Both academic and popular media accounts of the transformation of cities, towns and regions are rich in stories of the efforts of local leaders. Outside academic research, narratives of leadership tend to be focussed on the role of an individual and their apparent solo efforts to transform the future of their rural community, town or major urban centre, while within academic scholarship there has been a reliance on the identification and analysis of specific case studies. Both are instances of ‘storytelling’ and utilise the social power of narratives to influence the reader and take a culturally-situated position on leadership and its contexts. This article gives an overview of a number of narratological concepts relevant to a subsequent close analysis of two texts: one a popular media account of the ‘Beechworth Baker’, and one an academic article on multi-level governance settings in Italy and the UK. It demonstrates the effect of the narrative impulse and narrative techniques in writing governed by two very different sets of conventions, and acknowledges the power of narrative as a communication tool for researchers while alerting them to the implications of storytelling as a cultural practice.