Comeback Kids: 4 CEOs that Turned Their Company Around to Success


Some chief executives lead with ambition and verve. Others are cold and calculating. There are those who emphasize empathy in leadership; others, though, are more into the numbers. But there are some who aimed to change the game, breaking away from expectations and pessimism. Where others saw the inevitable ruin, these CEOs saw a challenge, an opportunity and an idea to turn the company to a brighter direction.

Here are some CEOs that led their company to recovery and, eventually, success.

Steve Jobs, Apple

Tech giant Apple is synonymous with its eccentric co-founder Steve Jobs. The same company that he built with Steve Wozniak ousted him in 1985. When he returned in 1996 as the company’s interim CEO, Apple wasn’t in a good place. In the years between, the company tried to sell computers at varying price points and markets without noticeable differences. Apple also explored other consumer product territories without success. The company is near bankruptcy when Jobs came back.

Like a kid who wants an apple, he began to shake the tree until the fruit dropped. Jobs reduced the 350 open projects in development to 50 to 10. He went on to focus his company on making the next game changer, from the all-in-one computer iMac, to the revolutionary iPod and the iPhone.

Lisa Su, Advanced Micro Devices

Advanced Micro Devices, or AMD, isn’t as shiny as it once were during the start of the previous decade. In 2012, the company bled $1 billion, had to cut some of its workforce, was dubbed “uninvestable” and was constantly outmaneuvered by its competitors, Intel, Qualcomm, and Nvidia. The same year, however, came IBM’s Lisa Su, who became AMD’s senior vice president and then CEO. While some would consider AMD then as a sinking ship ready to be scuttled, Su knew the only way to go is up.

Within five years since she went onboard AMD, the company saw a full year of profitability, earning $5.33 billion in 2017. AMD’s stock prices continue to soar, with investors continuing to be optimistic of the company’s products and Su’s leadership.

Alan Mulally, Ford

In 2006, Ford was on the brink of ruin. Its stock price was dripping down dangerously; it was facing a $12.7 billion loss. The company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Then came Boeing’s Allan Mulally. After succeeding Bill Ford as the President and CEO of Ford, he began to restructure and turn the car company around. From cost-cutting measures to mortgaging the company’s assets, Mulally stabilized Ford’s financial position, leading them to survive through the great recession. By 2014, when he stepped down and retired, Ford had fully revitalized itself, a far cry from its worsening situation years before.

Here’s a story of rising through the ranks. Anne Mulcahy started as a field representative of the copier systems company Xerox in the ’70s. She then became the VP for HR, and then the CEO of the company by 2001. The so-called accidental CEO led Xerox to success through effective cost-cutting methods, focusing on the company’s growth and boosting innovation. She was named 2008’s CEO of the Year by the Chief Executive magazine for her efforts in turning Xerox around.

Everyone can be a boss, but not everyone can be a leader—a good one at that. When you see such great leaders, make sure to recognize all their efforts—a plaque of appreciation from those award-making companies, such as from, or even a #1 Best CEO Mug. Not all leaders can make a good comeback, after all.