Who Rules the World - a Case Study in Influence

Orsi Anna Toth
Head of Strategy
Who Rules the World - a Case Study in Influence

A multi-dimensional case study on Influence, Wealth and Power to unveil Global Dynamics

A multi-dimensional case study on Influence, Wealth and Power to unveil Global Dynamics


For the third year running, SmallGiants’ innovative ranking system under the bold name of “Who Rules The World” goes beyond merely wealth to define success and the potential for influence on a global scale. The methodology acknowledges that being a major world player involves more than just financial resources. Position to act from, reach to spread ideas and inspire others, assets they can corral in order to achieve their goals: power and impact is made up by an intricate combination of factors. WRTW is an index that understands this: it incorporates over 100 individuals evaluated across five different sectors and three key concepts: Wealth, Power and Influence.

By collecting and weighting detailed data points for each individual, WRTW aims to paint a multi-dimensional picture of power, offering a rich matrix of components to understand it. 

A message from the CEO:

With the WRTW index we aim to understand and measure individual influence and power in today's world. Does Politics rule Business or vice versa, is Fame more powerful than a large Bank Account statement. Understanding factors that give individuals across Business, Politics, Entertainment, Media and Sports true power enables us to understand Who Rules The World but also more importantly in what capacity they can impact markets and business opportunities.”


WRTW includes over 100 names, categorised into five sectors: Politics, Business, Media, Sports and Entertainment. While they might draw power from vastly different fields, we examined the commonalities to understand how it is truly created. Detailed data points contribute to a comprehensive assessment of their power and influence:

  • Wealth is evaluated by considering the individual’s personal wealth and the wealth of the entity they directly or indirectly control.
  • Power measures the extent to which an individual can make a significant impact and shape the lives of others on a larger scale - depending on the sector, the key factors to take into account are the power of the individual’s function. Wealth factors into this broader, richer category too: we used the wealth of the entity they control to understand how position, opportunity and money together create a force to recon with. 
  • Influence takes into account metrics such as social media following, number of searches and SERP results, but also numbers of people firmly in the person’s sphere of influence, such as subscribers, customers or even the population of the country they manage, to determine the persuasive power of each individual.


Readers familiar with statistics and reporting will no doubt recognise that a deep understanding of the world goes beyond the numbers. Moreover, how we choose to represent and visualise data actively shapes our understanding of the information presented. 

Keenly aware of this, the WRTW index purposefully chooses to represent numbers as they are and draw  conclusions from verifiable data. We would be remiss however if we failed to reflect on the realities of the world, where wealth can be hidden, influence may come by way of extreme aggression and soft power nurtured by PR genius. Vladimir Putin may easily be the wealthiest man in the world with assets totaling up to $200 billion - but only by unofficial assessment. Taylor Swift and Rihanna might be neighbours on our list, however the fervour of fans probably tips the scales much firmer in Swift’s direction, then the numbers only might show. Elon Musks’ influence continues to grow, but on the flipside, precisely his power (plus eccentricity with occasional trips to the extreme),  is alienating growing numbers of humans around the world.

Therefore we suggest you review our index as that: data combining measurable facts into a list enabling us to compare apples to oranges, a metric of power and influence there for the taking. How well each of the people on our list takes advantage of their fortune, we leave it to your judgement.


Our aim when compiling our yearly influence index is more than the sheer pleasure of crunching numbers. (Though we do find that fascinating too.) Our work aims to explore  the shifting dynamics of power and influence and investigate whether wealth remains the dominant factor in controlling markets and or if mere influence (reach, followers, becoming a household name)  starts to play an equal or more important role than wealth.

For now, strictly based on the numbers, the upper echelons of power lag behind in the progress the world at large seems to be making. 

  • The Top10 of WRTW 2023 are all men. This might come as no surprise, but gender disparity in terms of influence and power is extremely real. Female leaders of powerful economies or multi-billion dollar companies are still rare as black swans, and, on paper, entertainment superstardom is not creating wealth or influence comparable to those of countries and unicorn ventures.
  • The most influential entities remain the most powerful tech companies and the largest countries. With many economic ties and trading in goods and services the worldover depends on.. Alphabet, Meta and Apple form the tech triumvirate, while China, India and the US are our most influential countries.
  • Politics and wealth still create the most opportunities to act, wield power and influence. None of the Top10 actors have a huge social media presence, so reach and influence are not yet on the same playing field. 


Digital Connectivity: The internet and social media have democratised influence, allowing individuals and entities to reach global audiences instantaneously. The ability to capture and engage followers online has become a potent source of influence, slowly blurring the lines between traditional power structures and the digital realm. Entertainers like BTS, Kim Kardashian, and Justin Bieber have risen in the rankings. BTS, for instance, made a remarkable debut at 17th place, - just in time for them to get listed before disbanding - underlining the transformative power of entertainment in the digital age.

Evolving Global Challenges: As the world grapples with complex challenges like climate change, healthcare reform, war and economic recovery post-COVID, leaders who can address these issues with conviction and competence gain prominence. Influence now encompasses the capacity to bring about real-world change.

Polarisation & Populism: In an era where noise and controversy can grab attention, politics has veered toward polarisation and populist strategies. More noise often translates into more screen time, further shaping the landscape of influence. However, the index tells us that controversy and noise don’t necessarily guarantee power; Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have discovered that persistence and childlike competition is not cutting it to maintain their status.

Inclusivity and Representation: There's a growing recognition of the importance of diverse voices and representation in positions of influence. The rise of leaders like Giorgia Meloni challenges established norms (even if her politics take a page from the past) and overall this year the number of women in the top 100 has risen by 46%, from 15 to 22.  

In closing, the "Who Rules The World" index undertakes the formidable task of meticulously collecting and evaluating real-world data, weaving together the narratives of influential individuals. These data points serve as the thread that unveils the leaders and trendsetters of our time, illuminating their strengths and potential to shape our world. It signifies a paradigm shift, a transition from a wealth-centred definition of power and control to a more nuanced understanding of the forces that truly govern our global dynamics. As we chart the course forward, the question lingers - who, indeed, rules the world, and how are they reshaping our collective destiny?

Click here to explore the last instalment of WRTW!

A multi-dimensional case study on Influence, Wealth and Power to unveil Global Dynamics

Orsi Anna Toth

Head of Strategy

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