Knowledge is Power

What makes a great leader? What qualities must a person possess in order to have the ability shepherd others? These questions are essential to observe as they shine a light as to what traits one must foster in order to be a difference-maker or decision-maker within each population. This is especially relevant when talking about world leaders. These are people who possess the power to make significant decisions that affect millions of people all over the world. These leaders are some of the most influential people in the world and their ability to put themselves in that position is unique. There are many traits that these people have utilized to put them in the important role they are in. However, one of the most relevant quality a leader holds is knowledgeability. People want leaders who have the knowledge about the certain facets that they have to deal with given their authority. Knowledge is not only an essential part of a leader’s influence, but also directly impacts the people’s perception of that person in power. While knowledge is a valued trait across humanity, it is important to think about how different cultures interpret different types of knowledge and value some types more than others. In some cultures and societies one type of knowledge may be more relevant and important than another based on different issues that leaders have to face pertaining to their own country. The magnitude of the decisions that leaders make is the main reason why a society’s perception of the knowledge of their leader is so important. People want to know that their leader is knowledgeable enough to make informed and sound choices. But how does one obtain this knowledge? Knowledge can be obtained through discovery or experiences, but arguably the most direct way knowledge is obtained is through education.

In a fascinating map uploaded to Reddit, a user by the name of mareyv shows what world leaders and heads of state as of December 2013 studied for the highest degree they have earned. The map shows that the majority of the world is represented by leaders who studied Economics/Business/Business Administration, Law/Jurisprudence, and Political Science/History/Political Administration. This does not come as a surprise as these are three areas where knowledge is vital to making decisions regarding domestic and foreign diplomacy in each country. However, there are still many questions to explore when it comes to thinking about the views of certain types of education in each society. How do different societies view each type of education? Do certain countries value one type over another?

If we compare countries based on GDP, then we see some interesting data. There are six different areas of educational study within the top ten countries based on GDP. The leaders of the top five countries all studied different areas: Law, Economics, Political Science, Natural Science, and Interdisciplinary Studies respectively. Another surprising aspect of the data was that despite having the top GDP, The U.S. was the only country in the top ten that had a world leader who studied Law. Economics/Business/Business Administration was the area that showed up the most frequently in the top ten with China, Brazil, and Canada all having leaders who studied that discipline. The variety of educational backgrounds within the top ten countries is surprising and indicates that while there are a significant number of leaders who studied Economics, Law, or Politics, the most developed countries do not rely on a single educational background to lead their country. However it is essential to think critically about the map and understand the possible misconceptions this map may create. By only correlating the country with the educational background of its leader, it mislead people into thinking that one area of knowledge is more important to the people of a nation than another. While this may be true, educational background does not necessarily indicate that that certain type of knowledge is more prevalent to the people of the nation. There are many other factors that go into the knowledge of a leader than just their educational background. Perhaps an elected leader studied biology but through campaigning focused on showing that he had extensive knowledge about economics. This would lead to a misconception that that nation has a certain focus on biology as a whole when that might not be the case at all. Another aspect that is left off the map is other traits besides for knowledge. There is many facets of each leader and not all of them have to do with simply being smart. Personality, public speaking ability, political views, culture, religion, race, gender, and origin all play a role in electoral processes that decide these leaders. By only showing the educational background the map may lead people to form conclusions about certain countries that should not be taken as fact.

Another interesting thing I noticed about the map is that North America is solely made up of leaders who studied either Law or Economics while a continent with less developed countries, like Africa, have a large variety of educational backgrounds of their leaders. While most studied Economics, Law, or Politics, there are multiple areas represented within the continent. These backgrounds include Military/Intelligence/Police, Engineering/Architecture, Education/Social Sciences/Psychology, Biology/Zoology/Agronomy, Natural Sciences/Mathematics, and Interdisciplinary studies. One might chalk this up to the plethora of countries in Africa. But even other continents with a large amount of countries like Asia and Asia are heavily dominated by leaders who studied Law, Economics, or Politics, without a lot of variety in educational backgrounds. This may lead some to believe that studying one of these backgrounds gives one an edge in being a leader of a developed region. This is another example of an aspect of the map that is interesting but also potentially misleading. People may take certain things as fact when in reality there are many other factors that may have led people into leadership positions that the map does not show.

Of course there are many other aspects of a person beyond educational background which give insight to how effective one is as a leader. While looking at the educational background gives us somewhat of an idea at what certain places value when it comes to the knowledge and specialties of their leader, there are many other factors that the map does not touch upon when it comes to what people value in their leaders. While looking at any map it is important to consider certain biases and decisions that go into the making of a map. One must be careful as to not take certain things as fact based on the information, or lack of information, that is on a map.



Nisen, Max. “This Map Shows What All The World’s Leaders Studied In School.” Business Insider, 18 December 2013,

Problem Bajpai CFA. “The World’s Top 10 Economies.” Investopedia, 7 July. 2017,


This entry was posted in Maps of the Week. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Knowledge is Power

  1. Benjamin Putterman says:

    Hey Richard,

    This blog post was very interesting and I think you did a really good job with it. When I first looked at the map I thought it was disorganized or confusing because of all the different colors, but when I learned more about it and studied it a little more I decided it was a very intriguing and appealing map. Especially with today’s political intensity, to learn that most of the world’s leaders have a degree in Economics/Business/Business Administration was extremely interesting. This post provided me with a lot of new information and I think you did a great job of giving background and explanation to this map. Tt was a great choice for the Map of the Week. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  2. Allison Choe says:

    This is an incredibly interesting map which I think was a perfect pick for this assignment. The joint analysis of the map’s data with each respective country’s GDP was really well done and I think also really expanded the overall analysis and commentary of the map. Additionally, your acknowledgement of multiple biases within certain implications the audience may deduce from the map was very thorough—as we have seen in class can be critical to understanding the map’s true power and rhetorical influence. Overall, I really enjoyed studying this map and reading this analysis—great job!


  3. Karim Naous says:

    Before seeing this map, I didn’t really give much thought as to what qualities societies value in their leaders. It was very interesting to discover that different countries have leaders from such a wide range of educational backgrounds. I’ve assumed that most world leaders study law or political science, as thats what I thought a member of the government needed to know to be able to maneuver the political landscape. I now know that some societies value backgrounds in subjects such as religion, the military, or the arts. This map really brings out some of the differences that makes each culture in the world unique. However, I do like how you suggested that this map might be misleading as the educational background of a leader doesn’t necessarily show what societies value in them as these leaders might have knowledge gained outside of traditional education, such as from experience. Your analysis effectively brings out not only what we can learn from a map like this, but also what type of misconceptions may arise.

Comments are closed.