Abstract: The ever‐changing demands of recruitment and retention, both nationally and at a local level, have resulted in many staff with little or no experience in managing a unit in a secure setting. This study aimed to elicit the views of a cross‐section of unit‐based staff and middle management, on their experiences of leadership and taking charge of a shift/unit. A qualitative descriptive design was adapted for this study. The data were collected using focus group interviews guided by semistructured interview schedules. Twenty‐one subjects participated in three focus groups. The data were analyzed using Colaizzi's (1978) framework. Five themes emerged from the data analysis. These are: Perceived practical skills deficit, perceived difference in experience, training program, leadership skills, and teaching learning methods. Implications: The themes generated will provide a framework to develop a training program, which will prepare staff to take on a leadership role within a unit, if required.