Leadership theory is a crucial aspect of nursing and the focus of a large body of literature. However, it remains a challenging concept to define and has been subject to various interpretations. Much of the literature on leadership is contradictory, with some studies claiming particular leadership styles are more effective than others. This article discusses the benefits and limitations of one approach to leadership – transactional leadership – and considers its use in nursing practice. The author suggests that transactional leadership remains useful as an approach to meeting short-term goals and completing tasks, but that it should be combined with other leadership styles to maximise its effectiveness in healthcare settings.