The Karen Keller Institute exists to help people measure and to grow their influence. I thought it would be fun to put together a list of the Top Influencers of 2015. If Time and Forbes do it, why not us? Here are some of the Top Influencers of 2015 we have aggregated to make our own list.


Business Influencers

1. Tim Cook: A Courageous Innovator

It could not have been easy for Tim Cook to step into the immense shadow cast by the late Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs. But with grace, courage and an unabashed willingness to be his own man, Tim has pushed Apple to unimaginable profitability and greater social responsibility. He is setting a new standard for what business can do in the world. Tim is unwavering in his support of an individual’s right to privacy and is not only embracing equality and LGBT rights but also advocating for change through his words and actions. His commitment to renewable energy is also leaving our planet a little cleaner and a little greener for future generations.

2. Larry Page: Searching for Public Trading

Larry Page is now CEO of Alphabet, a new publicly traded parent company that includes Google, the Google X lab, and businesses such as Calico, Nest and Fiber. In August, Page announced that he'd be handing over his Google CEO post to the search giant's product czar, Sundar Pichai. The announcement came soon after Google stock surged in July, propelled by success in mobile search, YouTube and a promise from new Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat to rein in spending. Earlier this year, Google unveiled Sidewalk Labs, a new subsidiary to improve quality of life in cities, as well as plans to provide mobile phone services in the U.S. Page cofounded Google in 1998 with fellow Stanford Ph.D. student Sergey Brin and was its first CEO until 2001. After serving as President of products, he took the helm again in 2011. In October 2014, Page transferred most of his daily responsibilities to Pichai in order to focus on longer-term strategy. A clean energy advocate, Page's network of houses in Palo Alto uses fuel cells, geothermal energy and rainwater capture.


1. Vladimir Putin: Russia's Iron Man

“Behave or else,” say leaders of the world’s most powerful countries, and Vladimir Putin continues to choose “else.” He does it in ways that strengthen his hold on a nation increasingly under stress. The Russian President is significant in any year because no one in the world has amassed greater political authority in a country so important to international politics and the global economy. Putin’s place on this year’s list comes in part to his gravity-defying ability to confront the West in ways that boost his popularity in a country suffering through an economic meltdown for which his own policies are largely responsible. No leader arouses more fascination around the world because his actions speak a language of defiance that so many of his people want to hear, lifting him to levels of popularity that other leaders can only envy. How long can he remain aloft? Don’t bet against him quite yet.​

2. Angela Merkel: Staying Power

German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues her reign as the most powerful woman on the planet for 10 years running. Why? She clinched a third four-year term of Europe's most vibrant economy in December 2014, making her the longest-serving elected EU head of state. She fought off a national recession during the global economic crisis with stimulus packages and government subsidies for companies that cut hours for workers, and she is in process of helping Greece revive its economy. She has used her power against ISIS, breaking the post-Naziera taboo of direct involvement in military actions by sending arms to Kurdish fighters. In the Russia-Ukraine crisis, she has been engaging in shuttle diplomacy by working to broker a peace deal with Vladimir Putin. There's only one woman who has a chance of endangering her tenure as No. 1 in 2016: the world's No. 2 most powerful woman.

3. Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu was just elected for the fourth time to lead Israel. I know it’s not trivial to win office, not simple to govern and not easy to leave a positive imprint on history. Netanyahu is essentially right about Iran and the risky neighborhood. But he can fail to seize opportunities, and on the Palestinian question, he grossly ignores the slippery slope awaiting Israel in the form of a one-state solution.

To leave his mark, Netanyahu must swiftly heal wounds opened by his campaign, mend the working relationship with President Obama, fight hard(mainly behind closed doors) for a tougher policy, and even, if needed, WORD HERE an attack against Iran and boldly engage the region’s moderates against terror, radicalism and Iranian hegemony. Daring actions are needed; not just words.

Financial Influencer

1. Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen made history in 2014 when she became the first female head of the Federal Reserve. The Yale and Brown educated economist has barely had a moment’s rest since then. She took over shortly after the central bank began unwinding its recession-era, bond-buying program, and then deftly ushered markets through six cuts that brought monthly purchases to $0 from a peak of $85 billion. Now the Federal Reserve could loosen the economic reigns further by beginning to hike interest rates as soon as December 2015 - a feat that was anticipated earlier in the year but hasn't attempted since 2004. With so much at stake, a single word from Yellen can send asset prices swinging. Meanwhile, she has been fighting a call to increase congressional supervision of the Federal Reserve while pushing to improve its oversight of big banks.

2. Chanda Kochhar

You can’t miss Chanda Kochhar as she walks through the Congress Centre at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, or into a meeting of the board of directors of the Institute of International Finance; she is always resplendent in an elegant sari.

Her calm, soft-spoken and understated demeanor belies her strength of conviction and clarity of thought.

When Chanda speaks, people listen carefully.


1. Pope Francis: Compassion Embodied

Pope Francis is the spiritual leader to one-sixth of the world's population -- 1.2 billion souls. He has made it his mission to transform the longstanding conservative image of the Catholic Church. The pontiff made a six-day visit to the U.S. in September, addressing Congress and the United Nations and urging actions on issues including climate change, immigration, and the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. He also visited inmates in a Philadelphia jail and met with victims of sexual abuse, telling those who were molested by priests he was "deeply sorry" for occasions where their accounts were not believed. The first Jesuit and Latin American Bishop of Rome preaches compassion for the poor and a greater role for women, while signaling the church to quiet its focus on "issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptives."

2. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: Focused on Influence

Pressured by a struggling economy suffering under plummeting oil prices and years of sanctions imposed by the West, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei begrudgingly approved a nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers. The pact agreed to limit the nation's nuclear ability in exchange for relief from sanctions; Tehran has since started decommissioning centrifuges used for enriching uranium. Iran's Supreme Leader has long been focused on establishing the country's status as a world player in the nuclear field, and despite the pact, has remained vocal in his opposition of the U.S. "America is the main part of the problem in the region, not part of the solution," Khomeini said in November.


1. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: Merchant of Death

The biggest threat to Middle East security is as much a mystery as a menace — a 42-year-old Iraqi who went from a U.S. detention camp to the top of the jihadist universe with a whisper of a backstory and a $10 million bounty on his head.

He's known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of the ruthless Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, and he oversees thousands of fighters in his quest to create a Sunni Islamic caliphate straddling the border of Iraq and Syria. It wasn't long before Baghdadi was rising through the ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq, the successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq.

When the organization's two leaders were killed in 2010, Baghdadi stepped into the void.

He kept a low profile compared to other militants with their grandiose-taped statements, which is one key to his survival, analysts said.

2. Abubakar Shekau: Scourge of Africa

Most Americans do not yet recognize his name, but the citizens of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, know Abubakar Shekau all too well: he is the most violent killer their country has ever seen. Shekau took over the terrorist organization Boko Haram in 2009 after the group had been weakened by Nigerian government forces.

Shekau, who is believed to be in his 30s, began to stage increasingly daring kidnapping and killing raids on schools, churches and mosques thought by Boko Haram to be violating their interpretation of Islam. The taking of over 200 schoolgirls in April 2014 brought Boko Haram into the international spotlight.

By most accounts, Boko Haram has killed more than 10,000 people and is spreading into neighboring countries. Shekau’s latest action may finally summon a U.S. response: he has publicly aligned his group with ISIS, the terrorist group that holds territory in Syria and Iraq and has expanded its reach into Yemen and Libya.


1. John Roberts: “Benchmaking” Obamacare

As arguments and questions swirled around him, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts sat quietly at the center of the bench.

Only toward the end of oral arguments in the blockbuster King v. Burwell case in March did he ask a telling question. That query hinted at the majority opinion he wrote in June, upholding a 6-3 vote the Obama administration's interpretation of a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. The ruling made reinterpreting that provision virtually impossible if a Republican president succeeds Barack Obama.

Roberts' influence on healthcare this year and in year’s past is hard to overstate. In the King case, he was one of two conservatives who voted to allow the ACA's premium subsidies in all states, which, in the view of many experts, saved the healthcare reform law. His written opinion was taken by many observers to mean the Roberts court is finished considering the fundamental legality of the ACA.

2. Elizabeth Holmes: Dreaming of Healthcare

Elizabeth Holmes is a story that could happen only in America. After her sophomore year at Stanford, she left to devote herself to a vision of health care available as a basic human right. When first introduced to Elizabeth, one may feel her plan sounds like an undergraduate’s dream. She had only two prospects: total failure or vast success. There would be no middle ground.

Elizabeth accepted only one option: making a difference. Striking, somewhat ethereal, and iron-willed, she is on the verge of achieving her vision through a new method of blood testing that significantly reduces costs, in addition to tests for a whole range of infections, all of which is mobile and can be easily transported to underdeveloped regions.

She is dedicated to transforming health care around the world through striving for prevention and early detection. She manages an expanding global business by the refusal to be daunted by any obstacle.

Elizabeth is in the process of turning an undergraduate’s vision into a global reality. That she combines fierce and single-minded dedication with great charm makes her a formidable advocate. Others will judge the technical aspects of Theranos, but the social implications are vast.


1. LeBron James: King Another Year

LeBron James is the first NBA player to appear in five straight NBA Finals since the Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1960s. The NBA's four-time MVP returned to Cleveland in July 2014 when he signed a two-year, $42.1 million contract after four seasons in Miami. James inked the shorter deal, instead of a richer four-year pact, so he could be a free agent again in 2016 when the NBA's new $24 billion TV deals kick in and sends the salary cap soaring. The NBA's top pitchman added Kia Motors to his endorsement portfolio, which already included Nike, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Beats by Dre, Upper Deck, Tencent and Audemars Piguet. Sales of his signature Nike shoes were top among active players at $340 million in the U.S. during 2014, according to research firm SportsOneSource. His Cavs jersey was also the NBA's best-seller.

2. Conor McGregor- Notorious Big Mouth Who Backs It Up

There is no other athlete in the world who is changing the game like Conor McGregor. He is mainstreaming the UFC, providing numbers comparable with boxing in its heyday. He has the charisma and cockiness that you either love or hate. He is captivating the fighting universe. Conor has sparked the UFC and has drastically increased its popularity. Right now the entire UFC is relying on Conor McGregor to succeed and to push them into the next level, especially after Ronda Rousey’s loss.


1. Susan Wojcicki: Curator of the World's Stories

Susan Wojcicki is a truly charmed soul. She has this innate navigational system that enables her to operate on a higher plane. She is, in fact, connected to “the source” - that place where the “super” gifted achieve a state of flow.

When Google was created in her garage, it marked a pivotal moment in the history of the world. This ignited Susan’s epic journey, which today finds her at the helm of yet another transformational platform: YouTube.

Susan believes in the power of story and knows that everything and everyone has its own narrative that deserves to be told. YouTube aggregates all of those stories, in all shapes and sizes, and makes them available to the world. It sounds simple, but the power of YouTube has made it the most valuable storytelling outlet our planet has ever seen.

Real Estate

1. Wang Jianlin: The “Emperor” of China

Wang Jianlin is China's richest man with a reach that is spreading around the world. His fortune more than doubled in the past year following successful public offerings of his real estate firm Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties, which has 125 shopping plazas and 68 five-star hotels, and Wanda Cinema Line, one of China's largest movie theater chains. Wang has spanned the globe in the past year: In January, he bought 20% of Spanish soccer team Atletico Madrid, and in August, he purchased the U.S. organizer of Ironman Triathlons for $650 million. Wang's Dalian Wanda Group purchased U.S. movie theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings for $2.6 billion in 2012 and took it public in December 2013. Wang's son, Sicong, stirred up controversy about the children of China's billionaires in May when he posted photos on social media of a dog with two Apple watches on its front legs.

2. Taylor Swift: The Social Star

To call Taylor Swift influential is like calling the sky blue, which explains why the Wyomissing, Pennsylvania-born singer/songwriter was just named one of the 100 most influential in Time magazine. Swift, 25, has more than 56 million followers on Twitter, 70 million fans on Facebook and more than 27 million followers on Instagram for a combined total of 153 million fans. That’s roughly half of the U.S. population of 318.9 million people.

King Makers

1. Warren Buffet: The Liberals Buffet

Buffett is, without a doubt, Hillary Clinton’s richest proponent. He has long supported the former First Lady’s bid to return to the White House by donating to her campaign and, perhaps more crucially, adding his stamp of approval. He and his wife each made $2,700 donations in April, and he gave $33,400 to the DNC Services Corp.,   a PAC that supports Democratic candidates. While he has firmly sided with Clinton, he’s made admiring comments about Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a far left politician. An outspoken liberal, Buffett has quietly become a big backer of Planned Parenthood and gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.

2. The Koch Brothers: Turning America Right

“Will you stand with us to help save our country?” Charles Koch asked the crowd gathered at the Freedom Partners Policy Leaders conference in California in August. In attendance were Republican hopefuls Jeb Bush, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, all there to pay their respects to the Kochs. Donald Trump wasn’t invited. Charles compares his crusade for smaller government and economic liberty to the civil rights campaign, and his network of wealthy conservatives hopes to spend up to $300 million on candidates and another $600 million on efforts to reduce regulations and reform the criminal justice system.

How Influential Are You?

Each of us possesses a degree of influence. We can use this influence in positive and negative ways. Increase your influence, and the impact you make upon the world will be greater. If you want a benchmark measurement of your current degree of influence, take a complimentary trial of the Keller Influence Indicator®. The KII® is a first-of-its-kind, research-based measurement of your current influence potential. We are offering this free sample portion of the comprehensive KII@ for a limited time. 


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From regional manager to international executive with quadruple the pay, Karen Keller’s unique blueprint carefully outlined the step-by-step process for creating high-impact influence and let me know when I was being influenced in a way that didn’t serve me.
Lloyd Moore
Global Director Supplier Quality & Development - Lear Corporation – South Carolina