Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld Profile

    • Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is the Senior Associate Dean for Executive Programs at Yale University’s School of Management and The Lester Crown Professor of Management Practice as well as the Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer of The Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute. This institute is the world’s first CEO College and is dedicated to the advancement of top leadership education through scholarly research and peer-driven educational forums for prominent CEOs. Previously, he was a professor at the Goizueta Business School of Emory University. There he founded the Center for Leadership & Career Studies, which he ran for eight years. Prior to this, Sonnenfeld spent ten years as a professor at the Harvard Business School. His research, publications and consulting address issues of top leadership development, executive succession, and board governance.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld received his AB, MBA, and DBA from Harvard University. He has been the recipient of: the Irwin Award for Social Research in Industry; AT&T′s Hawthorne Fellowship for Social Research in Industry; the John P. Whitehead Faculty Fellowship; and, on two occasions, Emory′s “Outstanding Educator Award.” He was awarded the “Outstanding Educator Award” in 1996 from the American Society for Training and Development, the nation′s professional association for corporate educators. His recent journal article “Good Governance and Bad Metrics” won the 2005 Best Paper Award for the Academy of Management Executive.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld has published five books and numerous articles in the areas of: chief executive leadership; corporate governance; CEO succession; executive careers; and the management of corporate social performance. His articles have appeared in, Administrative Sciences Quarterly; the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, American Psychologist, Social Forces, Organizational Dynamics, Human Resource Management, The Journal of Organizational Behavior, Harvard Business Review, and Human Relations. He has served on the editorial boards of the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Journal of Organizational Behavior, and Organizational Dynamics. He has served as a member of the board of governors of the Academy of Management, and chaired The Blue Ribbon Commission on CEO Succession for the National Association of Corporate Directors.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld presently serves on the board of directors of: Lennar; Gevity HR, The; Sacred Heart University; and the President’s Advisory Board of The American Cancer Society. Previously, he served on the boards of Norwegian Cruise Lines; US Franchising; Hanover Direct; Moseley Securities Corporation; The Academy of Management; the AARP; US Franchising; National Council on the Aging; Transmedia-CBS Inc; and the Hyatt Executive Travel Council.

A frequent speaker before executive audiences, his consulting work and research activities reflect a continued interest in chief executive succession and board governance along with corporate culture and strategic change. A regular commentator on PBS’s “Nightly Business Report,” NPR’s “Marketplace,” and CNBC; Sonnenfeld also appears frequently on CNN, FoxNews, ABC, NBC, and CBS, as well as in such publications as: The New York Times; The Wall Street Journal; Business Week; Fortune; US News & World Report; Newsweek; The Financial Times; and The Economist.

His clients have included: Accenture; American Airlines; AIG; Bankcorp South; JPMorgan Chase; BellSouth; Booz-Allen Hamilton; Business Week; Cabot Advertising; Caremark; Cendant; CFC – American Electric Cooperatives; Chittenden Bank; Chubb; CIGNA; Deloitte; Digital Equipment; Dominick′s Finer Foods; the Financial Services Roundtable; Frost Bank; General Electric; GTE; Hartmarx, Home Insurance Company; Hyatt; IBM; infoUSA; James River Corp; KPMG; Marriott, Mercer

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld′s bestseller book, The Hero′s Farewell: What Happens When CEOs Retire (Oxford University Press) was designated as “the standout new management book of the year” in 1988 by Business Week and it earned the executive search community′s “Golden Baton Award.” His latest book, Leadership & Governance from the Inside Out was endorsed by General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt; Goldman Sach CEO Henry Paulson; Pfizer’s Hank McKinnell; and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

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What People are Saying about Seeing Jeffrey Speak

Rating Entries

    You did a fabulous job of hosting the session I was involved in. I don′t think I′ve ever seen anyone so adept at asking so many people the right question, keeping things flowing, inserting video when needed, etc.
    John Pepper, Former Chairman & CEO, Procter & Gamble

    . . . had a great experience last week. Thanks again and I look forward to our paths crossing again.
    Richard Moore, Treasurer, State of North Carolina

    Many, many thanks for including me in the Summit — 24 hours to engage and reflect on really significant issues . . . I so appreciated the “food for soul” you provided. . . You are simply the best teacher I know. It′s a privilege to be a student!
    Marty Evans, President & CEO, American Red Cross

    I very much enjoyed the session and hope that our paths cross again. It was stimulating . . . largely because of your interaction . . . and the way you had people on their toes . . . mentally preparing should they be called on to “volunteer” a perspective.
    Bill Perez, President & CEO, S.C. Johnson & Son

    It was a great conference, and I know where the producers of Larry King Live will turn once the incumbent can no longer serve. You cover quite a range of ground in the conference, which probably makes it most interesting for the participants.

    I enjoyed the chance to participate, appreciated the invite, and was privileged to watch you conducting the orchestra.
    Richard Breeden, Former Chairman, Securities & Exchange Commission

    I thought the conference was excellent. I heard several positive comments, from a cross section of guests. The test for me is would I attend again — YES! You did a great job.
    William G. Parrett, Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu

    Great experience! I very much enjoyed it, as I always do. Thanks again for including me and Sandler O′Neill. It means a lot to us.
    Jimmy Dunne, Senior Managing Principal, Sandler O′ Neill & Partners

    I greatly appreciated the frank exchange that took place during the Summit.
    James Schiro, Chief Executive Officer, Zurich Financial, Former CEO, PriceWaterhouseCoopers

    It′s always good to get away from the day to day grind and get into an environment where you can stretch your mind and focus on some topics that I otherwise would not focus on very much during a “normal” working week (whatever that is).

    I thought this was the best conference yet. You were very provocative in stimulating some really good discussion on the various governance and ethical topics. I did not sense any bit of guarded comments from anyone who spoke. I can tell you that for me this is very refreshing to get into a group of peers who can “let their hair down” without fear of leaking confidentiality. For me, I can′t wait to go to the next session.
    Mark Fields, Chairman & CEO, Ford Motor Company – Premier Automotive Group

    It WAS a terrific summit, and I thank you.
    Tom Stewart, Editor, Harvard Business Review

    Once again, a masterful performance! Thanks for thinking of me (again).
    Richard Cavanagh, President & CEO, The Conference Board

    It was a good session and it always is worthwhile for “sharpening the saw”. See you next time! Rick Goings, Chairman & CEO, Tupperware

    Normally I don′t enjoy these kind of meetings. Participants are either guarded or self promoting. This one however was quite the opposite because of your style. You are just provocative enough to draw people out and have a way of moving the subject along. There was an air of honesty you just don′t see. This was more surprising to me because everyone knew they were being taped. I hope you invite me back.
    Brian Duperreault, Chairman, Ace Ltd.

    Happy to be part of the program. If I can be helpful in the future, let me know.
    Doug Conant, President & CEO, Campbell Soup

    I just want to say what a top notch experience the 2 day summit was. I had high expectations, and they were surpassed. Jeff, I think you have some very special talents to draw on almost everyone, be provocative in an appropriate way and be able to synthesize the various points of views and themes. You done good!
    Thomas Saporito, Senior Vice President, RHR International

    I almost feel silly writing you (again!!) over what a great program it was in NYC last week.
    Jay Brown, Chairman, MBIA

    Congratulations on another triumph of substance and active engagement with a significant audience. You are remarkable and should count me as a lifelong enthusiast.
    Ashton Carter, Professor, Kennedy School of Gov′t, Former Asst. Sec. of Defense

    Great conference. The Corporate Governance session was spectacular, and helpful in real time regarding a corporate governance committee which I chair. As usual, it was great to be with you and the other participants.
    Dave Cole, Chairman Emeritus, Kurt Salmon Associates

    Other conferences you go to only if you have to; this is the one you go to if you really want to learn.
    Rich Teerlink, Chairman & CEO (Retired), Harley-Davidson

    I don’t know how many conferences I go to a year, but it’s quite a few. I have never seen a session with this kind of CEO participation in a relaxed thought-provoking current setting. The moderating at this event and the knowledge in the room was the best I’ve ever seen. Count me in for the next one.
    Matthew Szulik, President & CEO, Red Hat Software

    Great job once again. Excellent topics, exceptional CEOs, and rich candid discussions. Let me know how I can help with any of your future programs.
    Quinn Mills, Professor, Harvard Business School

    Masterful facilitation, amazing participants. This is truly the next generation of executive education — the real article, not the pretense most schools offer for the rank and file manager, calling it executive education. When the chips are down, that weaker sort of exec ed is NOT heeded within companies.
    Dina Consolini, Vice President, Leadership Development, Marconi

    Everything from the pre-conference materials you sent out, through the impeccably chosen speakers, to the wonderfully prepared meals and events, was all so brilliantly planned and executed. Without exaggeration, it was one of the greatest conferences I have ever attended and I’m certain that everyone else present felt the same. I wish that other conferences I attend could be even half as informative and productive as yours. I intend to tell everyone I know what a great success it was, and also let them know how lucky they will be if they get a confirmed reservation for the next event.
    Elisabeth DeMarse, President & CEO, Bankrate

    The conference was great. You guys put together a fantastic crowd. Great discussions; great networking; and even great food! Thanks a ton for inviting me. I am definitely interested in coming to these in the future.
    Bill Nussey, President & CEO, Silverpop Systems

    Thanks again for including me . . . The events were outstanding. Everytime I participate I marvel at the extraordinary group of people that you assemble and the excellent discussions and contacts. I always come away with great, new ideas and new ways of thinking about the issues.
    Joel Reidenberg, Professor, Fordham Law School

    I enjoyed the event tremendously. I got a great deal of value out of the program and would appreciate it if you would keep me in mind for upcoming events. Thanks again and congratulations on a job well done.
    Stacy Kenworthy, Chairman & CEO, OptiFacio

    As always it was a special learning experience to share in your CEO Leadership Institute in NYC. I am wiser for having been with you as always.
    André Delbecq, Professor, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University

    You did a very skillful job of exploiting the backgrounds and expertise of the attendees. You reminded me of Professor Arthur Miller of Harvard Law School in those “town meetings” on PBS television.
    Sam Hayes, Professor, Harvard Business School

    I am always in awe of your skill in handling a group of 200+ senior executives and engaging them in a dialogue as if everyone was involved and that his/her views received due consideration. I also liked the idea of inviting a group of academic scholars to participate in the discussions.
    Prakash Sethi, Professor, Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College

    I really marvel at the way you get as many as 120 high-powered people to engage in debate that seems to yield rich insights every time.
    Sydney Finkelstein, Professor, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College

    The participants were a fascinating, intelligent, successful group of men and women. Your semi-Socratic method of developing a dialogue is extremely effective for the group . . . No one can accuse you of being an unfocused academic lacking “real” world understanding or knowledge.
    Jean Picker Firstenberg, Director, The American Film Institute

    The CEO College was a spectacular combination of great idea sharing and camaraderie. You are without peer as a host, moderator, and provocateur.
    Jeffrey M. Cunningham, Publisher, FORBES

    Running something like that takes lots of work and careful preparation, and you had obviously done your homework. Congratulations!
    R.L. Crandall, Chairman & President, AMR Corporation

    You have a great knack for asking the right questions and provoking thoughtful answers . . . It was a great pleasure to be involved. . .
    Joshua Feigenbaum, President, MJI Broadcasting

    I really enjoyed and was immensely stimulated by the CLCS-sponsored CEO Leadership Workshop . . . I applaud you for the obvious preparation and for the sheer mental agility and intelligence to keep the program moving without a single misstep.
    Ray C. Anderson, Chairman & CEO, Interface

    . . . you provided a gathering of lucky business leaders with a full measure of timely wisdom, useful ideas and fresh inspiration. Not only is the subject matter of the CEO Leadership Workshop a unique offering to its would-be constituency but so, also, is the methodology through which its benefits are conveyed.
    Blaine Kelley Jr., Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, The Landmarks Group

    Your command of the meetings and many summaries of each and every person and their thoughts along with very provocative yet very diplomatically placed questions was a stirring performance that was very valuable. There is no question that you are a true teacher and stimulator of thought that Emory is very lucky to have.
    Frederick J. Mancheski, Chairman, Echlin

    . . . what you do is incredible . . . absolutely astounding! I′ve been attending similar events all my life and none is better than yours. Your ability to bring together such a powerful group, and provide the vehicle for sharing ideas in an atmosphere of candor and trust is truly awesome.
    Gerard R. Roche, Chairman of the Board, Heidrick & Struggles

    My first experience of the Center for Leadership & Career Studies was a smashing success. Also, I found myself impressed with your expertise as a facilitator.
    Cal Turner Jr., Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Dollar General Corporation

    Your CEO Leadership Workshop V was absolutely outstanding . . . You are clearly providing a very exciting and dynamic forum for the exchange of CEO ideas and challenges.
    John Wieland, Founder & President, John Wieland Homes

    . . . I commend you on the openness of the participants and, of course, more importantly, the quality of executives that you were able to assemble.
    Leo Benatar, Chairman & President, Engraph

    . . . [I] compliment you and your team for putting together an outstanding program at the CEO Leadership Workshop. It was a most satisfying and rewarding experience for me, and I had the sense that most other participants felt the same.
    Hicks B. Waldron, Former Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Avon

    It was a wonderful opportunity to be a part of your CEO Leadership Workshop in Atlanta. . .the opportunity to participate was something that I had really looked forward to. On reflection, I′m delighted that I took the two days as I learned a great deal from listening to the opinions and dialogue of the people that you had assembled.
    Cathleen Black, President & Chief Executive Officer, Newspaper Association of America

    You managed to compress a lot of important information into a short period of time . . . The candor, breadth and depth of the discussions make the time commitment more than worthwhile.
    Thomas A. James, Chairman, Raymond James Financial

    If I could only attend one executive level conference a year, it would be yours hands down! It′s refreshing and energizing to participate in the openness that you somehow engender in what might normally be a very guarded audience.
    Michael Bozic, President & Chief Executive Officer, Levitz

    It was a most rewarding experience . . . There was a true sharing of experiences, especially in the afternoon breakout session; perhaps this could set the stage for similarly smaller group sessions in the future . . . The total experience was great – and this note of thanks cannot do justice to what I feel is due you and Emory!
    Frank P. Louchheim, Chairman of the Board, Right Associates

    The best accolade I can offer is that the workshop is real – – – real issues, real people, real dialogue.
    William W. Adams, Former Chairman & President, Armstrong World Industries

    I enjoyed the CEO Leadership Workshop and how stimulating I found the respective discussions . . . The long trip was highly worthwhile.
    Richard M. Rosenberg, Chairman, Bank of America

    My take is extremely positive on both dimensions: substance and format. The subjects were on point; richly discussed at the proper level; and in a forum which allowed active participation and dialogue. Very few, if any, competing forums capture all of these success drivers.
    Paul E. Fulchino, President, Mercer Management Consulting

    It was most stimulating, and I agree with your observation that not enough attention is paid to the issues of leadership transition and organizational transformation.
    Richard H. Ayers, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, The Stanley Works

    . . . a real opportunity to hear some of the nation′s most prominent CEOs and their views of competitive issues facing American business today . . . I very much look forward to future meetings of this nature.
    Robert J. Corliss, Former President & Chief Executive Officer, Herman′s World of Sporting Goods

    The day was great and very worthwhile. Can′t wait for the next one. Bernard Marcus, Founder, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, The Home Depot

    . . . It was a great privilege for me to observe the thinking process of such a notable group of individuals from around the nation.
    John R. Seffrin, Chief Executive Officer, American Cancer Society

    The outstanding group of participants you assembled would have been valuable and informative without a program. The outstanding program with the complement of participants was extraordinary.
    James B. Carson, Jr., President & Chief Executive Officer, Carter & Associates

    The conference was excellent, one of the best organized I′ve attended. The people in attendance were people who had very meaningful experiences and who were willing to share.
    Leslie G. McCraw, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Fluor Corporation

    While it takes great guests to make a great party, it is the host that makes it happen. Jeff, you′re a hell of a host. I was delighted to be included among the distinguished attendees. The dialogue was stimulating, provocative and informative. Not bad for twenty-four hours.
    Michael F. Adler, President & Chief Executive Officer, MotoPhoto

    The ease with which we all approached the issues and each other was prompted by your incredible capacity for valuing and affirming every person in the room . . . Thank you, Jeff, for having the vision and the courage to structure such a learning experience for those of us who assume “we know,” and for having the charisma that brings together such willing supporters.
    Rosemarie B. Greco, President & Chief Executive Officer, CoreStates First Pennsylvania Bank

    Many thanks again for the invitation to your conference. As I told you, I had trepidations when I got on the plane in New York but they ended up being ill founded. I very much enjoyed the day and, in fact, wish it could have been longer.
    Jack Nash, General Partner, Odyssey Partners, L.P.

    I enjoyed it immensely and found it helpful to hear what is on the minds of accomplished and important people.
    Frederick W. Gluck, Managing Director, McKinsey & Company

    An important experience. The CEOs represented here brought to the discussion insights reinforcing some of my experiences and presented some new thoughts . . . The discussions were candid and I appreciate the willingness of the participants to show their dirty laundry. Very helpful! Thanks.
    Edward M. Abrams, President, Abrams Industries

    . . . thank you for a delightful 24 hours . . . I not only renewed friendships with old friends, but also made several new ones. Most of all, you stretched my mind and gave me half a dozen ideas to pursue upon my return. . .
    Joseph Neubauer, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, ARA Services

    I rarely attend meetings . . . I found it to be one of the most productive 24 hours that I′ve spent in a long time. The quality and diversity of your guests couldn′t have been more rewarding.
    Arnold S. Hiatt, Chairman of the Board, The Stride Rite Corporation

    Thanks for including me in the CEO Leadership Workshop. It was a great experience. I learned a lot. You certainly do a good job of facilitating group interaction.
    John C. Sawhill, President & Chief Executive Officer, The Nature Conservancy

    Thanks for another fine conference. The opportunity to mix and share ideas with other CEOs is much appreciated. To design and carry off a forum like this requires smarts and a good feel for who executives are; you do that with elan.
    Michael B. McCaskey, President, Chicago Bears

    A tip of the hat to your staff and particularly to you for such a professional encounter.
    General Edwin H. Burba, Jr., Commander in Chief, Forces Command, U.S. Army

    Thank you for including me . . . We had lots of candid discussion in the groups I participated in, and I think the entire session was very worthwhile.
    Irving W. Bailey II, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Providian

    This conference, under your pervasive and energetic direction, provided thought-provoking, innovative, challenging avenues to be traveled by today′s CEOs. Thank you for your commitment to excellence and your passion for innovation.
    Leonard H. Roberts, President, Radio Shack

    . . . I was invigorated by my all-too-brief escape from my own problems and opportunities into the world of other peoples′ problems and opportunities. The experience by itself provides a full dosage of carrots and sticks.
    Robin H.H. Wilson, Co-Chief Executive Officer, Trans World Airlines

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Books by Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld:
    Firing Back
    How Great Leaders Rebound After Career Disasters

    Is it possible to rescue your career and restore your reputation after a major professional setback? In an age rife with press accounts of disgraced CEO’s, politicians, and celebrities-as well as courageous but beleaguered whistle-blowers and victims of rivalries or envious colleagues and bosses-this question has grown more important than ever.

    In Firing Back, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Andrew Ward answer the question with a resounding “Yes”. They go on to lay out a practical and important five-step process for actually recovering from setbacks. Following these steps will help guise you through difficult circumstances, rebuild your reputation, and chart a new future. The authors also explore strategies for surmounting common barriers to career recovery, including tricky corporate cultures ad psychological stresses.

    Anchored in decades of research and scholarly studies across multiple fields, this book is packed with engrossing stories and firsthand accounts from humbled but restored CEOs and executives from firms as diverse as General Electric, the Home Depot, Morgan Stanley, Apple, Staples, and Hewlett-Packard.

    Firing Back offers a clear plan for anyone who needs to recover from a career setback and reclaim lost prestige and reputation-whether the setback stemmed from his own actions or forces outside her control.

    Order Here

    The Hero′s Farewell
    What Happens When CEOs Retire

    Little attention has been paid by the public to the crucial issue of corporate succession as the spotlight turns to a company′s new chief executive while a departing one shuffles off. Sonnenfeld, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School, here outlines a typology of corporate succession that focuses on the departure styles of four different kinds of corporate leaders. He calls them: “Monarchs,” who do not leave voluntarily; “Generals,” who leave reluctantly and plot to return; “Ambassadors,” who leave gracefuly and retain close ties to their old firms; and “Governors,” who leave willingly to pursue new challenges. He probes the profound effects that each departure style has on the retiring CEO and the firm.

    Sonnenfeld illustrates his typology by describing the departures of some of America′s greatest corporate leaders, including Edwin Land of Polaroid (a Monarch), William Paley of CBS (a General), Thomas Watson of IBM (an Ambassador), and Reginald Jones of GE (a Governor). The book is a useful analysis that illuminates a long-neglected area of management theory.

    Order Here

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