• sustainability;
  • regional development;
  • leadership;
  • networks;
  • rural development


Rapid transformations offer new challenges for rural regions to invent new pathways for development. For many, an obvious choice is to set out on the path towards economic growth and to compete with other regions for global, mobile capital and labor. There is however an increasing awareness that in the long run regions should anticipate a more sustainable development based on regional qualities. Across Europe new and fascinating forms of shared, value-driven leadership for such sustainable regional development can be observed. This leadership cannot be explained with traditional leadership models derived from management and business literature. In this paper a new leadership model is developed that is both empirically and theoretically informed. The model is shaped along two axes: an ‘individual–collective’ and an ‘inner–outer’ axis. Four leadership dimensions are discerned and described: ‘the X-factor’ (personal qualities, feelings, motives and values), ‘vital space’ (stimulating favorable behavior by flexible roles and building vital coalitions), ‘shared leadership’(working across organizational boundaries) and ‘bricolage’ (connecting networks in institutional arrangements). We have applied this model in eight cases of rural regional development in the Netherlands. The cases show that sustainable regional development benefits from shared leadership where collective values, feelings, trust, commitment and energy form the basis for mobilizing private and public actors around a joint agenda in regional networks. Leaders can in this sense contribute to new regional agendas and the exploration of new pathways to sustainability. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.