- Leadership in British nursing has been neglected by nurses and policy makers. The legacy of this neglect is now being felt as nurses struggle to establish and identity a role for themselves in the changing environment of the NHS. Attempts to promote nursing leadership are not without their problems. There is the ambivalence attached to `women's work' and the need to create a niche for nursing expertise in a division of labour over which nurses have only ever exerted minor influence. The historical divisions within nursing mean that different groups are likely to perceive the need for, and respond to, leadership in different ways. Add to this the diffidence nurses have met with when attempting to claim legitimacy in the leadership stakes, and a picture of confusing complexity emerges. This paper attempts to clarify the key issues surrounding the question of nursing leadership, and offers a definition of leadership. In order to shed some light on the issue, a series of interviews was held with a number of prominent figures in the nursing world. The paper details some of the key findings from that interview study and also examines the broader issue of nurse leadership and looks at some of the constraints on would-be leaders. The paper starts by describing the general context of the current leadership debate in nursing and a final section suggests some practical strategies for developing nurse leadership.