Time magazine named German Chancellor Angela Merkel its 2015 Person of the Year, noting her resilience and leadership when faced with the Syrian refugee crisis and turmoil in the European Union over its currency this year.

"Merkel had an incredibly newsy year," said Time's deputy managing editor Radhika Jones. "Her 'to do' list outstripped probably anyone else on the planet. From steering Europe through serial debt crises to welcoming literally a million migrants from Syria and other tumultuous places into Europe and pressing forward with her vision of an open and borderless Europe, we deemed her the person who most affected the news and the world in this past year."

Merkel topped the list of eight finalists. The others on Time's shortlist were Islamic State (Isis) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Black Lives Matter activists, Caitlyn Jenner, Uber founder Travis Kalanick, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and US Presidential candidate Donald Trump.

"We chose Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis (Daesh), as our first runner up, obviously for tragic reasons. Isis really became a household name this year. And Person of the Year, as much as it looks backward, it also looks forward. We think that unfortunately IS is figuring largely into the news going forward, into this election cycle in America, certainly. And speaking of election cycles, you will find candidate Donald Trump on our shortlist. Donald Trump really owned the news in America this year," Jones said.

Although some of Merkel's decisions have not been popular in her home country, Time said that is actually a positive thing. Jones added: "Influence is rarely ever solely looked on in a positive light. And if you look at our shortlist, I would say everyone on that list is polarising, from Chancellor Merkel to Donald Trump to Travis Kalanick – the founder of Uber.

"It's true that Merkel's decisions, especially on her policy on refugees has caused her to drop in her polls. She hasn't necessarily been met with full-throated approval on some of these decisions, but she's working through them...to us, that's a measure of her influence, that people react strongly to her whatever she does."

Merkel, elected to her position in 2005, has been called the most powerful politician on the planet and is the first woman to lead Germany. Time noted her leadership this year in leading the West's response to Vladimir Putin's "creeping theft of Ukraine" and welcoming refugees to Germany despite "the reflex to slam doors, build walls and trust no one."

In response to the news, Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert told a government news conference: "I am sure the chancellor will cherish this as an incentive in her job." Merkel is the first individual woman to hold the Time title in 29 years, though women have been honoured as part of a group. Last year, a group of Ebola doctors and survivors won the title.