In May 2012, 10 of England's largest cities, outside London, were required to hold referendums giving citizens the option of introducing a directly-elected mayor. Bristol was the only city to vote in favour of the mayoral model. This paper outlines the main themes that feature in current debates about urban leadership. It presents a framework for understanding place-based leadership and, by drawing on a current researchproject on mayoral governance in Bristol, highlights the existence of very different perceptions of how to improve city leadership and democratic accountability. © 2014 CIPFA.