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Alyson Nicholds

Place Leadership, as ‘a specific form of leadership at the urban and regional scale’ is considered central to urban and regional growth because it brings together actors from different backgrounds, operating at different scales and with differing levels of power and authority, to work in partnership with others, who may not share their ideological views or business interests. But despite knowing much about what leaders do in organisations and where matters of governance might sit, we’ve never fully understood ‘what it is that place leaders actually do to make things happen at the sub-national scale’. In this chapter, I return to the Organisation Studies literature to see how leadership is ‘actually conceptualised’ and use this to analyse ‘actually existing’ case of place leadership, to show how these specific talents, need to differ, in different contexts, in order to get the job done. What this shows, is that, in keeping with Critical Management, it is only through discursive analysis of place leaders’ accounts of their practice, that we are able to reveal how these attributes and processes ‘actually come together’. This is in keeping with the observations of Beer (2015) that we will only succeed in our efforts to better align policy to the specificity of place, by acknowledging that regions are construed both materially and discursively through a myriad of processes (Lagendijk 2007).

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John Gibney and Alyson Nicholds

In this reflective essay, we seek to stimulate new debate on the social purpose of place leadership. We begin by considering the meaning and relevance of purpose in the formal leadership endeavour, and the likely nature of social purpose in place leadership in the face of multiple meanings. We use this discussion as a basis for exploring what a more emancipatory leadership stance might comprise and pose four awkward questions concerning our imagining of what an emancipatory-oriented place leadership might look like in practice. Insights are drawn from a range of interdisciplinary literatures, including critical leadership, organizational studies, management learning and sub-national development. In keeping with the need for greater critical reflection, we seek to combine broad theoretical insights with our own reflections on the practice(s) and action(s) of place leadership, from our ongoing empirical observations of leaders in our own research, and our prior professional experiences as economic, regional and community development practitioners.