1.barack obama

barack obama

How powerful is he? Let's count the ways: Presides over world's largest, most innovative, most dynamic economy; commander-in-chief of planet's richest, deadliest military; finger on button of nuclear arsenal containing more than 5,000 warheads; head-of-state of world's sole superpower; his Democrats have majorities in both U.S. House and Senate; recently awarded Nobel Peace Prize, apparently for general awesomeness.

2.hu jintao

hu jintao

Paramount political leader of more people than anyone else on the planet; 1.3 billion Chinese, some 70% in their prime working years of ages 15 to 64 powering world's low-cost workshop, transforming nation. Biggest buyer of U.S. debt avoided Chinese meltdown during financial crisis with massive stimulus package to encourage domestic spending. "Coming-out party" at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games showcased young, modern, harmonious society; reality often quite different—few political, religious, press freedoms; brutal suppression of Tibet; refusal to acknowledge Taiwanese independence. Still, credible estimates have China poised to overtake U.S. as world's largest economy in 25 years—although, crucially, not on a per-capita basis.

3.vladimir putin

vladimir putin

Prime Minister might as well be known as Czar, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russians. Vastly more powerful than his handpicked head-of-state, President Dmitry Medvedev. Presides over one-ninth of Earth's land area, vast energy and mineral resources. Former KGB officer unafraid to wield his power; invading Georgia, cutting off natural gas supplies to Ukraine or Western Europe (again). Declared nuclear power has veto on U.N.'s Security Council. The anti-Obama: "I'm deeply convinced that constant change is not for the better."

4.ben s bernanke

ben s bernanke

Former chairman of Princeton's economics department and noted Great Depression scholar now guiding world's largest economy through Great Recession; has overseen massive growth in Fed's balance sheet, from less than $900 billion in liabilities in August 2008 to more than $2.1 trillion today. With federal funds rate now effectively 0%, the so-called Bernanke Doctrine calls for using monetary policy to stave off deflation. "The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press, that allows it to produce as many dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost."

5.Sergey Brin and Larry Page

Sergey Brin and Larry Page

If knowledge is power, maybe information is too. Brainy duo met in Stanford computer science Ph.D. program, now trying to put all the world's information at your fingertips. Known for collecting best and brightest young tech talent at Mountain View, Calif., "Googleplex"; employees encouraged to spend one day a week on personal projects; company often named "Best Place To Work" in America. Google guys' combined net worth of $30.6 billion would place them third on the Forbes 400. Yet despite professed intentions to "do no evil," Google is blamed in some quarters for decimating traditional publishing, journalism. Brin: "Some say Google is God, others say Google is Satan."

6.carlos slim helu

carlos slim helu

World's third-richest man is dominant economic force in Mexico, personal fortune equivalent to some 2% of Mexican GDP. Telecommunications monopolist: His Telemex owns 90% of Mexico's fixed telephone lines; his TelCel has 90% of wireless market. Also head of group dedicated to improving Mexico's roads, energy infrastructure, water supply. New focus, media: Last fall snapped up 7% stake in the New York Times Co., largest after Sulzberger owner-family. "I think it's perverse to believe there shouldn't be strong companies in poor countries."

9.abdullah bin adbul aziz al saud

abdullah-bin-adbul-aziz-al-saud

Absolute ruler of desert kingdom that contains the world's largest crude oil reserves, two holiest sites in Islam. State-owned oil producer Saudi Aramco most profitable company on Earth, earns more than $200 billion a year, has reserves of 260 billion barrels or 25% of planet's known supply. Ultimate succession unclear: 85-year-old king's official heir is 81-year-old Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. In 2006, established committee of senior princes to ensure smooth transition in the event both become incapacitated.

10.william gates

William Gates

Richest man in the world monopolized, transformed software business. More than 85% of world's hundreds of millions of computer users stare at, struggle with, Microsoft products on daily basis. Second act: Saving the world. Still Microsoft chairman, but now devotes day-to-day to his Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, the largest charity on Earth with $34 billion endowment. Foundation devoted to reducing hunger, improving education and fighting diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS.

11.pope benedict

pope-benedict

Spiritual leader is highest earthly authority for 1 billion souls, or about one-sixth of planet's population; runs Catholic Church, world's oldest, largest multinational. A staunch traditionalist, unbending on reproductive matters, yet conservatism comforting to many.

14.warren buffett

warren buffett

Greatest value investor of all time shrewdly profiting from global financial crisis; snapped up stakes in Goldman Sachs, General Electric during darkest days of 2008; opponent of inherited wealth has bequeathed vast majority of $40 billion fortune to buddy Bill Gates and his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. "Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful."

17.hillary clinton

hillary clinton

Not president, but now more popular. Latest Gallup poll gives Clinton a six-point approval rating lead over her boss. Former junior senator from New York is now earth-shaker as U.S. Secretary of State. Tough job, though: Must deal with two foreign wars, resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflict, improve America's image abroad, tame Iran, North Korea and husband.

20.michael bloomberg

michael bloomberg

Spent record $90 million of personal fortune to extend NYC mayoral term limit and eke out victory. Forecasts predict NYC's tax revenues will fall 28%—nearly $7 billion—in 2010. On bright side, world's 17th-richest man can afford to take $1 salary. Owns 88% of financial data and news outfit Bloomberg L.P.—and now, BusinessWeek. Doled out some $800 million to charity in last five years. Doesn't hold back: "You know what you should do is go out and make a billion dollars first, and then run for office."

27.gordon-brown

Gordon Brown

Previously longest continually serving Chancellor of the Exchequer in the U.K. (1997-2007) in recent history, Brown presided over good old days for Labour party: low inflation and unemployment. Finally moving out of former Prime Minister Tony Blair's shadow in 2007 should have put a smile on the dour Scot's face. But subprime mess and Blair's Middle East legacy took care of that. Gained plaudits for global social justice efforts, though. Recently insisted the Labour party was "not done yet." U.K. voters decide in June.

30.james sdimon

30-james-s-dimon

White knight in vilified industry. Modern-day Count of Monte Cristo: Former mentor Sandy Weill fired him from Citigroup, now JPMorgan chief has last laugh. Citi still on life support while JPMorgan netted $3.6 billion last quarter, up from $527 million the year before. Practiced elbow-rubber, major player in financial reform. Visits buddies Rahm, Obama almost once a month. "I am far more concerned about my country ... than my company." Spoken like someone pondering a next move—say, to Washington.

31.bill clinton

limit. Otherwise I would have stayed until I was carried away in a coffin. Or defeated in an election.\””]bil clinton

No longer president, not yet first gentleman, but still commands powerful role on global stage. Recent mission to North Korea to free U.S. journalists demonstrated enduring influence (or expendability).

36.manmohan singh

manmohan singh

Soft-spoken Sikh economist won landslide re-election victory despite sharp slowdown, poverty and non-Hindu faith. Credited with transforming India's quasi-socialist economy into world's second-fastest-growing. As finance minister (1991-1996), abolished cumbersome "Licence Raj" requirements and opened up India to foreign investors and outsourcing. From the "fences make good neighbors" file: "We all know the epicenter of terrorism in the world today is Pakistan." Has nuclear arsenal at disposal.

37.osama bin laden

osama bin laden

Saudi-born terrorist most powerful person in the world unable to use a cellphone. Despite infrequent communications, persistent rumors of his death, symbolic power undiminished: Impressionable youths continue to self-detonate in his name; casus belli of two U.S.-lead wars costing over $1 trillion.

38.syed yousaf raza

syed yousaf raza

Less powerful than bin Laden—can't find him in his own country. Oversees Pakistan's fledgling civilian government, ceded responsibility for tracking down terrorists to military. Busy fending off Obama, Taliban, al-Qaida, deposed militant groups. A little defensive? "We want stability in the region. We ourselves are a victim of terrorism and extremism." Still has keys to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

39.dalai lama

Dalai Lama

Tibetan exile keeps China honest. Despite endorsements of U.N., Hollywood and Nobel Committee, efforts to win "meaningful autonomy" from Beijing failed. Will soon leave negotiating table, but role as spiritual leader intact. Preaches non-violence, but His Holiness is no pushover. Accused China of turning Tibet into "hell on Earth;" urged U.S. to address wealth gap: "Huge gap, rich to poor. This is unhealthy." Uphill battle ahead—Beijing reportedly hatching plans to pick his successor.

44.mukesh ambani

mukesh ambani

Personal net worth of $19.5 billion makes him seventh-richest man in the world. Oversees Reliance Industries, India's most valuable company by market cap, despite stock falling 40% in past year. Inherited business from late father, but infamous scuffle with brother Anil led to split of assets. Anil controls financial services, mobile phones; Mukesh's influence more widespread. Has hand in oil exploration, refining, textile manufacturing. Thanks to regulations barring big box retailers from India, Mukesh's Reliance Retail is snapping up large share of organized retail market; connecting Indian farmers to supermarkets, hastening delivery of fresh dairy, produce. Uphill battle ahead: Wal-Mart lobbying Prime Minister Singh to allow foreign investment in multi-brand retail. Meanwhile, on the home front: busy building world's first $1 billion home.

45.oprah winfrey

oprah winfrey

Viewership may be slipping, but Oprah can still make a best-seller. Or a President. Took home $275 million last year; more than Dick Fuld, Ken Lewis and John Thain combined, yet still loved by world. Her first tweet sent Twitter traffic up 43%. Rumors she will be taking her 49 million viewers a week with her to her O.W.N. network when her syndication contract with CBS expires in 2011.

46.benjamin netanyahu

benjamin netanyahu

Second-term hawk insists he's committed to permanent Palestinian peace treaty. Time could be ripe: Syria, Hamas willing to play; Iran's influence diminished, other Arab states could be coaxed into recognizing Israel. But his refusal to freeze Jewish settlements in West Bank and Jerusalem has Palestinian President Abbas questioning sincerity, threatening to boycott re-election. Adding salt to wounds: currently fighting United Nations report accusing both Israel and Hamas of war crimes.

50.dawood ibrahim kaskar

dawood ibrahim kaskar

Son of a police officer now India's most wanted man. As boss of Mumbai-based organized crime syndicate D-Company, reputedly oversees international drug trafficking, counterfeiting, weapons smuggling. Suspected al-Qaida associate; U.S. declares him a global terrorist, U.N. tried to freeze his assets. Prime suspect in 1993 Bombay blasts that killed 257 people and wounded 713. Rumor has it he's hiding out in Pakistan, protected by appearance-altering plastic surgery as well as friends in Pakistani intelligence community.

55.lakshmi mittal

Lakshmi mittal

The Indian Andrew Carnegie heads ArcelorMittal, world's largest steel company. Net worth of $19.3 billion makes him world's eighth-richest. Generous to charities and to himself: Kensington, London, residence one of world's most expensive private homes, earned moniker "Taj Mittal." Bromance with former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair exposed in 2002 "Garbagegate," when Mittal reportedly sought Blair's help in cash-for-influence bid for Romanian state steel mills.

56.nicolas sarkozy

nicolas sarkozy

Campaigned on clean government, deficit reduction, free markets; now mired in scandal (cultural Minister recently admitted to paying for sex with Thai boys), socialist-style spending. Recently made pledges to check the power of international banks, impose on bonus payments. In 2008, made singer Carla Bruni his third wife; former model reportedly boasts several inches in height over the diminutive president.

59 ratan tata

Ratan Tata

The 71-year-old head of the Tata Group—conglomerate with interests in everything from tea to steel—is India's best brand ambassador. His 2007 acquisition of Anglo-Dutch steel maker Corus and auto brands Jaguar, Land Rover signaled global ambitions. In 2008, made automotive history debuting $2,500 Tata Nano, the world's cheapest auto. Calls Nano "The People's Car"; in nation of a billion, environmentalists call it eco-disaster.