The Innovators

10 Up and Coming Leaders to Watch

The Innovators


Innovators push the boundaries of the known world. They're change agents who are relentless in making things happen and bringing ideas to execution.

Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media
Photo (C) David Johnson

Nice Guys Finish First

Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media

Dave Kerpen literally wrote the book on leadership. The co-founder and chairman of Likeable Media is the author of Likeable Business: Why Today's Consumers Demand More and How Leaders Can Deliver, a 2012 volume documenting the philosophies behind the growth of his New York City-based social media marketing firm, whose clients include GE, Adobe, Neutrogena, HarperCollins Publishers and Verizon FiOS.

Kerpen launched Likeable Media in 2007 with his wife, Carrie, who took over as CEO in early 2013 to allow Dave to focus on expanding Likeable Local, a software platform that offers social media tools optimized for small businesses. The platform boasts more than 500 customers and a monthly run rate in excess of $1.2 million, an evolution Kerpen attributes to its adherence to cornerstone principles like listening and responsiveness. "Those are key principles not only for social media, but also for all great leaders and businesses," he says. "The old-school, top-down way of doing business no longer works.""Social media has made business more transparent than ever before," says Kerpen, whose other books include Likeable Leadership: A Collection of 65+ Inspirational Stories on Marketing, Your Career, Social Media & More. "The challenge facing successful leaders is being more open to this new world we live in. They must be more authentic, more vulnerable and more grateful."

Kerpen's philosophy venerates the golden rule of leadership: "By showing others the same courtesy you expect from them, you will gain more respect from co-workers, customers and business partners." He extends that further with what he calls "the platinum rule": "Do unto others as they would want done to them." In other words, put yourself in the position of colleagues, partners or clients to better understand their perspectives.

"Companies take on the character of their leaders. If you create a cutthroat, competitive environment, people are going to follow that model," Kerpen says. "I believe that long-term success and happiness are more correlated to the values I write about. Authenticity and vulnerability don't necessarily drive you to the top, but they do make it a lot easier to sleep at night." --J.A.

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This article was originally published in the March 2014 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: 10 Up and Coming Leaders.

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