Objectives: Clinical directors established research-led healthcare by combining research, teaching and clinical excellence within the teaching hospitals. This research culture created high clinical standards, which benefited patients, the workforce and healthcare organisations. The current paper explores this research leadership role for clinical directors. It reviews studies arising from the theory of expert leadership, which focuses on the relationship between a leader's core knowledge and organisational performance. More specifically, we examine the expert leader's research track record, the associations with their organisation's performance, and the influence of research activity on clinical excellence. Conclusion: Distinguished researchers still lead the most prestigious teaching hospitals and the most trusted departments of psychiatry in the United States where the clinical directorate structure originated. It is also known that good scholars can improve research output when appointed to leadership positions. This suggests that the clinical director's research track record should be a consideration at a time when research is being embedded in Australia's local health networks. A clinical director's leadership may influence the research performance of their department and contribute to the quality of mental healthcare.