The most transformative CEOs of 2021

Most impressive CEOs collage including Shantanu Narayen of Adobe, Albert Bourla of Pfizer, Mary Barra of GM, Jensen Huang of NVIDIA
From left: Shantanu Narayen, the CEO of Adobe; Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer; Mary Barra, the CEO of GM; Jensen Huang, the CEO of Nvidia.

Leadership in 2021 is marked by transformation.

Of business models, of workforces, of organizations themselves. Insider’s inaugural list of the Most Transformative CEOs celebrates the four executives who are best meeting the needs of their many stakeholders. They do not merely protect the bottom line. They also devise strategies to respond to changing markets, tackle the climate crisis, and serve as stewards for the well-being of their employees – and the world.

Insider is proud to announce this first class:

Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors

Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer

Jensen Huang, the CEO of Nvidia

Shantanu Narayen, the CEO of Adobe

Insider arrived at this list by way of both quantitative and qualitative analysis. We considered the 100 CEOs of the largest publicly traded US companies by market capitalization on the S&P 500 who have been in their positions since at least January 2019. We ruled out executives who are on their way to stepping down, including Ken Frazier, the CEO of Merck.

We evaluated companies and CEOs across measures of recent financial performance, ratings on employee review sites Comparably and Glassdoor, typical employee compensation and the CEO-to-median-pay ratio, and the 2021 Just Capital ranking of companies’ commitment to social responsibility.

To choose the CEOs we wanted to feature, we considered the above metrics, as well as a qualitative sense of leaders guiding their firms through a historically difficult year. We believe these CEOs exemplify the traits and achievements needed to survive and thrive in that challenging environment.

Keep scrolling to learn more about what makes each CEO on Insider’s list deserving of the title of Most Transformative CEO.

MARY BARRA, the CEO of General Motors

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors Company
Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors.

Without doubt, the most successful CEO in GM’s recent four or five decades. Bob Lutz, a former GM vice chairman

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ALBERT BOURLA, the CEO of Pfizer

Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer
Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer.

What they’ve done on the vaccine is remarkable. How quickly they’ve developed it, and now getting it out, especially in the US, is incredible. Vamil Divan, a senior biopharmaceuticals research analyst at Mizuho

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JENSEN HUANG, the CEO of Nvidia

Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia
Jensen Huang, the CEO of Nvidia.

One of these extremely rare individuals who has taken a zero-revenue company to $20 billion Rene Haas, Nvidia’s executive vice president

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SHANTANU NARAYEN, the CEO of Adobe

Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe
Shantanu Narayen, the CEO of Adobe.

His ability to connect dots across different parts of the business, across different market trends, and then very succinctly distill the key decisions that need to be made is something I marvel at. Amit Ahuja, Adobe’s VP of Experience Cloud

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