Purpose – This paper examines the leadership practices of two Brazilian regional tourism organisations (RTOs) using an exploratory case study. Design/methodology/approach – The research adopts an embedded case study approach, permitting the comparison of the leadership phenomenon in the ‘‘Instituto Estrada Real’’ (the IER) and the ‘‘Associac¸a˜o Circuito do Ouro’’ (the ACO). Semi-structured interviews (n=14) were undertaken to gather information from the RTOs’ executives and actors/followers influenced directly by RTO leadership in order to obtain their perceptions about leadership practice. Findings – Four leadership themes emerged: capacity to produce results, capacity to mobilise followers, articulation and communication of goals and actions, and articulation of roles and responsibilities. The findings are discussed in regards to the hierarchical and market governance structures of the two RTOs and the implications for leadership practice. The interviewees identified that transactional forms of leadership dominated the hierarchical governance structure of the ACO and that it was able to mobilise effectively other levels of government. However, this leadership does not deliver results at the speed required by the private sector. The IER is a market-led governance structure and its leadership practices effectively mobilised the private sector. However, it was found to operate in isolation from government and other key tourism stakeholders. Originality/value – This paper draws together the regional tourism management and leadership literature, making both theoretical and applied contributions to regional tourism leadership.