Purpose: This paper aims to investigate nurses' experiences of leadership within health care in the Republic of Ireland.
Design/methodology/approach: This mainly qualitative study made use of a mail survey sent to a random national selection of registered nurses. Participants were asked to provide narrative descriptors of good nursing leadership and identify obstacles to such leadership.
Findings: Participants mainly provided examples of nursing leadership within a hierarchical context (concentrated leadership), such as meeting organisational goals and decision-making. While elements of distributed leadership were mentioned (good communication, providing help and support), they were mainly described as part of formal management roles, rather than leadership. Observed obstacles to developing nursing leadership included high workload, lack of support from management and peers, limited opportunities to gain experience, lack of education/training and poor work environments.
Research limitations/implications: The small sample (n = 72) limits generalisation. A wider interdisciplinary effort to address experiences with nursing leadership in Ireland may be needed to inform health services of the issues from a broader perspective.
Practical implications: The findings suggest that development of nursing leadership in Ireland may still be in its infancy, and that several obstacles need to be overcome.
Originality/value: Very few studies have addressed narratives from nurses regarding personal experiences with nursing leadership. The examples provided by participants have yielded significant insight into the issues they encounter, which are reflective of health care elsewhere.
Keywords: Climate for promoting leadership; Distributed leadership; Leadership; Leadership skills; Leadership/management dichotomy; Nursing leadership.