As Christmas draws closer, many are getting in the spirit of the season. In case you haven’t heard, Mark Zuckerberg just donated half a billion dollars (yes, billion with a “b”) to charity. Other business big wigs like Zuckerberg have often been very generous with their charitable donations.
But what about CEOs whom are generous in private?
Here are three stories about CEOs with tough reputations who went out of their way for someone else without any expectation of public fanfare.
- Steve Jobs
Yes, Steve Jobs was reputed to be a jerk to a lot of people (including this girl scout), but at his core he wanted to make the world a better place. Here is one surprising story about him helping a stranger in need:
A man named Tim Smith often drove by Steve Jobs’ house in Palo Alto when visiting his girlfriend. One night his British Sunbeam sports car broke down right in front of Jobs’ house.
Trying not to look like a creepy stalker, Smith popped the hood and started tinkering around, hoping for a quick fix. No luck.
Just as he gave up and started walking to his girlfriend’s house to call AAA, Jobs and his wife came out. After talking for a few minutes, they went ahead and called a family friend to come help look at Smith’s car. Eventually Steve Jobs himself got behind the wheel to crank the car while his friend worked under the hood.
After realizing the car was dead, Steve Jobs declared it a “piece of shit” and Smith was invited inside to call AAA.
- Mitt Romney
While his political opponents often painted Mitt Romney as a greedy, ruthless robot who would do anything to get ahead, nothing seems to be further from the truth. Here is one of many stories about the private generosity of the former Bain Capital chief:
Mark and Sheryl Nixon, along with their children, were in a car accident that left two of their sons quadriplegics. While they knew of Mitt Romney through their church congregation, they weren’t well acquainted.
The two Nixon boys, Rob and Reed, returned from rehab close to Christmas time. On Christmas Eve, 1995, Mitt Romney, his wife, and three of his sons showed up with gifts for the family. Most people would have called it good with that kind gesture, but not Romney.
Year after year he showed up at 5K races to run and participate in events to support the Nixon boys. He even offered to pay for their college education, and has continued to give them financial support over the years.
Rob and Reed Nixon now both have college degrees.
- Marc Benioff
Marc Benioff is a savvy business leader, but he’s also a compassionate one. In fact, he built philanthropy into his business model at Salesforce, contributing one percent of profits, one percent of equity and one percent of employee hours back to the community. Here’s a story about what he did for one of his employees who was diagnosed with cancer:
After working at Salesforce.com for barely a year, John Greene was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
After lots of chemotherapy, this husband and father realized a bone marrow transplant was his best shot, and decided to share a message at work.
Within five minutes, Benioff called him up. He made sure Greene got the medical care he needed. He had Salesforce cover Greene’s insurance costs.
Late one night the CEO tweeted, “Salesforce employee John Greene has AML and needs a bone marrow transplant to survive. Are you a match?” By morning, 350 “Salesforcians” had signed up with the match registry.
John Greene had a successful transplant and is back at work.