• corporate development;
  • health care change;
  • leadership characteristics;
  • nursing service

Aim  The purpose of this study was to evaluate how an executive nursing team, within an acute hospital trust in the south of England, developed their leadership characteristics through the use of a professional development programme.

Background  This paper offers an insight into how this team worked together to clarify their views of their new role and how the role would be enacted.

Method  A questionnaire using quantitative and qualitative measures was used to explore the group’s leadership style and evaluate the professional development programme.

Findings  The findings show how the development programme worked and what clarity it afforded the group in terms of their leadership style. Group work, building on the findings, helped them define their particular characteristics, skills and leadership ability and what further work was needed to demonstrate this.

Conclusions  The issues raised, such as team-working, mutual purpose and personal development, are discussed in terms of their function within an integrated executive team with vision and goals.

Implications for nursing management  In ensuring that the nursing service has positive purpose, direction and goals, there needs to be a strategic approach to corporate development; otherwise, nursing will struggle to lead itself within a fast changing health care system.