Christine Lagarde
MPW economy christine lagarde

Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund

Just by taking office Lagarde ensured her spot in the history books. Besides being the first woman to head the IMF, she took the reins as Europe teetered. When she came on in 2011, the fund had more than $100 billion in outstanding loans to cash-strapped Ireland, Greece and Portugal. She also replaced the infamous Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned after the NYPD arrested him for sexually assaulting a hotel maid (charges were later dropped). Yet by any measure, Lagarde has had a big impact in her own right. Her tenure at the world's lender of last resort has been marked by an unflinching willingness to take on European leadership, including friend Angela Merkel. She has argued that eurozone officials have put too great an emphasis on austerity and recommended making emergency funds more readily available to struggling countries.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated September 25 2012 12:48 PM ET
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