The 2010s are almost in the history books. 

For investors, the decade will be best known for the market's dramatic recovery from the 2008-09 financial crisis. Not only has the S&P 500 almost tripled over the last decade, but a number of themes have manifested in that time, including the rise of new technologies like mobile, cloud computing, and e-commerce. We've also seen bubbles come and go in cryptocurrency and marijuana as investors continue to look for the next big thing and a few turnaround stories that show the market is always full of surprises. 

Let's take a look back at three of the decade's most remarkable turnarounds, and the CEOs that made them happen.

A stock chart showing a rising arrow

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Hubert Joly -- Best Buy

When Hubert Joly was named Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) CEO in August 2012, the retailer looked like it was on the brink of irrelevancy. It was rapidly losing market share to Amazon, a victim of the so-called "showrooming" effect whereby shoppers would look at products in a store like Best Buy and then purchase them online.

At the time Joly assumed the CEO role, Best Buy shares were trading around 10-year lows. Through the first half of that year, comparable sales had fallen 4.3%, and operating income was down by more than 50%.

Though many thought that Best Buy would go the way of former rival Circuit City, the electronics retailer made a surprising comeback under Joly, whose strategy included improving customer service, adding shop-in-shops with partners like Apple and Samsung, enabling stores to ship online orders, and price-matching Amazon, eliminating the showrooming effect. Those moves gave customers an incentive to visit the stores and purchase products there.

By 2015, comparable sales had turned positive, and profits were moving in the right direction as well. When Joly said he was stepping down this past April, the company's unlikely rehabilitation appeared to be complete. During Joly's tenure, the stock jumped more than 300% and rose nearly 10 times from its low point shortly after he took over to where it is now.

2. Satya Nadella -- Microsoft

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has dominated enterprise software for a generation now, but for much of the 21st century, the stock was a flop. From 2001 to 2012, shares essentially traded sideways under CEO Steve Ballmer in an era that was characterized by missed opportunities (namely in mobile) and bad acquisitions (including Skype, aQuantive, and Nokia).

However, that all changed when Satya Nadella took over in 2014. Nadella fundamentally transformed Microsoft by breaking the monolithic structure behind its products. One of his first moves was launching the Microsoft Office suite on Apple's iPad, essentially calling a truce in the long war with the iPhone-maker. He made peace more generally with Silicon Valley, changing Microsoft's image, which improved relationships with other tech companies and made it a more attractive employer for young engineers. That's helped turn Microsoft's infrastructure cloud service, Azure, into a juggernaut as it's attracted Silicon Valley titans like Salesforce and Adobe to the platform. Azure itself has been putting up impressive growth, with revenue up 59% in the most recent quarter.

Nadella also pinpointed opportunities that fit in with Microsoft's strengths, for instance launching Slack-competitor Teams, which now has more daily users than Slack and is growing faster than the start-up. The tech giant has also made acquisitions that fit the company's focus on enterprise, including Linkedin and Github.

As a result of Nadella's strategy, the stock has jumped more than 300% since he took over, and it's now worth $1.2 trillion. Its most recent quarter makes the company look like a growth stock, with revenue up 14% and operating income up 27%, showing that Nadella's positive influence is far from over.

3. Patrick Doyle -- Domino's

Shortly after Patrick Doyle was named CEO of Domino's (NYSE:DPZ), he made a surprising move. The new chief took to the airwaves to insult the company's own product, repeating customer criticisms that it "tasted like cardboard" and promised to do better. Domino's revamped its pizza recipes, and made a number of other investments across its business, installing a new POS system, allowing customers to order through the app (or emoji), and expanding a pizza tracker that allowed customers to easily see the status of their orders. He also introduced a number of popular new menu items, including several chicken dishes.

As a result, Domino's has seen tremendous growth over the last decade. During Doyle's tenure, which ended last year, same-store sales rose in every quarter except one, and often increased by double digits. Average unit volumes nearly doubled, enticing franchisees to open new locations, creating a virtuous cycle that's caused profits to surge.

Best of all, the stock jumped 1,930% while Doyle was at the helm, showing what a change in strategy can do to an ailing brand. Under new CEO Ritch Allison, Domino's continues to grow and has now posted 34 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth in the U.S. and 103 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth internationally.

What an impact leadership can make

While betting on turnaround plays is risky, as the hoped-for comeback doesn't always materialize, the three stories above show the kind of impact that a new CEO can have on a struggling company.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.