April 1, 1954|
|Institutions||Yale School of Management Senior Associate Dean for Executive Programs, Lester Crown Professor in the Practice of Management, founder of Chief Executive Leadership Institute (CELI)|
|Spouse||Clarky Sonnenfeld, JD and Guardian ad litem|
Born in Philadelphia, April 1, 1954, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is the son of Burton Sonnenfeld, a men’s clothing retailer and Rochelle Sonnenfeld, a healthcare planner and community leader, who came to the US as a refugee immigrant from Russian pogroms. Sonnenfeld attended public schools in Cheltenham and Abington townships in suburban Montgomery County Pennsylvania and was an active school leader. While his summers were spent working in the community as an Eagle Scouts counselor, he worked through the year in his parents’ retail clothing store in nearby Hatboro, Pennsylvania. He earned his AB, MBA, and doctorate at Harvard University, and during his undergraduate days, he was President of WHRB, the college radio station, as well as an oarsmen. At age 26, he joined the faculty of the Harvard Business School where he taught for 10 years.
Early Professional Accomplishments - Corporate Societal Impact
As a professor at the Harvard Business School, he was the founding faculty sponsor of the Harvard-Radcliffe Women’s Leadership Forum. He published his first two articles in the Harvard Business Review at age 24. In “Why Do Companies Succumb to Price Fixing?” he interviewed leaders as they left prison for illegal collusion, to understand their justification for knowingly committing white collar crimes. In “Dealing with an Aging Work force,” he explored the gaps between the changing labor demography and related corporate retirement policies, and subsequently served on the board of the National Council on Aging and the President’s Advisory Council of the AARP.
Midcareer Professional Accomplishments - CEO Leadership
His later books focused on executive careers and succession studies. His work on strategic staffing presented a model of four types of cultures: baseball teams; clubs; academies; and fortresses. His book on CEO succession, The Hero's Farewell: What Happens when CEOs Retire (Oxford University Press, 1988) was the first systematic study of the impact of the exiting incumbent leader upon their organization. In studying the succession of a generation of prominent business leaders, he revealed two frequently misunderstood motives of leaders, in late career: Heroic Mission - a quest for immortal legacy and Heroic Stature - a quest for renown identity. He also developed a typology of departure styles labeled: monarchs; ambassadors; generals; and governors. Based upon this work, Sonnenfeld was asked to head the Blue Ribbon Commission on CEO Succession of the National Association of Corporate Directors. 
Following the publication of The Hero's Farewell, he left Harvard in 1989 to launch the first school for incumbent CEOs at Emory University, now known as Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute. These events produced many unusual firsts such as the first educational forum for media leaders which unified entertainment; journalism, technology, and telecom leaders and the first financial services leadership events to unite insurance, banking, mutual funds, investment banks, and savings and loan leaders with top government regulators. Leaders in converging fields such as Sumner Redstone of Viacom; Michael Dell; Steve Case of AOL; and Ted Tuner of Turner Broadcasting met each other at these programs. While at Emory, Sonnenfeld was heavily involved in the Atlanta community, working as an advisor to the leadership of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games; a member of the Governor's Personnel Review Commission; and a commissioner of the local county economic development council.
Move to Yale University
After a decade at Emory University, Sonnenfeld joined the faculty at Yale, bringing with him the CEO College and launching the Chief Executive Leadership Institute, where it still resides. At Yale, he built a new department of Executive Programs, offering 35 programs a year to roughly 2,000 top leaders with sessions in New Haven, New York, Beijing, Delhi, Mumbai, and Shanghai, and opened Yale University’s first outpost in Washington, DC in 2011 with support from Lynn Tilton of Patriarch Partners and Leslie Miller Saointz.
His most recent book, Firing Back (with Andrew Ward, Harvard Business School Press, 2007), studies the paths to resilience for felled CEOs, as well as victims from natural disasters, warfare, and other forms of disruption and adversity. Firing Back looks at various societal and psychological barriers to recovery and offers guidelines for getting lives back on track with a focus on how tragedy is critical for defining heroic careers. At Yale he teaches courses on leading strategic change and executive careers.
Sonnenfeld continues to be active in the local community, as a director of Art Space New Haven, a leader in the United Way annual campaign, and a director of the Calvin Hill School. His older brother, Marc Sonnenfeld, is a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Philadelphia. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld currently resides in Connecticut with his wife, Clarky, and their two daughters, Sophie and Lauren.
Sonnenfeld is the founder of Chief Executive Leadership Institute (CELI), a non-profit educational and research institute focused on CEO leadership and corporate governance, and the world's first school for chief executives. He pioneered the program as a prototype at the Harvard Business School in 1987 and 1988. In 2000, this institute moved to Yale University where it presently resides.
His scholarly research focus is in management and social responsibility, and he has published in journals such as Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Journal, The Academy of Management Review, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Social Forces, Human Relations, and Human Resource Management, as well as authored many books, including The Hero's Farewell: What Happens When CEOs Retire (Oxford University Press, 1988) and Firing Back: How Great Leaders Overcome Adversity (Harvard Business School Press, 2007) with Emory alumnus Andrew Ward. Sonnenfeld has served on the editorial boards of several journals, and his professional activities also include membership on various non-profit organization and public company boards.
His work is regularly cited by the general media such as: Fortune, Business Week, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Financial Times; The Economist; Bloomberg; Newsweek, Time, The Washington Post, CBS (60 Minutes), NBC (The Today Show), ABC (Nightline, Good Morning America), CNN, and CNBC, where he serves as a staff commentator. Sonnenfeld was listed by Business Week as one of the “ten B-school professors who are influencing contemporary business thinking” and one of the “100 most influential players in corporate governance” by National Association of Corporate Director’s Directorship.
- Sonnenfeld, J., Kusin, M., & Waltonz, E. (2013). What CEOs Really Think of Their Boards. Harvard Business Review, 91(4), 98-106.
- Sonnenfeld, J., "The Jamie Dimon Witch Hunt", New York Times op-ed, May 8, 2013. Argued that having separate individuals serving as board chair and CEO is "no panacea that ensures good economic results or good governance" as the JPMorgan Chase chairman, president and CEO, a CELI participant, faced a proxy vote favoring separation.
- Hayibor, S., Agle, B., Sears, G., Sonnenfeld, J., & Ward, A. (2011). Value Congruence and Charismatic Leadership in CEO-Top Manager Relationships: An Empirical Investigation. Journal Of Business Ethics, 102(2), 237-254. doi:10.1007/s10551-011-0808-y.
- Sonnenfeld, J. A., & Ward, A. J. (2007). FIRING BACK: How Great Leaders Rebound After Career Disasters. Harvard Business Review, 85(1), 76-84.
- Gandossy, R., & Sonnenfeld, J., ed. (2004). Leadership and Governance from the Inside Out. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.
- Sonnenfeld, J. A. (2002). What Makes Great Boards Great. Harvard Business Review, 80(9), 106-113.
- Epstein, C., Olivares, F., Bass, B., Graham, P., Schwartz, F. N., Siegel, M. R., Mansbridge, J., Lloyd, K., Wyskocil, P., Cohen, A., Bradford, D., Sonnenfeld, J., & Goldberg, C. (1991). Ways Men and Women Lead. Harvard Business Review, 69(1), 150-160.
- Sonnenfeld, J. A. (1988). The Hero's Farewell: what happens when CEOs retire. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Sonnenfeld, J. A. (1984). Managing Career Systems: Channeling the Flow of Executive Careers, Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin.
- Sonnenfeld, J. A., (1981). Corporate Views of the Public Interest, Boston: Auburn House.
- Sonnenfeld, J., & Lawrence, P. R. (1978). Why do companies succumb to price fixing? Harvard Business Review, 56(4), 145-157.
- Sonnenfeld, J. (1978). Dealing with the aging work force. Harvard Business Review, 56(6), 81-92.
- Rifkin, G. (2011, Winter). CEO Master Class, Briefings Magazine, The Korn/Ferry Institute.
- Yale School of Management, Faculty Publications, http://qn.som.yale.edu/faculty-research/faculty-directory/selected-publications/8268
- Oxford University Press, http://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-heros-farewell-9780195065831?cc=us&lang=en&tab=reviews
- Yale School of Management, Chief Executive Leadership Institute, CEO College, http://celi.som.yale.edu/ceo-college
- Marc Sonnenfeld (bio). Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, http://www.morganlewis.com/bios/msonnenfeld
- Yale School of Management, Chief Executive Leadership Institute, About - http://celi.som.yale.edu/about
- Rifkin, G. (2011, Winter). CEO Master Class, Briefings Magazine, The Korn/Ferry Institute.
- Yale School of Management, faculty profile, http://mba.yale.edu/faculty/profiles/sonnenfeld.shtml
- Macsai, D. (2007, Aug 22). B-School All-Stars, BusinessWeek, 13.
- Directorship 100. (cover story). (2007, Sep). NACD Directorship, 33(4), 21-37.
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