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​The 5 Archetypes of Local Government CEOs

​The 5 Archetypes of Local Government CEOs

03 June 2024 Eleanor Ogston

Jig Saw Question Mark

The 5 Types of Local Government CEOs

In local government, the CEO plays a key role in managing the complexities of public service administration and serving the community. With many Queensland Mayors and Councillors currently contemplating a leadership change in their council organisation, understanding different leadership styles can help align your council’s goals with the right leader. Organisations evolve, so the type of leader a council needs can change too and whether you need someone to drive change, ensure stability, or manage daily operations, recognising these styles can aid in recruitment and succession planning.

Change Makers

These leaders thrive when leading performance and culture transformation in disorganised environments with poor culture, process-focused (rather than outcome-focused) operations, and financial instability. Change Makers quickly turn organisations around using restructuring, strategic planning, community engagement, and cost-cutting. They are innovators and visionaries, identifying problems and solutions from a high level. Motivated by change and quick wins, they may not always be popular but are valued for their transformative impact.

Seasoned Professionals

Ideal for stable organisations, Seasoned Professionals implement incremental changes, heighten focus on governance, and align service delivery with community expectations. They are long-term planners who build sustainable organisations and thriving communities. These leaders create a cohesive leadership team, establish high performance cultures, and balance competing priorities. They build strong relationships with councillors, executive teams, and external stakeholders, and align closely with the Mayor.

Action Leaders

In smaller councils, Action Leaders take a hands-on approach, actively working on projects and wearing many hats to keep things moving forward. They prioritise operational goals, mobilise resources, and set budgets. With specific technical skills, they may not have the broad competencies of more generalist leaders but adapt well and provide exceptional leadership in smaller settings or when specific expertise is needed.

 Developing/Aspiring Leaders

These enthusiastic and promising leaders are ready to step up despite lacking extensive experience in the CEO role. They are motivated to learn, seek guidance and mentoring, and expand their skills.

Aspiring CEOs work well with experienced executive teams and Mayors who can channel their energy effectively. They pursue challenging projects to prove their abilities but must avoid focusing too much on one activity at the expense of overall organisational performance. A targeted, competency-based long-term development plan can help them grow into strong leaders.

Ineffective/Misaligned Leaders

Ineffective Leaders often seek to please people selectively in order to further their agendas, letting their ego or “loudest voice” demands interfere with good decision-making. They can be motivated by self-preservation, neglecting others' contributions, and deflecting blame when things go wrong. While they may have significant local government experience, they struggle with prioritising tasks and tend to move from one problem to another without structure. Fearful of failure, they surround themselves with people who mask their deficiencies.


Choosing the right CEO at the right time is crucial for any local government organisation. By understanding your council’s specific needs, you can select a leader whose skills and motivations align with your goals. Whether you need a Change Maker, Seasoned Professional, Action Leader, Developing Leader, or recognise the pitfalls of an Ineffective Leader, the right choice can significantly impact your organisation’s future.

 At Leading Roles, we help you assess your leadership needs and find the ideal candidate to lead your council to success.