Leading Cities

A Global Review of City Leadership

Elizabeth Rapoport, Michele Acuto, and Leonora Grcheva

ISBN: 9781787355453

Publication: March 06, 2019

What is this?

Leading Cities is a global review of the state of city leadership and urban governance today. Drawing on research into 202 cities in 100 countries, the book provides a broad, international evidence base grounded in the experiences of all types of cities. It offers a scholarly but also practical assessment of how cities are led, what challenges their leaders face, and the ways in which this leadership is increasingly connected to global affairs.

Arguing that effective leadership is not just something created by an individual, Elizabeth Rapoport, Michele Acuto and Leonora Grcheva focus on three elements of city leadership: leaders, the structures and institutions that underpin them, and the tools used to drive change. Each of these elements are examined in turn, as are the major urban policy issues that leaders confront today on the ground. The book also takes a deep dive into one particular example of tool or instrument of city leadership – the strategic urban plan.

Leading Cities provides a much-needed overview and introduction to the theory and practice of city leadership, and a starting point for future research on, and evaluation of, city leadership and its practice around the world.

Elizabeth Rapoport is an urban planner and researcher with over 15 years of experience working on planning, policy and governance issues internationally. Currently she is the Research Director for the Urban Land Institute, Europe.

Michele Acuto is Professor of Global Urban Politics and Director of the Connected Cities Lab in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne.

Leonora Grcheva is a community engagement and participation expert with UK company Soundings, leading public consultation on large scale planning projects. She has previously worked for the UN-Habitat Urban Planning Design Lab in Nairobi.


1 – Introduction – a time for city leadership

2 – Exploring city leadership: catalysts of action

3 – The shape of leadership: actors and structures

4 – Setting priorities: leadership between global and local

5 – Setting directions: leadership and strategic urban plans

6 – Conclusions – a search for better city leadership

'Academics and policymakers alike would do well to consider the authors’ call to ‘tailor city governance to local needs and local dynamics, rather than simply searching for an ideal “model” of leadership.'
  European Planning Studies

Format: Open Access PDF

ISBN: 9781787355453

Publication: March 06, 2019

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