Leadership is one of the most indispensable tools for nursing work. This study is aimed at making a bibliographical survey about leadership in the nursing context and characterizing the scientific production on the topic based on year and place of publication and theme categorization. An online literature review, carried out using LILACS data, considered periodical material, dissertations and theses available in Portuguese and Spanish from the past twenty years. From the 31 selected works, 17 (54.8%) have been published in international nursing magazines, 10 (32.2%) have been published in Brazilian nursing periodicals, 3 (9.8%) were Master's Degree theses, and one (3.2%) was a teaching thesis, with publication concentrated between 1997 and 1998 (22.6%). When categorizing the references, the numbers were: 14 (45.2%) dealt with nurse leadership styles, 15 (48.5%) were reflections upon leadership, and 2 (6.4%) discussed leader-ship and communication.