Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to develop a research agenda to underpin leadership development activity in the social housing sector, in the light of an identified need for effective leadership in this sector owing to the continual reform and changes it faces. Design/methodology/approach - A literature review is conducted by searching a number of business and management, along with social sciences, databases and texts with the primary focus being leadership and management in social housing. Secondary focus is based around public sector organisations and agencies such as the police and education owing to lack of research in social housing. Findings - There is a pressing need for leadership development in social housing, yet there is a limited evidence base from which to develop effective development interventions. The most relevant models of leadership appear to be those which focus on inter-organisational and cross-sector collaboration, but further research is required to develop a clearer picture of the nature of the leadership challenge within this sector. Research limitations/implications - The paper is only seen as a first stage as it attempts to draw from what has been already published. The paper develops the own research agenda for a second phase of empirical research in order to continue the debate further. Originality/value - The paper adds to the discussion and debate around leadership in general but more crucially brings to the surface a number of questions not posed previously that involve the starting-point for detailed empirical research. Relevant case examples exist within the National Health Service and education, but social housing has remained immune from this up until now.