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The Hero's Farewell: What Happens When CEOs Retire

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195065831
ISBN-10: 0195065832
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A thoughtful account of the transition that high-powered CEOs confront as they consider retirement."--Chicago Tribune

"Intriguing exploration of succession strategies."--H.A. Raymond, University of South Dakota

"Excellent--thoughtful, well-documented, rich material, well-written. An important contribution."--Lynne Rosansky, Babson College

"Excellent book on what makes the CEO tick. The scholarship is sound, and the conclusions are convincing."--F.M. Buchanan, Salisbury State University

"Excellent--covers a very intriguing topic which all managers must deal with."--Lanny A, Karus, State University of New York, Oswego

"A shrewd management study."--Newsweek

"Sonnenfeld presents an original theory, based on five years of research and interviews with fifty top executives, to explain both the psyches and the departure styles of CEOs. He offers frank, revealing profiles of individual business leaders and how they left....A pathbreaking achievement. Sonnenfeld's research is innovative and substantive, his material is soundly organized, and he presents it with skill and flair. The book deserves to be read widely, both by business people and by others who want insights into what's happening in corporate America."--The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Sonnenfeld has provided a valuable service, as well as an interesting study, by showing through examples that the method by which a CEO exits a firm can be as important to the company as the method by which that same chief executive led it."--The Miami Herald

"[Sonnenfeld] has succeeded--and succeeded brilliantly--in what he set out to do....One of the best business books of the past year, perhaps of the decade....[The Hero's Farewell] has something of real value to say about management and, more important, about leadership. The volume is filled with fascinating stories from inside corporate boardrooms, but these stories never fall into mere anecdotalism: they always make or confirm an important point. It is challenging. It is highly recommended."--The Toronto Globe and Mail

"This is a fascinating book, not least for what it has to say about the nature of leadership and the complex psychology of those who achieve it....A welcome change from the breathless simple-mindedness of so many of the management best-sellers of recent years."--Financial Times (London)

"Replete with examples of post-leadership fulfillment, often through activities that involve continued leadership outside the corporate context....The Hero's Farewell offers a thoughtful and humanistic study of a side of the CEO that has parallels for all."--Harvard Business School Bulletin

"In this fascinating and informed look at management succession...Sonnenfeld explores the sense of emptiness and insignificance that retiring CEOs feel....One of those rare business books that informs as well as engages."--Business Week

"Wide-ranging....Absorbing."--Kirkus Reviews

"Fascinating."--Forbes Magazine

"A clever, thoughtful exposition on the retirement patterns of CEOs....Sonnenfeld has created an entertaining game of identifying useful stereotypes: once you learn them, you can apply them to every leader you know."--The Atlantic

"This is a book about everybody who works....Sonnenfeld's views into these privileged private lives are filled with compassion and insight....It is rare for a book to provide absorbing biography, compelling social commentary, critical historical observation, or vital personal counsel. The Hero's Farewell does all of this and does it well."--Fortune Magazine

"A pathbreaking achievement....Deserves to be read widely, both by business people and by others who want insights into what's happening in corporate America."--The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Engrossing....Not pretentious or bookish, this work ranges captivatingly over much received wisdom and research concerning late-career phenomena and contributes its own new results and stimulating leads."--Choice

"A creative, innovative work--an act of leadership in itself."--James MacGregor Burns, Williams College

"An insightful and imaginative book exploring an important but hidden side of leadership....Sonnenfeld's in-depth account is a model analysis of how the human and strategic sides of business are connected."--Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School

"Fascinating....I'm sure the book will be a great success."--Alfred G. Goldstein, President, Sears Specialty Retailing

"A fine piece of work and beautiful writing. It's well-crafted, very solid in terms of theory, literature, and original data, and written with much heart."--Douglas T. Hall, Boston University

"A super book--very well written."--Walter Trosin, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Merck & Co.

"A very comprehensive work which has broken new ground. I don't know of any other volume that has given attention to top management retirement....This should get a warm reception and a good deal of applause."--Harry Levinson, The Levinson Institute

"Each time I read over this book, I come away more excited and informed....Marvelous stuff--and writing."--Warren Bennis, University of Southern California

"Most interesting and analogous to what happens to U.S. Presidents even before they retire."--James David Barber, Duke University

"Interesting and readable....Systematic, precise, cautious, and learned."--Roger Brown, Harvard University

"Each time I read over this book, I come away more excited and informed....Marvelous stuff and writing."--Warren Bennis, University of Southern California

"A monumental accomplishment. Sonnenfeld has done what he set out to do--describe that half of executive succession that no one has examined."--Academy of Management Executive

"Extremely well documented....It is surprisingly free of technical, academic writing, yet it retains an authoritative, scholarly respectability."--Business Book Review

"This book is written about a timely and relevant topic, the author's inferences are reasoned, and the writing style is riveting."--Academy of Management Review

"Day-long interviews with 50 prominent retired CEOs yield insightful, richly described examples of each exit style.... Sonnenfeld's use of quotes and anecdotes bring to life the unique problems founders face when exiting the firms they created. Throughout these chapters, revelations by the CEOs about the events and politics surrounding their departures as well as their own tumultuous feelings are poignantly captured in Sonnenfeld's engaging writing style."--Journal of Management


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 7, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195065832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195065831
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.7 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #896,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John W. Pearson VINE VOICE on March 22, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In my Management Buckets workshops, I talk about the four levels of mastering the 20 critical competencies (buckets):
--Level 1: I don't know what I don't know.
--Level 2: I know what I don't know.
--Level 3: I have an action plan to address what I know I don't know.
--Level 4: I can coach and mentor others. I can teach the course!

So feeling pretty smug that I've been around the block once or twice, I was startled to realize that I was back at Level 1 regarding what happens when CEOs retire. Wow. I learned a lot from this book--and, like all great books, I found immediate value in attaching a memorable label to four kinds of CEO retirement. Recommended to me by Paul McKaughan (a "retired/ambassador" CEO), I've already recommended this book to more than 20 other CEOs.

First published in 1988 by Harvard prof Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, the book is part history, part expose and part therapy. "This is a book," he begins, "about how the management succession process involving chief executive officers of major corporations is affected by the heroic view that CEOs have of themselves. Some plan carefully and choose wisely who will succeed them. Others fight the process and must be forced out in what can be traumatic episodes for the CEOs and the organizations."

Painstakingly researched (five years and 50 personal interviews), the book describes four types of CEO retirement transitions:
--The Monarch's Departure. "Monarchs leave their thrones only through their death, ill health, or as with [Boston Consulting Group's Bruce] Henderson, a palace revolt."
--The General's Departure. "Although as with monarchs, the leader's heroic mission is important to generals, it is not as important as are their needs for a heroic identity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "Dr. G", Ph.D. on September 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
While a bit dated, this book is one of the most important assessments of the ways strong leaders retire. The four-fold typology of retirees as monarchs, generals, ambassadors and governors is well anchored to credible research providing a helpful way for senior leaders to categorize their leadership style and anticipate the nature of their final departure. The identification of the three sets of tensions faced in the departure of the corporate hero (1) within the leader, (2) across generations of leaders and (3) between leaders and the wider community provide significant insight into the psychological and socio-cultural realities of retirement.
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By Les Stahlke on May 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I first read this outstanding book almost 20 years ago and have used in in conversations with retiring founders and CEO ever since. As I move around the world In my governance consulting work, I have found many instances of one (or a combination) of the four behaviours that Sonnenfeld describes being repeated in yet another...and another departure of a leader. I have recommended this book for the insights it gives in such cases. There aren't many books that have impressed me twenty years after I first read it, but this is one of them. I bought it in electronic version because I never lend out my e-reader so I don't plan to lose this copy as I did my paper copy -- to someone who needed it and never returned it. Must have been a Governor.
Les Stahlke
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Each of the findings outlined in this book has research backing it up. It's full of interesting anecdotes and food for thought. Most of the substantive takeaways are in the intro and conclusion; the rest is primarily instructive stories.
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