The article presents the outcomes of an empirical study of power and leadership in local communities. The study was conducted in 2011-2015 and 2018-2020 in three small towns and one district in three regions of Russia. The basic material was obtained in the course of 86 in-depth face to face interviews with the regional public officials and experts, local politicians, officials, businessmen, and civic activists. We studied opinions of local elites about local leadership. Who should be a leader in a local community, can he overcome the problems caused by objective circumstances, what is the role played by his team, etc. The study shows that the inclusion of the municipalities in the “power vertical” built in the last decade did not lead to an underestimation of the role of leadership by local elites. Leaders are still in demand both by communities and elites. The majority of representatives of urban elites, as the study has shown, believe that the head of the town is, first of all, a leader, and secondarily – an executor, realizing the will of higher authorities. Only real leaders of urban communities have a chance to successfully overcome adverse situations. The leader’s power and the effectiveness of his activities are largely depend on the presence or absence of a professional and motivated group of followers – a team of like-minded people who support the leader and ensure the implementation of his policies. The study showed that in all local communities there are problems with the formation of a team, mainly due to the limited human resources of a small town. Many our respondents are quite optimistic about the leadership potential of town heads and their ability to influence the current situation. They emphasize that only leaders, not just executives really have a chance to significantly influence the situation.