Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a gut-derived hormone secreted in response to nutrients, has several glucose and weight regulating actions including enhancement of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion, suppression of glucagon secretion, slowing of gastric emptying and reduction in food intake. Because of these multiple effects, the GLP-1 receptor system has become an attractive target for type 2 diabetes therapies. However, GLP-1 has significant limitations as a therapeutic due to its rapid degradation (plasma half-life of 1–2 min) by dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4). Two main classes of GLP-1-mediated therapies are now in use: DPP-4 inhibitors that reduce the degradation of GLP-1 and DPP-4-resistant GLP-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonists. The GLP-1R agonists can be further divided into short- and long-acting formulations which have differential effects on their mechanisms of action, ultimately resulting in differential effects on their fasting and postprandial glucose lowering potential. This review summarizes the similarities and differences among DPP-4 inhibitors, short-acting GLP-1R agonists and long-acting GLP-1R agonists. We propose that these different GLP-1-mediated therapies are all necessary tools for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and that the choice of which one to use should depend on the specific needs of the patient. This is analogous to the current use of modern insulins, as short-, intermediate- and long-acting versions are all used to optimize the 24-h plasma glucose profile as needed. Given that GLP-1-mediated therapies have advantages over insulins in terms of hypoglycaemic risk and weight gain, optimized use of these compounds could represent a significant paradigm shift for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.