This article is a comparative study of the contextual conditions for collective efficacy and territorial governance of social cohesion in two different rural localities: West Dorset in England and Lemvig in Denmark. The objective is to understand the conditions for and relations between neo-endogenous development and rural social cohesion in two different national contexts. Common to both cases are problems of demographic change, particularly loss of young people, depopulation, economic challenges and their peripheral location vis-à-vis the rest of the country. However, in West Dorset, community identity is fragmented compared to Lemvig, and this has consequences for how well local ‘collective efficacy’ (Sampson, 2012) transfers to more strategic levels of local development. These include not only variations in welfare settings and governance, but also variations in settlement structure and place identity (Jørgensen, Knudsen, Fallov, & Skov, 2016), collective efficacy, and the role of local leadership (Beer & Clower, 2014), which structure the conditions for rural development. While Lemvig is characterized by close interlocking relations between local government, business and civil society, this is less the case in England where centralization of powers in tandem with a dramatic restructuring of service delivery forms (e.g., contracting out, privatisation) have had damaging effects on these types of interlocking relations. Comparing these cases through the lens of the combined concepts of collective efficacy and place based leadership contribute to the understanding of rural development as not only relations between intra- and extra-local connections but also formal and informal forms of collective action and leadership.