Aim To present for wider debate a conceptual model for clinical leadership development in pre-registration nursing programmes and a proposed implementation plan. Background Globally, leadership in nursing has become a significant issue. Whilst there is continued support for leadership preparation in pre-registration nursing programmes, there have been very few published accounts of curriculum content and/or pedagogical approaches that foster clinical leadership development in pre-registration nursing. A doctoral research study has resulted in the creation of an overarching model for clinical leadership. Design A multi-method research study using theoretical and empirical literature 1974-2015, a focus group, expert opinion and a national on-line survey. Discussion A conceptual model of clinical leadership development in pre-registration nursing programme is presented, including the infinity loop of clinical leadership, an integral curriculum thread and a conceptual model: a curriculum-pedagogy nexus for clinical leadership. In order to test out usability and evaluate effectiveness, a multi method programme of research in one school of nursing in Australia is outlined. Conclusion Implementation of the proposed conceptual model for clinical leadership development in pre-registration nursing programmes and a programme of (post-doctoral) research will contribute to what is known about curriculum content and pedagogy for nurse academics. Importantly, for nursing students and the profession as a whole, there is a clearer expectation of what clinical leadership might look like in the novice registered nurse. For nurse academics a model is offered for consideration in curriculum design and implementation with an evaluation strategy that could be replicated.