Three firms engaged in the heavy engineering industry undergoing the transition from organisational decline to recovery were studied in‐depth in a period of significant change for the industry. The purpose of the study was to explore the way in which leaders manage the company turnaround process. The turnaround performance and processes of recovering firms were compared to those of a less successful rival. Effective turnaround management involved making a series of holistic changes to strategies, structures and practices throughout the organisation; changes which were orchestrated by leaders at different levels in the firms. This study of leaders at work presents a model linking leadership and the turnaround process which challenges conventional prescriptions for company revival in a mature industry and identifies three core dimensions which mediate the effectiveness of relationship between leadership and company turnarounds.
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