Jacinda Ardern takes out top spot in Fortune's 50 World's Greatest Leaders list

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has taken out the top spot on Fortune's annual World's 50 Greatest Leaders list.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Source: Getty

The eighth annual list celebrates leaders - some well-known and others who aren't so familiar - who made a difference amid the "truly unprecedented times" of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fortune said in its reasoning that Ardern had "already sealed her position as a great leader early in her premiership" by "empathetically steering her country through the aftermath of a terror attack and the deadly eruption of a volcano".

"Then the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and Ardern targeted not just suppression of the virus, but its complete elimination."

The magazine also praised Ardern's adoption of "world-leading climate and gender-equity policies" which saw New Zealand become the first country in the world to legally require banks and financial firms to disclose climate change's effect on businesses.

She was followed on the list by the pioneers of vaccine delivery system messenger RNA (mRNA), used by the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines.

"Those vaccines might still be stuck on the drawing board if a handful of farsighted leaders hadn’t been ready to bet on mRNA when the odds were long," the magazine wrote.

"What may seem like overnight success was the product of years of hard work and calculated risk-taking, by leaders whose place in the pharma pantheon now seems assured."

In third place was PayPal CEO Dan Schulman after PayPal became a major player on the financial relief effort during the pandemic by waiving fees for stimulus payments, issuing small business loans and "serving as a funnel for charitable fundraising".

PayPal also "deployed more than $300 million in grants to Black-owned businesses, grants to nonprofits that support those businesses, and investments in Black- and Latinx-owned banks".

In fourth place was Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr John Nkengasong.

Nkengasong helped to "steer Africa’s 54 nations into an alliance" with stringent public health measures and border closures to combat the virus, allowing them to weather the pandemic "much more successfully than many far richer countries, including the United States".

It was followed by some more familiar faces, including Fair Fight founder Stacey Abrams, education activist Malala Yousafzai, chef Guy Fieri, singer/songwriter Dolly Parton, and sports stars Tom Brady and Naomi Osaka.

Top 10 of Fortune's World's 50 Greatest Leaders list:

1. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand
2. mRNA Pioneers
3. Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal
4. Dr. John Nkengasong, director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
5. Adam Silver; Michele Roberts; Chris Paul, NBA Rescuers
6. Jessica Tan, founder of Ping An Group
7. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury for the Church of England/Anglican Church
8. Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight
9. Reshorna Fitzpatrick, pastor for Proceeding Word Church, Chicago
10. Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India