IPPR North said that the government is on the right track in boosting growth in the north of England, but added the current approach is "piecemeal, partial and parochial".
The think tank, releasing its blueprint for a Great North Plan, said that boosting business confidence and encouraging new investment is key to the success of the Northern Powerhouse.
"The government has the right destination in mind with the Northern Powerhouse, but letting it be driven by Whitehall rather than Northern businesses risks taking us in the wrong direction with a piecemeal, partial and parochial approach," said Ed Cox, director of IPPR North.
"The powerhouse has got to go beyond reducing travel times between Leeds and Manchester, important as this is. Businesses and foreign investors have told us that they want to see a more coherent approach to economic planning with the kind of framework found in London, Scotland and most European regions.
"As our blueprint shows, we have some real competitive advantages in the north: in areas like advanced manufacturing, the digital economy and energy supply, not to mention quality-of-life. But we need a business-led plan from the north, for the north, to tie these together."
The IPPR earlier this month released a report stating that small- and medium-sized cities are essential to boosting growth in the north, calling on the government to recognise the unique strengths each play in order to overcome the challenges of realising the region's potential.
"It is the kind of strategy that they have in London and in the most successful regions in Europe and the US and now is the time for business leaders to have a bigger role in making the Northern Powerhouse a reality," Cox added.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW) agreed with the report's conclusion, adding that the government needs implement more long-term thinking.
"Northern Powerhouse success depends on a business-government partnership and the implementation of a "Great North Plan" would be a great way to facilitate this. In order for the Northern Powerhouse to thrive, the government needs to develop a robust plan, not for the normal business quarter, but for the next quarter-century as this is very much a long-term project," said Melanie Christie, ICAEW regional director of north west.