A parliamentary leader is a political title or a descriptive term used in various countries to the person leading a caucus in a legislative body, whether it be the countries' respective parliaments or provincial/state legislatures.
In many countries, the position of leader of a political party and leader of a parliamentary group are separate positions, and while they are often held by the same person, this is not always or automatically the case. If the party leader is a member of the government, holds a different political office outside the parliament in question, or no political office at all, the position of parliamentary leader is frequently held by a different person.
The parliamentary leader has the supreme responsibility for coordinating the work of the MPs representing his or her party.
In Germany, leaders of the major parties have often been heads of government of the various states rather than members of the national parliament. Hence, the position of parliamentary leader in the national parliament (Germany also has 16 state parliaments) is often occupied by a different person. Even when the party leader is a member of the national parliament, the parliamentary leader can be a different person (Friedrich Merz was parliamentary leader while Angela Merkel was party leader for some years and their party in opposition). If the party leader is the Chancellor or a member of the government, another person always is the parliamentary leader.
Each of the 16 states of Germany also have their own governments, parliaments, state parties and parliamentary leaders, resembling the situation at the federal level.
They serve as interim legislative leaders, when a party leader either has no seat in the legislative body, during a transition period preceding, or following a leadership contest.
Recent examples of parliamentary leaders in Canada
- Grant Hill served as parliamentary leader of the Conservative Party of Canada while the party's interim leader was John Lynch-Staunton, a Senator
- Bill Blaikie served as parliamentary leader of the New Democratic Party from Jack Layton's election as party leader until he won a seat in the House of Commons in the 2004 election
- John Reynolds served first as interim leader of the Canadian Alliance following the resignation of Stockwell Day and then as parliamentary leader from the election of Stephen Harper to the Alliance leadership until Harper won a seat in the Commons
- Deborah Grey served first as interim leader of the Canadian Alliance from its creation until the election of Stockwell Day as leader and then as parliamentary leader until Day won a seat in the House of Commons
- Elsie Wayne served first as interim leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada for most of 1998 following Jean Charest's resignation until the election of Joe Clark. Following Clark's election, she served as parliamentary leader until Clark won election to the Commons in a 2000 by-election.
- Bill Graham served as the parliamentary leader of the Liberal Party of Canada from February to December 2006, even though outgoing party leader Paul Martin was still sitting in the House of Commons. This was because Martin had chosen not to assume the duties of Opposition Leader, opting instead to retire to the back benches. Graham also became interim party leader in March when Martin relinquished that role as well.
- Herb Gray served as parliamentary leader of the Liberal Party of Canada during the lead-up to the 1990 Liberal leadership convention despite the fact that outgoing party leader John Turner still sat in the House of Commons; as the convention was won by Jean Chrétien, who was not a sitting Member of Parliament, Gray continued in the role until Chrétien could run in a by-election.
- William Lyon Mackenzie King became parliamentary leader and continued as Prime Minister of Canada for some months following the leadership election of his successor, Louis St. Laurent, who became party leader but continued as a member of his cabinet during this time.