In various case studies across Europe the vital role of rural place leadership in enabling a place-based approach to local and regional development has been highlighted, although not always explicitly addressed as such. This paper aims to do so by reviewing the findings from a selection of earlier research projects within a framework of the role of rural leadership in place-based development. Building on the increasing body of literature on place leadership, the review reveals how place leadership in rural areas is performed by varied public, private and civic actors; is able to bridge vested stakes and make new connections; is supportive to joint learning and innovation and an increasing range of bottom-up grassroots initiatives. Effective rural place leadership initiates joint reflection and enforces a collaborative spirit resulting in an expanding spiral of new alliances and new (institutional) arrangements. This underpins the importance of rural place leadership in building collective agency and its capacity to better attune the institutional setting to the specificities of place and thus enhance place-based development.