• credibility;
  • investment;
  • leadership style;
  • transformational leadership

Aim  The aim of this study was to explore and understand the leadership experiences of modern matrons.

Background  Modern matrons were re-introduced to the National Health Service in 2002, and effective leadership has been identified as being essential for the role to be successful. However, there is minimal evidence of how modern matrons experience effective leadership.

Methods  The study used a descriptive generic qualitative methodology; one-to-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine matrons. This was subjected to an inductive thematic analysis.

Results  Three themes were found to influence modern matron’s leadership experiences: leadership behaviours, negative influences and leadership investment. They did not follow one leadership style but adapted this to their situation. Various factors appeared to restrict their leadership effectiveness.

Conclusions  The findings suggest that exposure to a range of leadership styles should be included in preparation and CPD for the modern matron role and a more consistent job description and job purpose should be developed.

Implications for nursing management  Leadership styles such as transformational leadership alone do not meet the complex demands of nursing leaders, and therefore there is a requirement for greater flexibility in leadership development for all health care professionals.