Mentoring relationships occur across a range of nursing contexts and are shown to have multiple, favourable personal and professional outcomes. Specifically, mentoring has been associated with the development of nurse leaders. This study describes features that are integral to initiating mentoring relationships that focus on nursing leader development. These significant features are addressed in relation to the nursing literature. Thirteen nurse leaders from eastern states of Australia were interviewed during 2005 and 2006 about their understanding and experiences of mentoring for leadership. Their narratives were analysed using a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology. Mentoring relationships for nurse leadership were revealed as developing from esteemed connections between two people. Mentors were shown to unconditionally champion their mentee's careers, and mentees were shown to possess a leadership vision for nursing. The findings of this study have implications for establishing mentoring relationships for nurse leader development. Consideration should be given to the specific focus and context of these relationships to ensure that the full potential of the mentoring process is realised. It is also important to better understand the key aspects that contribute to the phases of mentoring relationships for nurse leader development because they are shown to influence the dynamic and function of these relationships over time.