This article foregrounds leadership, specifically 'local political leadership' as a neglected but significant element of local governance and neoliberalization. Drawing on distinct literatures - on neoliberalism, leadership and governance - we offer an analysis of the key theories influencing academic, policy and political prescriptions for local political leadership. We then consider how local leadership manifests itself in divergent local contexts in the global North and South and highlight key factors which inform the adoption, adaptation or contestation of neoliberalizing tendencies 'on the ground'. This analysis contributes to the generation of five configurations each exhibiting a different relationship of local leadership to processes of neoliberalization. We propose that this approach can aid comparative analysis of local political leadership by specifying convergent features whilst also accounting for diversity. We conclude with some suggestions for theory-building and future research.