A high rate of turnaround failures is often blamed on leadership. This dissertation places the focus on the turnaround CEO in South Africa and determines the attributes of such an individual. This is a qualitative research project and the data has been sourced via in-depth interviews, conducted with business leaders who have had decades of experience at executive level. The research showed that there is a list of 10 attributes that can be considered as the essential attributes of a turnaround CEO. In addition there are a plethora of attributes that can be seen as enhancing or distinguishing. Within a South African context, distinguishing attributes are required in order to deal with issues mainly originating from historical inequalities. Some attributes relate to Black Economic Empowerment, labour legislation as well as an acute awareness of the history of the country and in particular how it has influenced the working environment post 1994 – including the possibility that we may, as a result, be cultivating soft managers. In addition people in SA are seen to be more open to change than other nationalities. However, the research has shown that in a turnaround situation the “South Africa – specific” factors are considered to be extraneous and the skills required in dealing with them are not regarded as essential, but rather as distinguishing attributes that play a role once a business has been saved from closure and control has been reinstated.