Intelligent, robust and courageous nursing leadership is essential in all areas of nursing, including mental health. However, in the nursing leadership literature, the theoretical discourse regarding how leaders recognise the need for action and make the choice to act with moral purpose is currently limited. Little has been written about the cognitions, capabilities and contextual factors that enable leader courage. In particular, the interplay between leader values and actions that are characterised as good or moral remains underexplored in the nursing leadership literature. In this article, through a discursive literature synthesis we seek to distill a more detailed understanding of leader moral courage; specifically, what factors contribute to leaders’ ability to act with moral courage, what factors impede such action, and what factors do leaders need to foster within themselves and others to enable action that is driven by moral courage. From the analysis, we distilled a multi-level framework that identifies a range of individual characteristics and capabilities, and enabling contextual factors that underpin leader moral courage. The framework suggests leader moral courage is more complex than often posited in theories of leadership, as it comprises elements that shape moral thought and conduct. Given the complexity and challenges of nursing work, the framework for moral action derived from our analysis provides insight and suggestions for strengthening individual and group capacity to assist nurse leaders and mental health nurses to act with integrity and courage
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