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CEOs doing the ice bucket challenge

Aug 14, 2014: Chicago Cubs vice president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is dunked with a bucket of water as part of the ice bucket challenge in awareness for ALS research. (Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)

Everyone's doing the ice bucket challenge. Britney Spears. Lady Gaga. Jimmy Fallon. Your mother-in-law.

Yet unlike past celebrity-fueled hashtag activism movements or viral video campaigns, the current social media phenomenon benefiting ALS, often called Lou Gehrig's Disease, has attracted a noticeably high number of CEOs — and particularly, tech CEOs. Bill Gates filmed himself engineering a contraption for his bucket dump. Jeff Bezos joked about calling out Edward Snowden before getting showered with icy water. (Scroll down to see the videos.)

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have both done it. So have Microsoft's Satya Nadella, Apple's Tim Cook and Netflix's Reed Hastings. "There's definitely been more CEO and business leader interest than for any [other campaign] I've seen," says Mitzi Emrich, chief social strategist at the public relations firm MWW.

She suggests a few reasons why the ice bucket challenge — where people challenge their friends to dump a bucket of water on their heads within 24 hours or donate to the cause — has been so popular with the CEO set. For one, it benefits the ALS Association, a credible charity many corporations already do work with. Because of that, Emrich says, "CEOs feel much safer getting engaged around this campaign."

Its participatory nature also lets them show off their personality, and appeals to their competitive nature and pride in showing off who they know.

There's also a likely reason so many tech CEOs, rather than leaders of more traditional corporations, are getting involved. "CEOs in the tech and social space really understand the need to be transparent and show they’re tracking trends," Emrich says. "They're more willing to jump in on a conversation that's a little more fast moving because that's what they experience every day."

But isn't there a potential backlash against extravagantly wealthy CEOs who, in choosing to dump a bucket of ice water on their head, implicate that they won't be donating unless they specify otherwise? "If the campaign weren’t doing so well, that would probably be a criticism lobbied at some of these celebrities and CEOs," Emrich says. "But it's done so well the assumption is many of them are donating behind the scenes, too."

The ALS Association has raised nearly $16 million in the past few weeks, compared with less than $2 million during the same period last year. Here are a few of the tech titans and business leaders who've decided to take the plunge.

Amazon CEO (and Washington Post owner) Jeff Bezos:



Tesla CEO Elon Musk:



Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella:



Microsoft founder and former CEO Bill Gates:



Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg:



Apple CEO Tim Cook:



Google CEO Larry Page and co-founder Sergey Brin:



T-Mobile CEO John Legere:



AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega:



Twitter CEO Dick Costolo:



Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg:


Read also:

Your boss uses Facebook at work more than you do

The brains behind the viral Goldieblox video

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.



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Jena McGregor · August 18, 2014

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