Types of Leaders: Transactional Versus Transformational Leaders

Read this article. Have you ever worked with someone who might be considered a transformational leader? What can transformational leaders accomplish with their teams that transactional leaders cannot?

Transactional leaders are concerned about the status quo, while transformational leaders are more change-oriented.


  • Differentiate between transactional leaders and transformational leaders in a full-range approach, particularly from a behavioral perspective


  • Transactional leadership works within set established goals and organizational boundaries, while a transformational approach challenges the status quo and is more future-oriented.
  • Transactional leadership emphasizes organization, performance evaluation and rewards, and is task- and outcome-oriented.
  • Transformational leadership focuses on motivating and engaging followers with a vision of the future.


  • Buy-in

    In management and decision making, the commitment of interested or affected parties (often called stakeholders) to agree to support a decision, often by having been involved in its formulation.

Leadership can be described as transactional or transformational. Transactional leaders focuses on the role of supervision, organization, and group performance. They are concerned about the status quo and day-to-day progress toward goals. Transformational leaders work to enhance the motivation and engagement of followers by directing their behavior toward a shared vision. While transactional leadership operates within existing boundaries of processes, structures, and goals, transformational leadership challenges the current state and is change-oriented.


Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership promotes compliance with existing organizational goals and performance expectations through supervision and the use of rewards and punishments. Transactional leaders are task- and outcome-oriented. Especially effective under strict time and resource constraints and in highly-specified projects, this approach adheres to the status quo and employs a form of management that pays close attention to how employees perform their tasks.


Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership focuses on increasing employee motivation and engagement and attempts to link employees' sense of self with organizational values. This leadership style emphasizes leading by example, so followers can identify with the leader's vision and values. A transformational approach focuses on individual strengths and weaknesses of employees and on enhancing their capabilities and their commitment to organizational goals, often by seeking their buy-in for decisions.


Comparing Leadership Types

Transactional and transformational leadership exhibit five key differences:

  1. Transactional leadership reacts to problems as they arise, whereas transformational leadership is more likely to address issues before they become problematic.
  2. Transactional leaders work within an existing organizational culture, while transformational leaders emphasize new ideas and thereby "transform" organizational culture.
  3. Transactional leaders reward and punish in traditional ways according to organizational standards; transformational leaders attempt to achieve positive results from employees by keeping them invested in projects, leading to an internal, high-order reward system.
  4. Transactional leaders appeal to the self-interest of employees who seek out rewards for themselves, in contrast to transformational leaders, who appeal to group interests and notions of organizational success.
  5. Transactional leadership is more akin to the common notions of management, whereas transformational leadership adheres more closely to what is colloquially referred to as leadership.

Source: Boundless
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Last modified: Monday, November 9, 2020, 12:39 PM