Leadership: Transformational or Transactional

You’ve just been promoted to lead a team of people who have seen it and done it all before. Perhaps you are just one of a series of leaders who have come and gone. Ho-hum.  Hopefully, you’ve spent some time with each member of the team, digging, respectfully, to understand their values and perspectives.

Researcher suggest that there are two paths you can take in your leadership style, transformational or transactional.

The transformational leader seeks to stimulate her team to view their work from a new perspective. In addition, a transformational leader generates excitement and commitment within the team to the organization’s mission and vision.  She helps her team to look beyond their own interest and develop the inclination to think about acting in ways that benefit everyone.

According to Bass and Avolio, two researchers in this area, a transformational leader has four emphasis:

  1. idealized influence
  2. inspirational motivation
  3. intellectual stimulation
  4. individualized consideration

A second path, the transactional leadership style, involves a tight focus on using organizational rewards and discipline to influence team member’s performance. The style emphasizes:

  1. work standards
  2. assignments
  3. task-oriented goal completion
  4. employee compliance

Several researchers have looked at the outcomes of both styles and found greater benefits from a transformational style. Here’s a brief listing of what they found about the benefits:

  1. leads to higher employee ratings of effectiveness and satisfaction with the leader
  2. certain aspects of the style are associated with higher group performance
  3. affected subordinate extra effort moderately

Overall the transformational style is associated with top performing managers.

The key to implementing a transformational style is the use of multiple intelligences with a strong focus on emotional (intra-personal) and social (interpersonal) intelligence.

Changing Roles – Changing Persona


As a person steps into new leadership role, their persona must change.

They must change as a person.

It may be a minor or major change, BUT CHANGE THERE MUST BE.

One level of change may mean letting go of the strategies used to gain success at one level. What worked FOR YOU on one level MAY BE INAPPROPRIATE for the next.

It’s a lesson I learned the hard way. Many years ago  I was promoted from supervisor to operations manager. Looking back from the calm repose of a former operations manager turned consultant, the business environment was a set-up for failure on many levels. In truth the organization lacked a clear plan for leading in volatile times and a clear track for helping me make decisions in my new role.

I was long on the technical and people skills that made me a great supervisor, but short on political skills needed for my new level. My former  habits that created success were not the ones needed at my new level of leadership.

If you are aspiring to lead, ask yourself this question: Do I know how to lead in my new role?