The directly elected executive mayor was introduced to England a decade ago. Drawing inspiration from European and American experience, the elected mayor appealed to both New Labour and Conservative commentators in offering a solution to perceived problems of local leadership. There was a shared view that governance of local areas was failing and that elected mayors were the answer. The first local referendums were held in 2001. Most have continued to reject the idea of the elected mayor. During 2012, the coalition government initiated 10 further mayoral referendums in England's largest cities but only one, Bristol, opted for an elected mayor. Overall, there is no evidence of widespread public support, yet the prospect of more mayors - with enhanced powers - remains firmly on the policy agenda. Drawing from a decade of research, this paper considers reasons for the persistence of the mayoral experiment, the importance of local factors in the few areas where mayors hold office and the link to current policy debates. Using the authors' analytical leadership grid, this paper links the governmental, governance and allegiance roles of mayors to the problematic nature of local leadership. It then draws tentative conclusions about the strange case of the elected mayor in England.