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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to find out whether the leadership expectations in independent Estonia differ from leadership expectations in other East European countries (EEC) and from other neighbouring countries and also to investigate actual leadership perception in Estonia. Design/methodology/approach ‐ To find answers to the research questions stated above, two leadership surveys were carried out in Estonia in 2001 and 2003. The research carried out in 2001 concentrated on actual leader behaviour and the next wave of research, carried out in 2003, was devoted to desirable leader behaviour. The methodology of the surveys was based on the cross-cultural Global Leadership and Organizational Behaviour Effectiveness (GLOBE) research program with its initial headquarters in the USA. The GLOBE research program is a world-wide, multi-phase and method project. Findings ‐ The crucial thing in the Estonian working environment during the transformation period was team spirit and team reinforcement. Unless Estonians are usually considered to be lonely spirits, the team in the working environment is considered to be very important. As opposed to other EEC countries, Estonia is more like other European countries when considering team orientation. The comparison of actual leadership patterns and desired leadership in Estonia showed that Estonians expect their leaders to be charismatic ‐ value-based, team-oriented and participative. The leaders are not expected to be humane, self-protective and autonomous ‐ these styles are considered to inhibit outstanding leadership. Practical implications ‐ Knowledge of current research about the Estonian leadership style can be used in the training of future leaders in colleges and universities. With Estonia being a new member of the European Union, lots of companies will open their subsidiaries in this region if they have not done so already and information about culturally endorsed leadership profiles can be used while selecting and training people who will work with representatives of other cultures. Originality/value ‐ The leaders during the research period were considered to be charismatic ‐ value-based and team-oriented, but not participative and too autonomous.