You're in charge of a new Mount Rushmore-style monument, but for world leaders (must have been president/prime minister/king/emperor/big man in charge). You're also in charge of the criteria. Greatest political leader, greatest influence on history, greatest military leader - just make it something that will bring people from around the world to see it. Just like the real Mount Rushmore, you'll be having 4 faces carved - who's it going to be, and why?
My own rules take out one of the easiest choices as a great leader IMO - Gandhi. Doubt that MLK would've made top 4 for me, but he would have garnered consideration had the criteria not eliminated him as well. Mandela would have been an easy one for me 20 years ago; now I'm not so sure.
On my short list at this point would be Cyrus, Genghis Khan, Alexander, Augustus, Churchill, Napoleon, FDR, Washington, Lincoln, - can't help but feel that list shows I'm a little too deep in recent (primarily North American) history and shallow everywhere else. Need to learn more about Che Guevara, Salahuddin, Mao Zedong. And I'm sure there are lots more I'm missing - looking forward to learning from all of you.
There are many other "candidates" who would have made the list. It's only a fine line that separates them from the leaders that I selected.
Well, that line for me was important. All my " Mount Rushmore" icons have one thing in common. They were great leaders but most importantly they were great intellectuals too, amateur philosophers as well.
I too maintain the idea that if this planet is governed by philosophers, it would be a better place.
P.S. My criteria for a great leader: Spread out the civilization.
Issac Newton probably belongs. While not a political leader, his influence on history is certainly there.
I also question whether Lincoln should be included. Slavery probably would have ended anyway, just a number of years down the road, and the North just had too many advantages to lose the war. So even though Lincoln was great, I'm not sure he should be this high.
I have decided on two for sure: Churchill and Constantine. The reasons should be obvious if not agreed on. The other two, I think, will be Asiatic. Genghis Khan perhaps. Influential in other ways but no less profound and long lasting is Confucius. But others are still in contention.