Appearances can be deceiving.
Nowhere is this more true than in business. Some of the world’s best-known corporate leaders have very publicly and unapologetically cultivated brands built around ruthlessness and inscrutability. Call them the “bad boys” of business – and, for better or worse, most of them are men – if you must.
There’s more to these leaders than meets the eye, though. It’s not at all uncommon for ostensibly ruthless corporate leaders to harbor softer sentiments; some do it right out in the open.
These five executives and founders do just that – juxtaposing no-nonsense exteriors with boundless generosity. Here’s how they’re giving back to the communities and causes they care about.
- Bill Gates, Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
For a time, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was the wealthiest man in the world. He and his wife, Melinda, remain in the top ten, though they’re working hard to change that through their eponymous foundation. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to solve a smorgasbord of pressing global problems, from the education gap to malaria to HIV/AIDS; thanks in large part to its founders’ high public profiles, it has buy-in from countless corporate patrons, NGOs, and nation-states.
- Todd Leebow, Majestic Steel USA
Majestic Steel USA president and CEO Todd Leebow wasn’t content to turn his family business into one of the country’s top steel service centers. These days, he and hundreds of Majestic associates are working hard to lift up the least fortunate among them. Majestic’s long-term partnership with the Ronald McDonald House of Greater Cleveland is a model for other midsize employers and an inspiration for the charity’s clients.
- Michael Dell, Dell Technologies
The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation isn’t quite as well known as that other software founder’s family foundation, but it’s no less impactful. Dell’s charity focuses on empowering urban children and families, doing its part to create an America that truly lives up to the promise of its founding.
- Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway
Warren Buffett made his fortune by investing in undervalued assets with big upside potential. Now, as he nears the end of a career for the ages, he’s making one final bet: that his fortune is best left in the hands of those seeking to solve the world’s toughest problems. Most of the thirty-odd billion he plans to give away at his death is earmarked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
- Leonard Bosack, Cisco
Ex-Cisco exec Leonard Bosack isn’t exactly a household name, but stories of his charity nevertheless precede him. Unlike most other corporate philanthropists, Bosack gave away the lion’s share of his Cisco windfall to causes dear to his heart, setting a powerful example for members of the 0.1% in the process.
Live Your Values Every Day
These five well-known corporate leaders live their values every day, inside and outside the boardroom.
They’ve all earned well-deserved reputations as leading lights in their industries; some are bona fide living legends. They’re under no obligation to share their valuable time and hard-earned resources with the less fortunate.
And yet they do. That they willingly give up so much to help those who have so little should serve as an inspiration for all who’d follow in their footsteps. Perhaps they’ve inspired you to share whatever abundance you’ve managed to attain, too. Should you choose to do so, you’d no doubt find yourself in good company.