AIM: This study examines how nurse managers' leadership behaviour relates to job satisfaction and a creative work climate. BACKGROUND: The nursing shortage is a challenge for managers all over the world. Leadership is a core element of management and it is important to elucidate leadership behaviour in order to increase knowledge about attracting and retaining talented staff. METHOD: We studied 770 subordinates at a large university hospital. Three questionnaires for assessing perceived leadership behaviour, creative work climate and job satisfaction were used. RESULTS: Subordinates with a manager perceived as 'super' have the highest rates on job satisfaction. The correlation between leadership and creative work climate is stronger than between leadership and job satisfaction. Between job satisfaction and work climate the correlation is strong. CONCLUSIONS: The study shows that the relationship between a creative work climate and job satisfaction is strong. A managers' ability to lead has a major affect on work climate. IMPLICATION FOR NURSING MANAGEMENT: Nurse managers must work on developing their leadership behaviour towards being an all-round leader that cares about people, is concerned about productivity and can handle changes. Support of ideas and initiatives are important in order to enable subordinates to perceive their work as challenging.