Before answering the exact question you asked, I would be remiss if I did not mention several issues that really need to be addressed in order to provide a thorough and balanced approach to the “problem” of what to do with leaves.
The first question that all of us should ask— and I don’t mean to get preachy right here at the outset— is, “Do I absolutely need to gather the leaves that have fallen?” Or to put it another way, “Should I be depriving the trees from which the leaves came of their main source of food?”
Now I don’t want you to think that you’re saddled with a purblind “treehugger” here. There are, of course, many situations in which the answer is “Yes!” Gathering them is certainly preferable to allowing them to end up in stormwater drains, eventually adding an undesirable nutrient load to our waterways. And a residential area that has a great many mature trees may experience such a heavy fall of leaves that something simply has to be done with them or they’ll end up clogging gutters, smothering the grass, and making an unsightly mess of walkways.
If at all possible, however, you should first consider shredding them finely with multiple mower passes, and allowing them to remain on any available turf where they will decompose during the winter, contributing important nutrients to both grass and trees alike. And also think about allowing them to remain on any perennial beds and around existing shrubs where they will decompose into valuable leaf meal mulch.
Now, let's return to your question, the answer to which has to take into account a number of issues that are particular to leaves themselves (and here I’m thinking of leaves from deciduous trees): first, they are too high in carbon to make compost all by themselves; (C:N ratio of 60:1) so they need to be mixed with a high-nitrogen material to form true compost; second, they tend to mat and therefore resist decomposition if not first shredded; and third, they’re often too dry by the time they’re gathered to provide a moist enough environment for the necessary fungal and bacterial decomposers to thrive. And while we’re at it, we might as well include a fourth: the fact that gathering them can involve considerable time and labor. So with the understanding that any effective solution should deal with all of those issues, below is the approach I’ve employed.
I have a two-acre property so I use a riding mower to cut the grass. And although that mower has a bagging attachment, I only use it for the final cut of the season — sometime in late November or early December. I usually stop mowing during the entire month of November, starting before the leaves begin to fall and throughout the entire time that they’re falling. This allows the grass, which I’ve been cutting at a height of four inches all season, to grow a bit taller and snag all those leaves, keeping them from blowing away or into my neighbors' yards. Then, for the final mow, which you probably know should be at a height of roughly two inches going into the winter, I pick up and simultaneously shred both the grass and leaves to get a perfect mix of ingredients for a “leaf-meal mulch.” The grass provides the moist, nitrogenous matter and the leaves contribute the brown, carbonaceous matter.
Coincidentally, I use the same wagon that holds my mobile cold frame in the spring to collect the mix which I then dump in a designated spot at the bottom of my property. There’s no need to cover the pile because much of the decomposition is fungal in nature and that makes it easy to turn the pile with my Troy-Built rototiller about three or four times during the following summer. And at the end of one year’s time, it will be ready to use -- which is very convenient because I will need to use the same area again next fall.
If you'd like to see photos of the various things I alluded to in this answer, you can check here: https://goo.gl/photos/g9zHhvrjxm5unLLV7