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Cubs prez Theo Epstein named world’s greatest leader by Fortune

You could make a case for the pope. Some would make a case for the president of the United States. Donald Trump might make a case for Vladimir Putin.

But when it comes to the best leader in the world. Well, that’s a no-brainer: Theo Epstein, of course.

The folks at Fortune magazine came out with their annual list of the world’s greatest leaders today and the Cubs’ president with the boyish good looks and remarkable baseball brain came in at No. 1.


President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs, Theo Epstein, celebrates in the locker room after defeating the San Francisco Giants 6-5 in Game Four of their National League Division Series to advance to the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park on October 11, 2016 in San Francisco. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

“Um, I can’t even get my dog to stop peeing in the house,” he wrote in a text to ESPN’s Buster Olney. “That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It’s baseball — a pastime involving a lot of chance. If [Ben] Zobrist’s ball is three inches farther off the line, I’m on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. And I’m not even the best leader in our organization; our players are.”

Fortune says its list is a ranking of “people who have been particularly effective leaders. We cast a very wide net.” Epstein was among “literally hundreds of candidates.”  Somehow, they sliced this list down to 50.

In backing up its choice of Epstein, Fortune wrote: “In his book The Cubs Way, Sports Illustrated senior baseball writer Tom Verducci details the five-year rebuilding plan that led to the team’s victory. The Cubs owe their success to a concatenation of different leadership styles, from the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts to the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of club president Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox. In the following passages, Verducci describes how a deeper understanding of important human qualities among his players—the character, discipline, and chemistry that turn skilled athletes into leaders—­enabled Epstein to engineer one of the most remarkable turnarounds in sports.”

The pope made a decent charge, but settled for third — we’re hearing because of bullpen issues at the Vatican.

“The pope didn’t have as good of a year,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters today.

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was a little surprised.

“I think the pope should be a little higher,” Bryant told reporters this morning. “That’s a little skewed there.

“Maybe [Epstein’s] head might get a little too big. He’ll be OK. He seems motivated to keep winning.”

In the sports world, LeBron James joined Epstein on the list, at No. 11. Cleveland takes another back seat to the Cubs.

Turns out, neither Trump nor Putin made the final 50. But noted White Sox fan — and Chicago recording artist — Chance the Rapper made it at No. 46.

Fortune’s Geoff Colvin writes on this year’s list: “Remember as you scan our list that we evaluate each leader within his or her own field of endeavor. Someone leading a small organization effectively may rank above someone far more famous nudging global issues. Our point isn’t to declare that, say, No. 7 on our list is ‘greater’ than No. 9. The point is that great leaders can be anywhere—at the helm of a giant corporation, running a rural college, or in a cramped office exerting influence through sheer personal energy.”

There are only seven repeats from last year’s list: Pope Francis (#3), Melinda Gates (#4), Jeff Bezos (#5), Angela Merkel (#10), Bryan Stevenson (#16), Justin Trudeau (#31) and Mark Benioff (#43).

Here’s a link to the full list.

  1. Theo Epstein – President, Baseball Operations, Chicago Cubs
  2. Jack Ma – Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group
  3. Pope Francis – Head of the Roman Catholic Church
  4. Melinda Gates – Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  5. Jeff Bezos – Founder and CEO, Amazon
  6. Ava DuVernay – Film Director and Screenwriter
  7. H.R. McMaster– U.S. National Security Adviser
  8. Tsai Ing-wen – President, Taiwan
  9. John McCain – U.S. Senator, Arizona
  10. Angela Merkel – Chancellor, Germany
  11. LeBron James – Small Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
  12. John Kasich – Governor, Ohio
  13. John Delaney – U.S. Representative, Maryland
  14. Helle Thorning-Schmidt – CEO, Save the Children International
  15. Katharine Hayhoe – Director, Climate Science Center, TexasTech
  16. Bryan Stevenson – Executive Director, Equal Justice Initiative
  17. Janet Yellen – Chair, Federal Reserve
  18. Brian Chesky – CEO and Head of Community, Airbnb
  19. Samantha Bee – Host and Executive Producer, Full Frontal
  20. Paul Polman – CEO, Unilever
  21. John Roberts – Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
  22. Janeé Harteau – Chief of Police, Minneapolis
  23. Joe Biden – Former U.S. Vice President
  24. Zhang Ruimin – CEO, Haier Group
  25. Carmen Aristegui – Host and Reporter, Aristegui Noticias
  26. Arundhati Bhattacharya – Chairman, State Bank of India
  27. Shakira – Singer, Songwriter and Producer
  28. Raj Panjabi – CEO, Last Mile Health
  29. Svetlana Gannushkina – Founder, Citizens Assistance Committee
  30. Elon Musk – CEO, Tesla and SpaceX
  31. Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister, Canada
  32. Rebecca Richards-Kortum – Professor, Rice University
  33. Strive Masiyiwa – Chairman, Econet Wireless Group
  34. Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland and Carmen Perez – National Co-chairs, the Women’s March on Washington
  35. Diana Natalicio – President, University of Texas at El Paso
  36. Ohood Al Roumi – Minister of Happiness, United Arab Emirates
  37. Fazle Abed – CEO, BRAC
  38. Haruno Yoshida – President, BT Japan
  39. Jamie Dimon – CEO, JPMorgan Chase
  40. Yuri Milner – Founder, DST Global
  41. Randall Stephenson – Chairman and CEO, AT&T
  42. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Novelist and Essayist
  43. Marc Beniioff – CEO and Chairman, Salesforce
  44. Frank Mugisha – Executive Director, Sexual Minorities Uganda
  45. Dalia Grybauskaite – President, Lithuania
  46. Chance the Rapper – Musician and Activist
  47. Hu Shuli – Editor-in-chief, Caixin Media
  48. Sadiq Khan – Mayor, London
  49. Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor – CEO, Intercorp
  50. Lisa Su – CEO, Advanced Micro Devices