These heads of state -- some leading democracies, some helming more nefarious systems -- regularly appear in the headlines as they wrest with myriad problems at home and abroad. Learn more about them here.
A controversial figure who has led France to a tougher international reputation while his own popularity has waned at home. A lawyer by trade who served terms as minister of the Interior, Finance and Budget before rising to the helm of French Republic. He's also the co-prince of Andorra, a tiny principality between France and Spain.
Chancellor of Germany since 2005. The first female leader of a major continental European power and the first woman to lead Germany since it was born as a modern nation-state in 1871. She is also the first former citizen of East Germany to lead the country since reunification, and the youngest chancellor since World War II. A master power broker and consensus-builder who has been turned to in order to guide the EU through financial meltdowns and other crises.
The "Great Successor," as officially deemed in North Korea, to his late father, "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-Il. The third and youngest son of the elder Kim, who groomed him as heir apparent in the last year of his life amid failing health. Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army in charge of nearly 6 million active duty personnel. Vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, which directs Workers' Party of Korea activity in the army.
The president of Syria who took power in 2000 after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria with an iron fist for 29 years. Leader of the Ba'ath Party since he came to office. Leader of the Syrian Army.
The sixth and current president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. A civil engineer by trade who won favor with the ruling theocracy through unappointed governorships and administrative roles. Former mayor of Tehran after winning a city council seat with just 12 percent voter turnout; he rolled back reforms made by his more moderate predecessor. A hardliner who regularly tangles with the international community and has drawn criticism from within Iran for putting forth such a combative stance. Became the first non-cleric president in 24 years upon his election in August 2005.
President of Mexico since Dec. 1, 2006, serving one six-year term that will expire in 2012. Won the vote in a razor-thin, contested election against leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. A Harvard-educated lawyer with legislative experience who was secretary of energy under President Vicente Fox.
President of Nigeria and commander of the armed forces since 2010, a southern Christian in a country wracked by Islamist insurgent violence. Uses social media, particularly Facebook, extensively to communicate with constituents.
He's the man who became president of the Russia Federation without having to actually run for the presidency. The blessing of Vladimir Putin -- who enjoyed a high approval rating in his eight years at the helm of the former Soviet Union -- worked better for Dmitry Medvedev than a thousand stump speeches or any of the presidential debates that, according to Medvedev's wishes, never happened.
The king of Saudi Arabia, formally known as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. (These are Mecca and Medina.) Abdullah is also prime minister and commander of the National Guard. He succeeded King Fahd upon his death in 2005, but had already been running most of the country's affairs since Fahd suffered a stroke in 1995.
Mugabe leads the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front, a socialist party founded in 1987. Mugabe and his party are also heavily nationalist with left-wing ideology, favoring land seizures from white Zimbabweans while claiming that doing so counters the nation's imperialist past.
The president of Venezuela since February 1999, Chavez has captured headlines for being a thorn in the side of Western leaders and for regularly offering a bevy of antagonistic, paranoid, nationalist soundbites.