Background and significance: Nurses' job dissatisfaction is associated with negative nursing and patient outcomes. One of the most powerful reasons for nurses to stay in an organisation is satisfaction with leadership. However, nurses are frequently promoted to leadership positions without appropriate preparation for the role. Although a number of leadership programs have been described, none have been tested for effectiveness, using a randomised control trial methodology. Aims: The aims of this research were to develop an evidence based leadership program and to test its effectiveness on nurse unit managers' (NUMs') and nursing staff's (NS's) job satisfaction, and on the leader behaviour scores of nurse unit managers. Methods: First, the study used a comprehensive literature review to examine the evidence on job satisfaction, leadership and front-line manager competencies. From this evidence a summary of leadership practices was developed to construct a two component leadership model. The components of this model were then combined with the evidence distilled from previous leadership development programs to develop a Leadership Development Program (LDP). This evidence integrated the program's design, its contents, teaching strategies and learning environment. Central to the LDP were the evidence-based leadership practices associated with increasing nurses' job satisfaction. A randomised controlled trial (RCT) design was employed for this research to test the effectiveness of the LDP. A RCT is one of the most powerful tools of research and the use of this method makes this study unique, as a RCT has never been used previously to evaluate any leadership program for front-line nurse managers. Thirty-nine consenting nurse unit managers from a large tertiary hospital were randomly allocated to receive either the leadership program or only the program's written information about leadership. Demographic baseline data were collected from participants in the NUM groups and the nursing staff who reported to them. Validated questionnaires measuring job satisfaction and leader behaviours were administered at baseline, at three months after the commencement of the intervention and at six months after the commencement of the intervention, to the nurse unit managers and to the NS. Independent and paired t-tests were used to analyse continuous outcome variables and Chi Square tests were used for categorical data. Results: The study found that the nurse unit managers' overall job satisfaction score was higher at 3-months (p = 0.016) and at 6-months p = 0.027) post commencement of the intervention in the intervention group compared with the control group. Similarly, at 3-months testing, mean scores in the intervention group were higher in five of the six "positive" sub-categories of the leader behaviour scale when compared to the control group. There was a significant difference in one sub-category; effectiveness, p = 0.015. No differences were observed in leadership behaviour scores between groups by 6-months post commencement of the intervention. Over time, at three month and six month testing there were significant increases in four transformational leader behaviour scores and in one positive transactional leader behaviour scores in the intervention group. Over time at 3-month testing, there were significant increases in the three leader behaviour outcome scores, however at 6-months testing; only one of these leader behaviour outcome scores remained significantly increased. Job satisfaction scores were not significantly increased between the NS groups at three months and at six months post commencement of the intervention. However, over time within the intervention group at 6-month testing there was a significant increase in job satisfaction scores of NS. There were no significant increases in NUM leader behaviour scores in the intervention group, as rated by the nursing staff who reported to them. Over time, at 3-month testing, NS rated nurse unit managers' leader behaviour scores significantly lower in two leader behaviours and two leader behaviour outcome scores. At 6-month testing, over time, one leader behaviour score was rated significantly lower and the nontransactional leader behaviour was rated significantly higher. Discussion: The study represents the first attempt to test the effectiveness of a leadership development program (LDP) for nurse unit managers using a RCT. The program's design, contents, teaching strategies and learning environment were based on a summary of the literature. The overall improvement in role satisfaction was sustained for at least 6-months post intervention. The study's results may reflect the program's evidence-based approach to developing the LDP, which increased the nurse unit managers' confidence in their role and thereby their job satisfaction. Two other factors possibly contributed to nurse unit managers' increased job satisfaction scores. These are: the program's teaching strategies, which included the involvement of the executive nursing team of the hospital, and the fact that the LDP provided recognition of the importance of the NUM role within the hospital. Consequently, participating in the program may have led to nurse unit managers feeling valued and rewarded for their service; hence more satisfied. Leadership behaviours remaining unchanged between groups at the 6 months data collection time may relate to the LDP needing to be conducted for a longer time period. This is suggested because within the intervention group, over time, at 3 and 6 months there were significant increases in self-reported leader behaviours. The lack of significant changes in leader behaviour scores between groups may equally signify that leader behaviours require different interventions to achieve change. Nursing staff results suggest that the LDP's design needs to consider involving NS in the program's aims and progress from the outset. It is also possible that by including regular feedback from NS to the nurse unit managers during the LDP that NS's job satisfaction and their perception of nurse unit managers' leader behaviours may alter. Conclusion/Implications: This study highlights the value of providing an evidence-based leadership program to nurse unit managers to increase their job satisfaction. The evidence based leadership program increased job satisfaction but its effect on leadership behaviour was only seen over time. Further research is required to test interventions which attempt to change leader behaviours. Also further research on NS' job satisfaction is required to test the indirect effects of LDP on NS whose nurse unit managers participate in LDPs.