Little evidence supports the seemingly common assumption that a frontrunner is naturally a leader. The leader is followed by a group of actors, whereas the frontrunner runs ahead without anyone following its lead. Thus they can viewed as two concepts on the same scale. By disentangling the two concepts, I aim of this study is to contribute to the scarce literature on frontrunners. Using the case of Norway as a frontrunner in the formation of the REDD regime, the study is divided into two parts. The first part aims to explain why a small country seeks the leader role in the formation of a global environmental regime, by studying the national explanation factors. The second part seeks to elucidate on why the donor countries do not follow Norway’s lead. I examine the donor countries’ positions on the formation of the REDD regime and Norway’s efforts to persuade them to support the REDD regime further. This explains why Norway remains a frontrunner in the formation of the REDD regime, and does not proceed to be a leader.
I find that national interests play a crucial role when announcing leadership ambitions within the formation of the REDD regime. The interests are served by the frontrunning efforts on both the domestic level, and the state level. Although the national support for seeking a strong leadership is strong, there is not much interest in the problem itself. Thus the leadership demand does not match the leadership supply. This mismatch explains why a small frontrunner does not proceed to be a leader in the formation of a global environmental regime. This finding indicates the complexity of the frontrunner/leader concepts, and that a positive demand for leadership cannot be taken for granted when studying leaders.