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These Two Female Governors Are Among the World’s Greatest Leaders

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (left) and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (left) and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (left) and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.Getty Images

Elected officials are dismayingly rare on Fortune‘s annual list of the World’s Greatest Leaders, in part because so few of them have the will (or, in crunch time, the votes) to make the difficult choices that truly effective government requires. But on this year’s list, you’ll find two governors—one Republican, one Democrat—who’ve stood out as exceptions.

While today’s most successful Republican pol builds a following by stirring resentment, Nikki Haley is proving that Trumpism isn’t the only way. South Carolina’s Indian-American governor was among the earliest in her party to call out the GOP presidential front-runner, warning against “the siren call of the angriest voices”—in a nationally televised State of the Union response, no less. Last summer, following the massacre of nine African Americans in a Charleston church, Haley engineered the removal of the Confederate flag from state capitol grounds, setting off a movement across the South to pack away the charged symbol.

Several hundred miles from Columbia, America’s smallest state just tackled one of the country’s biggest fiscal problems, thanks to Gina Raimondo. Countless state and local governments struggle with under­financed pension plans, and Rhode Island’s was one of the worst before 2014. That’s when Raimondo, a Democrat then serving as state treasurer, engineered an overhaul that slashed cost-of-living increases and pointed the system toward solvency. Public-sector unions fulminated and sued, but voters rewarded Raimondo by electing her governor. In 2015 she negotiated legal settlements that preserved her pension reforms, inspiring hope in cash-strapped statehouses everywhere.


This article is part of the 2016 World’s 50 Greatest Leaders feature, our annual list of world-changing leaders in business, government, philanthropy and beyond. Click here to see the entire package.