Nursing roles have been recognised as pivotal to the delivery of good quality, patient-centred care. At the centre of this debate are the leadership roles of the senior charge nurse (SCN), which in recent years have come under great scrutiny. However, research suggests that these roles have become decreasingly popular as a career pathway. The aim of this study was to develop a clearer understanding of leadership as experienced by newly qualified staff nurses in the acute hospital setting by exploring their perceptions and beliefs of SCN roles. The study supports the view that SCNs remain central to setting standards of care, but suggests that the SCN leadership role appears unattractive to newly qualified staff, who cite responsibility, lack of trust and negative feedback as the most offputting factors.