African politics are often said to be dominated by ethnic divides, with the ensuing policies implemented by leaders being based almost exclusively on their ethnic power base. In this paper, we demonstrate that the identity of leaders matters for the attribution of development projects in the context of one of the largest Community-Driven Development (CDD) programs in Senegal. After showing that leadership matters, we consider its determinants by focusing on those factors that determine who becomes president and vice-president of a Conseil rural, the smallest administrative unit in Senegal, and which is elected by universal suffrage. We also consider the link between power in the Conseil rural and that in the Conseil de Concertation et de Gestion (CCG), an assembly coopted by the Conseil rural president that is typical of local institutions set up in the context of CDD programs, and which is responsible for the attribution of development projects to individual villages. Using a unique dataset, we show that ethnicity plays almost no role in determining who becomes president (or vice-president) of a Conseil rural and vice-president of the CCG, while party politics, age, political experience, village loyalty, and educational and professional qualifications do. Our results highlight the crucial importance, in terms of development policy, of the local political institutions that are often created alongside CDD programs.