A List of 125 Transformational Leaders: Famous Ones From Many Countries

Compiled by Murray Johannsen. I welcome connections via LinkedIn or directly from this website.

Transformational leaders have been written about for thousands of years and have been both praised (Christ and Buddha) and cursed (Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan). Some of the most famous individuals in history are transformational in one form or another.

Being a transformational leader is a choice. It’s one among many leadership styles. It must be said, however, that few managers or CEOs are transformational. Most like the status quo and want to keep it that way.

Transformational leaders are seen on all continents and practiced in many contexts. For example, entrepreneurs must function as transformational leaders to grow a small business into a large one. 

Learn To Be a Transformational Leader

“He who stops being better — stops being good.” — Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Lord Protector of the Commonwealth.

The Importance of Transformational Leaders

One characteristic of great transformational leaders is the ability to inspire. They just don’t know how to bore and snore. Perhaps it’s because they know how to appeal to your why.

Compiled by Murray Johannsen

The Master List of Transformational Leaders

Image: Civilization by Sid Meier. A collage of leaders. Some transform societies for the better; others make things worse.

Ahn, Chul-soo

Alexander The Great

Arnold, Henry

Ataturk, Mustapha


Attila the Hun

Aurelius, Marcus

Banks Tyra

Bloomberg, Michael

Bolivar, Simon

Boyington, Gregory

Bradley, Omar

Branson, Richard

Buddha, Shakyamuni


Carnegie, Andrew

Castro, Fidel

Catherine the Great

Caesar, Augustus

Caesar, Julius


Chanel, Coco


Charles I (King of England)

Chief Joseph

Christ, Jesus

Churchill, Winston



Cornwallis, Charles

Cromwell, Oliver

Chulalongkornm, King Rama V

Cyrus the Great

David Farragut

De Rothschild, Baron

Deere, John

Disney, Walt

Deng, Xiaoping

Eisenhower, Dwight

Elizabeth I

Fields, Debbie

Ford, Henry

Franklin, Benjamin

Frederick the Great

Freud, Sigmund

Gates, Bill and Melinda


Giannini, A. P.

Giap, Vo Nguen

Goering, Herman

Goldwyn, Samuel

Gorbachev, Mikhail

Grant, Ulysses

Guderian, Heinz



Hitler, Adolf

Ho, Chi Min


Iacocca, Lee

Ivan the Terrible

Jackson, Peter

Jackson, Thomas (Stonewall)

Jacqueline Cochrane

Joan of Arc

Jobs, Steve

Jodl, Alfred

Johnson, Samuel

Jones, Jim

Jones, John Paul

Jung, Carl

Jung, Joo Young

Kahn, Herman

Kaiser, Henry

Kelleher, Herb

Keller, Hellen

Khan, Genghis

Khan, Kublai

King, Martin Luther

Kissinger, Henry

Koresh, David

Kroc, Ray

Lama, Dalai

Lan, Yang


Lee, Gun Hee

Lee, Robert E.

Lombardi, Vince

Louis XIV (Sun King)

L’ouverture, Toussaint

Lynch, Peter


Mandela, Nelson

Manson, Charles

Marion, Francis

Marshall, George C.

McArthur, Douglas


Montgomery, Bernard

Musk, Elon

Morgan, J. Pierpoint

Mountbatten, Louis


Nelson, Horatio


Nightingale, Florence

Ogilvy, David

Packard, David

Park, Chung Hee

Park, Guen Hye

Patten, George

Penny, J. C.


Pershing, John

Peter the Great



Pot, Pol

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Victoria

Ramses II, Pharaoh

Rickover, Hyman

Rockefeller, John D.

Rommel, Erwin

Roosevelt, Eleanor

Roosevelt, Franklin

Roosevelt, Teddy


Schultz, Howard

Schwab, Charles

Sejong the Great

Shahrzad, Rafati

Sloan, Alfred



Tuthmose III, Pharaoh


Trump, Donald

Tse-Tung, Mao

Tzu, Sun

Vanderbilt, Cornelius

Villa, Francisco (Poncho)

Von Bismark, Otto

Von Clausewitz, Carl

Von Moltke, Helmuth

von Schlieffen, Alfred

Walton, Sam

Washington, George

Watson, Thomas, Jr.

Watson, Thomas, Sr.

Westinghouse, George

Whitney, Eli

Yamamoto, Isoroku

Yunus, Muhammad

Yi, Sun-sin

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 Three Great Transformational Leaders

 Case 1: Queen Elizabeth I of England

Queen Elizabeth I of England in her coronation robes. Elizabeth was a truly great transformational leader, one who started with a nation beset with strife. When she died, she had one of the strongest nations in Europe. The would have been no English commonwealth without Elizabeth.
Queen Elizabeth I of England in her coronation robes. Elizabeth was a genuinely great transformational leader who started with a nation beset with strife. Yet, when she died, she had one of the strongest nations in Europe. The would have been no English commonwealth without Elizabeth.

There are similarities between managing a corporation and running a country. The most apparent difference—countries are much harder to run.

When Elizabeth began her reign, England was, to put it mildly, a mess. Ascending to the throne at a particularly chaotic time in British history, she was beset by enemies from without and within. Nevertheless, a betting man would have put good odds on her getting through the first two years alive.

However, at the end of her 45-year reign, England had become the wealthiest and most powerful nation in Europe and was well on its way to becoming one of the great powers of the modern age.

Bottom line: No Elizabeth—No British Commonwealth.

  • Images. A page of portraits of Elizabeth at various points of her reign.
  • Quick Overview. The Britannia one-page overview.
  • Elizabeth I: Life and Times. An entire site is dedicated to the life and times of one of the daughters of Henry the VIII.
  • Speeches and Writings. These are a few choice words from a long career of writing.

Case #2: Alexander The Great: King of Macedonia, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Persia, and Afghanistan

"Alexander the Great in the Temple of Jerusalem" by Sebastiano Conca. Not only was Alexander a Great general, he was also a great transformational king who brought new ideas and commerce throughout his empire.
Painting depicting Alexander the Great

How can one so young accomplish so much? By the time Alexander died in 323 BC, he had not yet reached his 33rd birthday. Yet, in that short time, he had created an empire that stretched from Greece to India.

In an age where tyrants ruled by brute force and fear, he defied the conventional political wisdom of the time. Rather than cleaning out the treasury of a conquered nation and then taxing them to the max, he built new cities (often called Alexandria’s), libraries, established mechanisms for communication and commerce, had engineers build new roads, and had scientists capture new knowledge.

Known as much for his sound strategy and tactical innovation in the military arena as his wise statesmanship in the political sphere, he was a student of Aristotle. He went on to become even greater than his teacher.

Case #3: The Evolution Of A Great Transformational Founder: Bill Gates, Former CEO Of Microsoft

Bill Gates speaks about the early days of Microsoft. Great insight into the transformational, entrepreneurial-minded thinks about how to grow a company.

Many try to be a particular type of transformational leader, but few succeed. This type of person, the Great Founder, also requires a set of skills not taught in the university. For example, one of the most successful entrepreneurs ever, Bill Gates, decided to drop out of Harvard and start a business called Microsoft. One can almost imagine how that conversation went. The future entrepreneur said, “Mom, I want to drop out of school so I can work on an entrepreneurial venture for 80 hours a week, for no pay — one with a high probability of failure.”

But unlike most entrepreneurs, he never failed, and Microsoft was never unprofitable. For example, It was said that he took on a 5% equity investment from a venture capitalist, not because the money was needed, but because they wanted more expertise on the board. Below are three short videos from Bill Gates’s recent interview at Harvard.


Below are lists of famous transformational leaders, some military, many political, and more than a few who have achieved greatness in business.

Categories of Transformational Leaders

You can put these types of leaders into different categories. These include:

Entrepreneurial Transformational Leaders

By definition, entrepreneurs must be transformational leaders. And while the American business schools are great believers that they have to be managers, they neglect entirely how to lead.

Transformational CEOs 

While there are exceptions, such as Lou Gerstner, most CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are not transformational. Instead, decades spent obeying corporate rules to get to the top typically create hesitation when changing those rules.

However, most CEOs are not transformational. Why? Well, most transformational projects in large corporations fail. Also, they:

Are not founders of the corporation. These individuals could be considered successful entrepreneurs.

You can’t heal an unhealthy culture. So, for example, Steve Jobs makes our list of successful entrepreneurs. When he returned to Apple, it was a dysfunctional organization headed toward bankruptcy. He transformed it completely.

Rely on growth through acquisition. Many CEOs, being men and women of action like to buy things. However, different sources have said that as many as 2/3 of corporate acquisitions are not good deals from the standpoint of the acquiring organization’s stockholders.

Have good PR firms that present the illusion of growth and transformation. Some CEOS put on a pretty good facade as enlightened, successful leaders, but the reality is much different. A classic example was “Chainsaw” — Al Dunlap.

Geographical Transformational Leaders

European Leaders

European history is full of transformational leaders. Some used their power to build; some used their power to destroy. Some established a new order; others destroyed the old, leaving nothing new in its place. Many were successful; others tried and ultimately failed. But however they lived, they exerted a strong influence on their followers.


Many Asian leaders have been lost to history. Those that remain are fascinating—great men and women who created nations where there were none.

Genghis Khan is undergoing something of leadership revival in Mongolia today. This site presents background information on the life of a transformational leader few of us would want to face, let alone oppose. On the other hand, while some leaders accomplish things through the sword, Gandhi chose the method of nonviolence.

American Transformational Leaders

Business only forms one arena for the transformational leader. Another is government. You might argue that government is a stricter test for the transformational leader than is business. For one thing, the scale is much different. A CEO influences thousands, a head of state, millions. And military leaders often function as heads of state.

Douglas McArthur, as a general, had a long and illustrious history. Transformational to a great degree, he set up a new and completely different Japan compared to what had existed before World War II. This article also lists a series of leadership questions one can ask about your treatment of others.

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Last Update: June 18, 2023

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