Purpose: This study explores the experiences and perceptions of academic nurse mentors supporting early career nurse academics (ECNAs). Methods: Interviews were undertaken with mentors following a mentoring partnership with ECNAs. Data were transcribed verbatim and analysed using a process of thematic analysis. Findings: Four themes emerged from the data, namely; motivation for mentoring; constructing the relationship; establishing safe boundaries and managing expectations. Conclusions: This study provides a unique insight into the experiences of mentoring within the context of an academic leadership programme for nurses. Such insights highlight the issues facing academics from professional disciplines and can inform strategies to support their career development. Clinical relevance: A sustainable academic nursing workforce is crucial to ensure that effective preparation of future generations of expert clinical nurses. Therefore, it is important to consider strategies that could strengthen the academic nursing workforce.