expand the kingdom from Afghanistan (present-day) to Bangladesh, covering almost the entirety of the Indian subcontinent. Despite being a ruthless emperor that expanded his kingdom to such enormity, the battle he fought in Kalinga changed the ruler forever.
Disturbed by the number of deaths and bloodshed that took place in the Kalinga war he sought to change his ways. This started a new phase for Ashoka and changed the rage-filled emperor into a Buddhist. The change subsequently made him a much more peaceful ruler focused on propagating Buddhism.
He truly believed that Buddhism was the best, not only for humanity but also, for the Earth. He honored his beliefs by constructing many buildings honoring Buddhism.
Even after his death in 232 BCE, the greatness of Ashoka has been immortalised in India. India’s national emblem is named after the great king and is called The Ashoka Emblem.
She is regarded as one of the greatest pharaohs but by birth, she was a Macedonian Greek, born in 69 BCE. Cleopatra VII was the lady among men who stood her ground and is seen as one of the strongest leaders of her time.
Famed for her independence, wisdom, intelligence, her strong personality, and exceptionally skilled diplomat and negotiator. She was able to learn the difficult language of Egypt which enabled her to interact with her subjects on a much deeper level as compared to her ancestors.
Cleopatra had the most influential people of the time as her husband, Julius Ceasar, and later his General Mark Antony. After Octavian attacked Egypt and took her to Rome in 30 BCE she committed suicide at the age of 39.
Also read: Top 15 Most Influential Leaders
12. Genghis Khan
One of the most brutal conquerors the world has ever seen, Genghis Khan, was born in 1162 (which is highly disputed). This Mongolian warrior-ruler started by bringing all nomadic tribes of Mongolia under his command. He did so in a disciplined military manner, after which he sought to move out and conquer all that was to conquer beyond Mongolia.
While the reputation that surrounds Khan is that of him being Satan and his warriors all demons let loose from hell. He managed to single-handily conquer a major part of the world despite his humble beginnings. This points towards his ability to unite people under him and move as a unit with him at its head, the genius behind their campaigns.
Genghis Khan lived a long life it may not be peaceful or pleasant but definitely is one that we should be aware of. His recorded death is in the year 1227.
11. George Washington
A leader that formed what we today call, The United States of America. George Wahington born on February 22, 1732, went on to become the first President of the United States and was in the position from 1789 to 1797, a totality of two years.
What is significant about him is not the fact that he was the President but the journey he took to becoming the President. During the American Revolutionary War, he was the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and subsequently one of the Founding Fathers of the USA.
What made him great was his dynamic personality and his inherent ability to raise the morale of his soldiers. He fought several times against the British, what really helped him was his great vision and his strategic mind.
Washington gave up the idea of a third consecutive term with a speech portraying his high expectations of his people. He passed away on 14 December 1799.
10. Napolean Bonaparte
Napolean Bonaparte, also known as Napolean I, was a French military leader born on 15 August 1769. He rose through the ranks during the French Revolution. Post which he went on to seize political power in France by orchestrating a coup in 1799 and making himself emperor in 1804.
What contributed significantly to his leadership was his sharp brain, which gave him great mental ability making him a great military strategist, which was an add-on to his rapid decision making. His attractive personality and regard for the common man helped his fame which enabled him to rule over France for many years.
He died at the age of 51 in 1844, on the remote island of Saint Helena. His most significant loss was at the Battle of Waterloo which ended with him giving up the throne.
9. Adolf Hitler
Surprised to see his name on the list? You may not agree with his actions but you can not deny his ability to lead.
What struggles does an aspiring painter have to go through to become a tyrannical dictator?
Adolf Hitler is the founder of the Nazi Party born in Austria in the year 1889 and he served in World War 1. Hitler was deeply affected by the status Germany was given after the end of the war.
He made a coup attempt in 1923 but was imprisoned due to its failure. Hitler managed to secure a huge fan base because of his anti-communist thoughts and ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945. The fan base soon became his following owing to his charismatic and persuasive speeches.
Such was the facade he put up that he was considered for the peace prize and Time Magazine chose him as one of “The 100 Most Influential Figures in History”.
After being pushed into a corner in 1945, Hitler took his own life along with his wife of two days.
8. Abraham Lincoln
He went on to become a lawyer and got elected into the Illinois House of Representatives in the year 1846. This became the stepping stone of him propagating his thoughts eventually becoming the President of the United States of America.
His presidency led to the formation of the opposing Confederate States of America, which supported slavery. This eventually led to the American Civil War with Lincoln as the leader of the Union.
Lincoln used his oratory skills to illuminate the people with principles of liberty, equal rights, and democracy. This is what contributed to him being a great leader who eventually abolished slavery, a topic on which he refused to compromise.
The emancipator of the slaves was assassinated on April 14, 1865.
7. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the man with the ability to lead his entire nation through a majority of the second World War and the Great Depression, is easily one of the greatest leaders to have ever lived.
Born on January 30, 1882, he served as the 32nd President of the United States of America. He served the country for three consecutive terms from 1933 and managed to do so for a fourth term before his death in 1945.
6. Mahatma Gandhi
The epitome of non-violence, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was called A Great Soul or Mahatma owing to his non-violent ways of dealing with British oppression of India.
Born in 1869, he went to London at the age of 18 to study law. Perhaps what started his journey towards freeing his nation of British rule was his first act of civil disobedience. His first act occurred in June of 1893 when he refused to move to the back of the train car, not succumbing to white supremacy.
Gandhi adopted the Indian values in a strong way and stayed absolutely true to his non-violent approach making him an absolutely resolute leader.
He died at point-blank range of a semi-automatic pistol with three gunshots fired into his chest in January of 1948.
5. Winston Churchill
Regarded as the saviour of democracy, Winston Churchill was a writer before he became a politician.
Born to an aristocratic family in 1874 Churchill went on to become the Prime Minister of Britain in 1940. With the Second World War at its peak, Churchill took upon himself the behemoth task of leading the Allied Powers to victory.
A task which was duly accomplished by him owing to his upright character, wisdom, strong oration, and strong will of persistence. He was one of those that would turn his depression, his “black dog”, and eccentric personality to his advantage and manage to move people.
He died in the year 1965.
4. Che Guevara
Born in the year 1928 in Argentina, Ernesto Che Guevara was a medical student by profession. He went onto become a Argentine Marxist revolutionary, who participated in various capacities such as guerrilla leader, and military theorist.
His drive towards his extensive participation in revolutions came through the impact of the poverty, hunger, and disease he witnessed in his young life.
A truly selfless figure working towards the betterment of his people, after fulfilling various responsibilities after the success of the Cuban Revolution, he went on to participate in the continental revolutions across Africa and South America.
He continued to do so until he was captured by the CIA-assisted Bolivian forces and executed on October 9, 1967.
3. Martin Luther King Jr.
This African-American born in 1929 often found discomfort in religion. However, that soon changed for him when he took a Bible class and renewed his faith.
Holding onto this very faith and its principles he went onto become a Baptist minister and a social activist who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America.
What made King even surer about his goals was the visit to Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace in India. He resonated with Gandhi’s ideas of peaceful activism and sought to continue his arduous journey.
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther gave his famous speech, whose words rang through all of time, never to be forgotten, “I Have a Dream”. All his diligent efforts led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passing.
Assassinated by James Earl Ray, this great Nobel Peace Prize laureate saw his death on April 4, 1968.
2. Mao Zedong
Among the greatest communist leaders is the founder of modern-day China (Republic of China), Mao Zedong, who was born in the year 1893.
He is viewed as a great leader who presented great ideas to the people and led to the independence of his country. All his military strategies, theories, and political policies are collectively called Maoism.
Mao ruled his country as the chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1949 until his death in 1976.
1. Nelson Mandela
Another great transformative civil rights leader, Mandela was born in 1918. A truly patient leader who stayed true to his ideals even in the face of adversity.
The man who ended the apartheid accomplished this not by being a politician but as a fighter of justice and freedom. Mandela spent almost 27 years of his life in jail during his fight against apartheid.
While he pursued non-violent methods, he soon recognised the fact that taking up arms will be necessary to fight his enemies. Nelson took a long walk towards freedom, after successfully ending the apartheid Mandela went onto become the first black head of state and the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election.
At the age of 95, on December 5 of 2013, Madiba took his last breath.