• first-line nurse manager;
  • leadership;
  • management;
  • virtues;
  • work climate

Aims and objectives.  The aim of this study was to describe first-line nurse managers’ (F-LNMs) and subordinate registered nurses’ (RNs) conceptions and experiences of their routine work and how leadership was exercised.

Background.  Extensive changes in health care organisations have had a powerful impact on leadership in nursing management. Nursing leadership, in turn, has an affect on both the quality of care and the subordinates’ work environment. Therefore, it is important to enhance our understanding of current leadership in nursing management.

Design.  This is a descriptive qualitative study carried out in three units at three Swedish hospitals.

Methods.  Three F-LNMs and 14 RNs participated. Interviews were used to collect data. The interviews were analysed using qualitative content analysis.

Results.  The result of this study was illustrated in one main theme referred to in this study as between being and doing. The RNs and F-LNMs described what it was to be a good professional (being), how they were engaged in creating a good work climate (doing) and personal outcomes of this project (gaining).

Conclusion.  The reciprocal relation between being and doing, which can be described as the development of virtues, was a central point in the professional work of the F-LNMs and RNs. The development of virtues is also a strategy to attain the goals of nursing and establish a work climate that motivates staff and improves performance.

Relevance to clinical practices.  The implication for nursing management is to create ample space to develop strategies and knowledge about how leadership in nursing management can stimulate the development of a common perspective of good care and professional virtues appropriate for health care praxis.