Transformational vs. Transactional Leaders, Which is More Effective?
By Anjali Seefeldt
What do Mohandas Gandhi, Vince Lombardi, and Steve Jobs have in common? They are all considered to be transformational leaders. Transformational leaders are inspirational visionaries; they are deeply passionate, energetic, and enthusiastic, which is contagious and extremely motivating to followers. They are charismatic individuals who are innovative, strategic thinkers, often able to achieve great success or accomplish large scale change. Transformational leaders lead in a way which compels followers to dedicate themselves and work hard towards a cause, goal, or purpose.
Transformational leadership, which research has shown is linked to leadership effectiveness, involves an emotional connection between the leader and followers. Transformational leaders are able to effectively gain trust by demonstrating confidence and self-determination while creating an optimistic and compelling vision for the future. Followers tend to identify with the leader (in terms of values, goals, and ideals, for example), which results in greater commitment and cohesion. This translates into a desire for followers to become more invested in achieving goals tied to the vision. A strong transformational leader can help shape the attitudes, motivation, and ultimately, the performance of followers (Castro, Perinan, & Bueno, 2008).
Transactional leaders on the other hand, reward followers for compliance with their directions and/or requests. Followers are recognized for performance, and the relationship between leader and follower is more exchange-based, focused on reward and punishment as motivators. It is common for transactional leaders to be risk-avoidant and function in accordance with the present state of the organization, rather than looking towards the future in the hopes of achieving something greater. Concentrating more on day-to-day operations and efficiency, transactional leaders are less visionary than transformational leaders (Boga & Ensari, 2009).
The four characteristics of transformational leadership, identified by Bass (1985):
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Bass, B. M., (1985). Leadership and performance beyond expectations. New York: Free Press.
Boga, I., & Ensari, N. (2009). The role of transformational leadership and organizational change on perceived organizational success. The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 12, 235-251.
Castro, C. B., Perinan, M. V., & Bueno, J. C. C. (2008). Transformational leadership and followers’ attitudes: the mediating role of psychological empowerment. The international Journal of Human Resource Management, 19, 1842-1863.