1. Barack Obama
The President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, may not be loved by everyone, but as the leader of a nation the size of the US, he does hold a lot of power in his hand.
Sure, there are checks and balances to make sure he doesn’t have too much power or abuses that power (though some would argue he does that anyway, depending on who you ask). During Obama’s second term in office, he’s dealt with issues like the Ebola breakout, ISIS, the Ferguson, Missouri riots and more.
Though he holds a lot of power over the United States, overall, he appears cautious to use it… Which is why he’s only delegated to the number two spot on the list, not number one.
2. Vladimir Putin
Forbes got some flack last year for naming Putin as the most powerful person in the world last year, but it didn’t stop them from doing the same this year. And well, they have a point.
Considering all that has happened with Russia and the Ukraine, and the $70 billion gas pipeline deal with China, it really looks like Russia (and its leader) is holding a lot of power on a world scale both logistically and financially.
Putin seems completely unconcerned with world opinion, and simply does whatever the heck he wants. As the leader of the biggest country in the world, he’s both incredibly powerful, and extremely frightening when he wields that power irresponsibly.
3. Pope Francis
Pope Francis is a famously revolutionary leader of the Catholic church. At one time, the pope was considered one of the most powerful people in the world, if not the most powerful.
A lot has changed over the centuries, but one reason why Pope Francis in particular is catching the world’s attention now is that he’s trying to bring some of that change to the church itself. And considering he’s the spiritual leader to 1.2 billion people in the world, that brings a lot of power in and of itself.
His message, which has been radically different to those of many popes who came before him, is something even non-Catholics are finding themselves getting behind. Pope Francis not only advocates for more compassion and help for the poor; he also pushes for the church to soften their stances on issues such as gay marriage, contraceptives, and even abortion.
4. Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel cemented her spot as the most powerful woman in the world as German chancellor. She’s the first female in history to hold that position, as well as the longest-serving EU head of state elected to office. Both feats are impressive in and of themselves, but Merkel is making sure she uses her power to make a difference in the world around her.
Unlike others who came before her, she’s not avoiding military involvement in world events. In fact, Merkel has sent German arms to Kurdish fighters in the war against ISIS, and she’s also been involved with the Ukraine in helping against Russian threats.
5. Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping is being called the most powerful Chinese ruler since Mao Zedong. Considering he’s the president of the world’s largest economy, it should come as no surprise that he’s easily one of the most powerful people in the world. Jinping is expected to lead China into the next decade; he isn’t ceding his place on the world’s most powerful list any time soon.
Jinping is known as a “princeling” in China, a term that means he owes at least some of his political success to his family connections. Jinping is the son of one of the Community’s Party’s founding fathers, Xi Zhongxun. His wife, Peng Liyuan, was once known than her husband until he became leader of the Community Party. Liyuan is a folk singer and actress who regularly appears on the most-watched TV program in China.