And with Wales set to face New Zealand in a two-Test tour later this month, Gatland is hoping his criticism raises his team's performance as they prepare for next year's World Cup.
He said: "I'm not talking about captaincy, just leadership in terms of understanding the game.
"When our regions play, the people who make decisions and lead are the southern hemisphere players.
"They [our players] are being led and dominated [in the regions] and you see them in groups and see who's controlling the game.
"Often it is those experienced southern hemisphere players [controlling] and they [our players] come out of that environment and come into ours.
"We're trying to get them to understand and we're putting them in situations they're not often familiar with.
"They turn around and look around and say: 'where's Jerry Collins, Marty Holah?' or 'where's David Lyons or Xavier Rush?'
"They haven't got those players here, or Ben Blair or Casey Laulala.
"For our players in terms of their overall management and leadership, it's quite difficult for them sometimes coming into this environment."