In its quest to spread the Bolshevik revolution around the world, the Communist International (Comintern) sought to create a strong leadership culture among communist parties. This article examines the experience of the Spanish Communist Party (PCE). It shifts the focus away from a traditional concern with the individual or collective characters and capabilities of leaders, towards an analysis of the everyday characteristics and behaviours required of leaders, what they signified and the degree to which the PCE conformed in practice to ‘Leninist’ archetypes. While there was an active acceptance within the PCE of the need to emulate the Bolshevik example, the specifically Spanish cultural and political environment in which party leaders operated also exerted a powerful influence. Consequently, the PCE only ever partially conformed to the Comintern's leadership doctrines, and its leaders inevitably fell short of Bolshevik ideals.