To compile the list, we considered hundreds of candidates from various walks of life all around the globe, and measured their power along four dimensions. First, we asked whether the candidate has power over lots of people. Pope Francis, ranked No. 5, is the spiritual leader of more than a billion Catholics. Doug McMillon (No. 27), is the CEO of the world’s largest private employer, Wal-Mart Stores, with more than 2.3 million workers around the globe.
Next we assessed the financial resources controlled by each person. Are they relatively large compared to their peers? For heads of state we used GDP, while for CEOs, we looked at measures like their company’s assets and revenues. When candidates have a high personal net worth, like the world’s richest man, Bill Gates (No. 7), we also took that into consideration. In certain instances, like the king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (No. 16), we considered other valuable resources at the candidate’s disposal –like 20% of the world’s known oil reserves.
More on Forbes: The complete list of the world’s most powerful people
Then we determined if the candidate is powerful in multiple spheres. There are only 74 slots on our list – one for approximately every 100 million people on the planet – so being powerful in just one area is often not enough. Our picks project their influence in myriad ways: Elon Musk (No. 21) has power in the auto business through Tesla Motors, in the aerospace industry through SpaceX, because he’s a billionaire, and because he’s a highly respected tech visionary.
Lastly, we made sure that the candidates actively used their power. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (No. 43) has near absolute control over the lives of the 25 million people who live in his country, and is known to punish dissent with death.
To calculate the final rankings, a panel of Forbes editors ranked all of our candidates in each of these four dimensions of power, and those individual rankings were averaged into a composite score. This year’s list comes at a time of rapid and profound change, and represents our best guess about who will matter in the year to come.
For the fourth consecutive year, Forbes ranked Russian President Vladimir Putin as the world’s most powerful person. From the motherland to Syria to the U.S. presidential elections, Russia’s leader continues to get what he wants. In second place, President-elect Donald Trump has a seeming immunity to scandal, both houses of Congress on his side, and a personal net worth in the billions. And the third most powerful person in the world also happens to be the most powerful woman: Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany and the backbone of the European Union.
There are 11 new names on the list this year, including Theresa May, prime minister of the United Kingdom (No. 13); Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber (No. 64); Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Co. (No. 67); Mike Pence, vice president-elect of the United States (No. 69); Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines (No. 70); and Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands (No. 72). Two former members also return to the list this year: Antonio Guterres, incoming secretary general of the United Nations (No. 36, last appearance in 2009); and Recep Erdogan, president of Turkey (No. 56, last appearance in 2011).
Any ranking of the world’s most powerful people is going to be subjective, so we don’t pretend ours is definitive. It’s meant to be the beginning of a conversation, not the final word. So tell us what you think: Is the CEO of Facebook really more powerful than the CEO of Apple? Is the Prime Minister of Japan more powerful than the Prime Minister of Canada? Who did we miss? What did we get wrong? Join the conversation by commenting below.