Professor Authors Book on Graceful Exits for Leaders

December 03, 2012

David Heenan Identifies Four Exiting Categories and Offers 10 Exiting Lessons

Washington, D.C. – David Heenan, an adjunct professor of global strategy at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, explores what it means to move on from a career with class, and reveals the secrets to excelling in one of life’s most formidable challenges: the graceful exit.

In his new book, Leaving on Top: Graceful Exits for Leaders (Nicholas Brealey Publishing), Heenan profiles 20 top figures in fields as diverse as business, government, sports, and entertainment, and identifies four types of exiting leaders. He derives knowledge from his experience with dozens of high-profile exists, both graceful and untimely, as he examines 10 existing lessons.

“Leaving on Top explores the psychological drama of quitting when you’re ahead versus clinging to a role in which you are no longer effective,” said Heenan. “Some handle this basic human fear with dignity and candor, others do not.”

The profiles include Citigroup founder Sandy Weill, former World Heavyweight Champion George Foreman, founder and CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz, and former CEO of Xerox Anne Mulcahy.

David Heenan is a trustee of the Estate of James Campbell, one of the nation’s largest landowners. Formerly, he served as chairman and CEO of Theo. H. Davies & Co., the North American holding company for the Hong Kong-based multinational Jardine Matheson. Heenan’s consulting clients have included Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase Manhattan Bank, Citigroup, and McKinsey & Co. He has been vice president for academic affairs at the University of Hawai’I and, before that, dean of its business school.

Educated at the College of William and Mary, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania, Heenan also has served on the faculties of the Wharton School of Business, the Columbia Business School, and the University of Hawai’i. His articles have appeared in such publications as the Harvard Business Review, the Sloan Management Review, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Christian Science Monitor. He is the author or co-author of seven other books, including Bright Triumphs From Dark Hours, Flight Capital, and Double Lives. For more information visit

About Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business
Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business provides a transformational education through classroom and experiential learning, preparing students to graduate as principled leaders in service to business and society. Through numerous centers, initiatives, and partnerships, Georgetown McDonough seeks to create a meaningful impact on business practice through both research and teaching. All academic programs provide a global perspective, woven through the undergraduate and graduate curriculum in a way that is unique to Washington, D.C. – the nexus of world business and policy – and to Georgetown University’s connections to global partner organizations and a world-wide alumni network. Founded in 1957, Georgetown McDonough is home to some 1,400 undergraduates, 1,000 MBA students, and 1,200 participants in executive degree and open enrollment programs. Learn more at Follow us on Twitter @msbgu.