This contribution assesses the roles and functions of leaders, pioneers and followers in multi-level and polycentric climate governance. While leaders usually actively seek to attract followers, this is not normally the case for pioneers. We address the following core research questions: (1) Who can be a leader/pioneer?; (2) Why do actors become leaders/pioneers?; (3) How do leaders/pioneers act?; and, (4) How do leaders/pioneers attract followers? In doing so we differentiate between structural, entrepreneurial, cognitive and exemplary leadership and assess the dynamics between leaders/pioneers and followers in climate governance. State-centred, multilevel governance and polycentric governance concepts place different emphasis on the roles played by different types of leadership/pionieership in climate governance. We argue that climate leaders and pioneers can use different types of leadership and often must act (either simultaneously or sequentially) at different levels of climate governance to achieve their ambitions.