Defining leadership calls to mind the famous Louis Brandeis quip about pornography: You know it when you see it. Fortune publishes its annual list of the world’s greatest leaders Thursday. As you’d expect, tech is well represented.
The luminaries from the realm of IT include Alibaba’s Jack Ma, former Microsoft executive Melinda Gates, Jeff Bezos (last year’s No.1), Brian Chesky of Airbnb, Elon Musk, Marc Benioff, Yuri Milner, and comeback CEO of the year candidate Lisa Su of chipmaker AMD.
Our list is subjective, but it tends to reward leaders either for their vision or their commitment to something beyond the world of business—or both. As I wrote last year, Bezos has begun to expand his horizons well beyond Amazon. He’s a newspaper publisher and rocket company proprietor now. Musk is a triple threat who has put combatting climate change at the heart of his empire. Benioff is teaching the corporate world how to marry social awareness with the pursuit of profits.
Tomorrow I’ll weigh in with a meatier take on one member of this group, the subject of a cover story in the latest issue of Fortune.
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One tech-industry player who isn’t on the list is Andrew Ng, who resigned Wednesday from his role heading artificial intelligence efforts at Chinese search engine Baidu.
Ng is a Stanford professor, a Google Brain founder, and the co-founder of Coursera. He also was Fortune’s guest at a CES dinner in January, where he elaborated on his contention that every company needs a chief AI officer. He wrote a long piece on Medium about his departure, which didn’t once state why he’s leaving. Bloomberg quoted Ng saying he’d been discussing his departure with Baidu CEO Robin Li for several months. Had I known he was leaving, I’m sure I would have asked him why two-and-a-half months ago.