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Place Leadership and Economic Development

Transforming Regions in Australia

Amidst a rapidly changing global environment, Australia's regional leaders balance their focus on global trends with the specific needs and opportunities of their regions. This requires a leadership style that is different from traditional models. In recent years scholars have introduced the concept of place leadership, presenting a framework for leadership that aims to drive regional transformation. This article discusses place leadership and how it is key for regional growth, particularly in the context of Australia's diverse economic landscapes.

Place leadership and regional development

Place leadership emerged as a concept to address the limitations of traditional top-down leadership approaches in regional and peri-urban development. Rather than focus on the competition, place leaders need to collaborate across various sectors—political, public services, community, business, and education—to drive the transformation of the region collectively. This concept acknowledges the importance of understanding local nuances, leadership adaptability, and collaborative action in addressing the complexities of a growing region.

Effective place leaders are strategic and flexible in adapting to policies and catering to the evolving needs of their region. Visionary capabilities are equally important, as leaders need to develop compelling and inclusive visions that resonate with the aspirations of the local population while aligning with broader economic goals.

Australian context

In the Australian context, the transformative role of place leaders is complicated by regional and cultural diversities across the nation. Responses to economic challenges vary from state to state and even within regions. For instance, leadership requirements in urban centres like Sydney, or Melbourne might differ significantly from place leadership in peri-urban centres like Western Sydney or rural areas like the Barossa Valley. While these places all aim for economic growth, their strategies, stakeholder engagement, and leadership dynamics differ due to local needs, cultural values, and available resources.

Western Sydney, for instance, stands as a significant economic hub on the fringes of Greater Sydney, with dynamic industrial zones, diverse cultural communities, and a rapidly developing knowledge economy. The leadership challenges in Western Sydney revolve around balancing economic growth with social and infrastructural development while engaging a culturally diverse population. Place leadership in this region requires an understanding of the complex blend of cultural diversities, the drive for innovation, and the need for inclusive economic growth.

Implications for hiring leaders

The implications for hiring leadership in transforming regions are significant. The hiring process needs to focus on identifying individuals who have a natural inclination to collaborate, embrace diversity, and have the resilience to navigate regional complexities.

Place leadership challenges the conventional image of a leader by highlighting teamwork, adaptability, and shared influence. Selecting leaders for the transformation of regions in Australia should prioritise these attributes over traditional authority or individual traits. A comprehensive understanding of diverse regional dynamics is crucial in selecting and nurturing effective place leaders, who can steer regions toward sustainable growth and success.


The concept of place leadership provides a framework for leadership that is useful in understanding the leadership requirements for transforming regions within Australia's diverse economic landscape. Its essence revolves around collaboration, adaptability, vision, and a deep understanding of local nuances. This concept challenges traditional views on leadership through its focus on collaboration, distributed influence, and adaptability. Understanding the diverse regional dynamics and complexities inherent in regional economies is crucial in identifying and nurturing effective place leaders, capable of propelling regions towards sustainable growth and prosperity.


Beer, A., Ayres, S., Clower, T., Faller, F., Sancino, A., & Sotarauta, M. (2019). Place leadership and regional economic development: a framework for cross-regional analysis. Regional studies, 53(2), 171-182.

Bowden, A., & Liddle, J. (2018). Evolving public sector roles in the leadership of place-based partnerships: from controlling to influencing policy?. Regional Studies, 52(1), 145-155.

Broadhurst, K., Ferreira, J., & Berkeley, N. (2021). Place leadership: developing a model to guide regional partnerships. Regional Studies, 55(3), 556-567.

Grillitsch, M., & Sotarauta, M. (2020). Trinity of change agency, regional development paths and opportunity spaces. Progress in human geography, 44(4), 704-723.

Sotarauta, M., & Suvinen, N. (2021). Place leadership and the challenge of transformation: policy platforms and innovation ecosystems in promotion of green growth. In Dislocation: Awkward Spatial Transitions (pp. 289-308). Routledge.


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