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Greatest Business Leaders of the 20th Century

Classic entrepreneurs who built companies from scratch dominate the list of the best. Shockingly, only one woman — Estee Lauder — made the top 50 of Professors Anthony J. Mayo and Nitin Nohria's list of top 100 business leaders.


  1. Samuel M. Walton Wal-Mart
  2. Walter E. Disney Walt Disney
  3. William H. Gates III Microsoft
  4. Henry Ford Ford Motor
  5. John P. Morgan J.P. Morgan Chase
  6. Alfred P. Sloan Jr. General Motors
  7. John F. Welch Jr. General Electric
  8. Raymond A. Kroc McDonald's
  9. William R. Hewlett Hewlett-Packard
  10. David Packard Hewlett-Packard
  11. Andrew S. Grove Intel
  12. Milton S. Hershey The Hershey Co.
  13. John D. Rockefeller Sr. Standard Oil
  14. Thomas J. Watson Jr. IBM
  15. Henry R. Luce Time-Life Publications
  16. Will K. Kellogg Kellogg
  17. Warren E. Buffett Berkshire Hathaway
  18. Harland Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken
  19. William C. Procter Procter & Gamble
  20. Thomas J. Watson Sr. IBM
  21. Asa G. Candler Coca-Cola
  22. Estee Lauder Estee Lauder
  23. Henry J. Heinz H.J. Heinz
  24. Daniel F. Gerber Jr. Gerber Products
  25. James L. Kraft Kraft Foods
  26. Steven P. Jobs Apple Computer
  27. John T. Dorrance Campbell Soup
  28. Leon L. Bean LL Bean
  29. William Levitt Levitt & Sons
  30. Howard Schultz Starbucks
  31. Michael Dell Dell Computer
  32. Robert W. Johnson Jr. Johnson & Johnson
  33. James E. Casey United Parcel Service
  34. Herbert D. Kelleher Southwest Airlines
  35. George Eastman Eastman Kodak
  36. Philip H. Knight Nike
  37. James O. McKinsey McKinsey & Co.
  38. Charles R. Schwab Charles Schwab
  39. Frederick W. Smith Federal Express
  40. William Wrigley Jr. Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.
  41. Gordon E. Moore Intel
  42. Robert (Ted) E. Turner Turner Broadcasting
  43. J. Willard Marriott Jr. Marriott Int'l.
  44. James E. Burke Johnson & Johnson
  45. David Sarnoff RCA
  46. William E. Boeing Boeing
  47. Walter A. Haas Sr. Levi Strauss
  48. Henry J. Kaiser Kaiser Industries
  49. Walter A. Haas Jr. Levi Strauss
  50. Clarence Birdseye Bird's Eye Foods

Based on a survey of 7,000 executives by Harvard Business School's Anthony J. Mayo and Nitin Nohria for their book, In Their Time (Harvard Business School Press, 2005).

A version of this article appeared in the September 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.