12 of the Best Leaders and What We Can Learn from Them

Becoming an excellent leader is a lifelong journey. A large part of elevating your leadership capabilities is by learning from others. We can apply the qualities of the world’s greatest leaders into our own style. Below we highlight some of the most impactful individuals in world history and how they can make us better leaders.

George Washington

George Washington, the first president and fearless commander during the Revolutionary War, is a prime example of leadership. Great leaders of the world show the ability to listen, which George Washington did during the 1787 Constitutional Convention. He rarely spoke during this event at the beginning and end. He also provided critical insights toward key representation issues.


Washington also showcased his ability to manage his office of power. As the first President, he did not have the resources that presidents have today. Washington did not have an executive branch or human resources team. He had to build the system from scratch throughout his tenure.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was one of the most prominent political leaders in both South Africa and world history. The best leaders can guide a group through difficult times. Change is not always smooth and pretty, but Mandela was able to rally people behind a cause.


Mandela also leveraged his passion to drive a meaningful cause. By using his unique leadership style, Mandela spearheaded a non-violent apartheid initiative to oppose the minority government. Mandela showed his commitment to standing for his beliefs. His role led him to serve a 27-year prison sentence. However, he was able to earn the presidency shortly after.

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar taught us many lessons as he defeated his opponents in the Civil War and rose to power in 49 BCE. We regard Caesar as one of the most influential military commanders of all time for several reasons.


Not only did Caesar take risks, but he was able to rally his troops because of his presentation skills. When a group crossed the Rubicon River, it was a daunting ordeal punishable by death. Caesar risked his life by leading his legion over the Rubicon.

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great was more than a warrior. He was a leader, mentor, and visionary thinker that passed down multiple lessons. The best leaders have a strong vision that brings out the best in others. Through his effective public speaking skills and unwavering focus, Alexander the Great built up a massive following.


Alexander the Great also established a culture of innovation. Because of his shorthand number of troops, he had to utilize his other men’s creativity and logistical ideas. As a result, he orchestrated one of the most effective war machines in history.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is remembered as an intelligent leader with somewhat dry humor. He is also considered one of the best world leaders because of his courage, respect for his team, and “work hard, play hard” mindset. Churchill made time to take care of his mental health by investing in meaningful hobbies like painting.


Churchill also knew when to admit his mistakes. When he mistakenly ordered the Dresden bombing, he admitted it sincerely to the other generals.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt walked into a challenging situation as the 32nd president. The stock market crashed in the previous year’s fall, and the country demanded a fearless leader. Today, FDR still teaches us valuable lessons about leadership.


The best leaders can get people excited about a vision. As he ran for office, FDR championed the “New Deal.” As he campaigned for this idea, he did not get deep into the details. However, his charisma, positive attitude, and energy awoke people in a time of dire need.

Abraham Lincoln

The best leaders in history were able to connect with all personality types. Abraham Lincoln makes our list of great leaders because of his empathy and emotional intelligence. Lincoln built a strong cabinet team of political rivals during the Civil War because he trusted them. By assembling a team of differing personality types, he was able to run a successful presidency.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the world’s best leaders because of his ability to connect with others. His effective leadership style is captured in his “I Have a Dream” speech. As he discussed the conflict at the time, we can walk away with a few lessons:


The best leaders speak to the heart

The best leaders are honest about harsh realities

The best leaders are always looking to elevate the status quo

The best leaders outline a clear vision for a better future

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi is the epitome of “leading by example.” Gandhi always showcased the magnitude of his actions and thoughts because they represented his motivations. Not only did he ingest vegetarian food to make his body pure, but he also used it as a strategy of social protest. Gandhi showed how self-discipline could earn the respect of many.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa’s compassion is the reason why she is revered as one of the most outstanding leaders. Her leadership produced over a million volunteers in 123 countries. Her success in motivating others can be attributed to her ability to spread positivity and happiness.


Mother Teresa also expressed how a small act of kindness can go a long way. The best leaders provide value to their team members, no matter how big or small.

John Wooden

John Wooden is one of the winningest college basketball coaches with ten national championships. His pyramid of success is a perfect representation of his leadership style. He is a successful basketball coach because he maximized his players’ talents and made them better human beings.

Dalai Lama

The best leaders can motivate others through their upbeat attitude, which is what the Dalai Lama often did. Not only did the Dalai Lama help others achieve their life and business goals, but he also elevated morale wherever he went. He also led with thankfulness and gratitude, which inspired others to produce their best work.

Wrap Up

As you can see, all these people can teach us about leadership. There is not a single formula, but every great leader can bring the best out of their team members. They are also skilled at rallying people around a vision by showcasing their positive attitude. If you apply a few things from the world’s most outstanding leaders, you can make a more significant impact on the world.