This paper considers the nature, origins and expression of place leadership in communities undergoing large-scale economic transformation. It examines where people look for leadership in the management of the places where they live, and how their perspectives are affected by an adverse event. It documents community attitudes on the influence those who occupy positions of authority have been able to exert on this transition, drawing on perceptions from places affected by the shutdown of the Australian automotive industry in the second decade of the twenty-first century. It seeks to understand which individuals and roles were seen to be influential in leading this process of change. This article gains insights into how leaders have an impact, and where this ability to effect change comes from. It does so with reference to the structural conditions embedded within Australian political life and the way leadership finds expression in periods of uncertainty and transformation. The paper finds communities are acutely aware of where the power to lead change resides, but concerns with the efficacy of that leadership have contributed to discontent. A greater focus on further empowering local leadership while delivering on long term expectations would have resulted in more positive perceptions. MAD statement This paper answers the question, how can local leaders manage large-scale, disruptive change such as the closure of a major employer or the shutdown of an entire industry? The paper makes clear that different types of leaders need to respond in varied ways, depending on their source of authority, their degree of connection to the affected community and the nature of the shock experienced by the local economy. Senior government leaders need to map out and deliver a roadmap for economic recovery, social service providers need to be responsive to local needs and those leaders living in the community must continue to strengthen social networks.
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