Transformational and Transactional Leadership

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A Discussion of the key differences between transactional and transformational leaders Zoltan Blazek S0192734

This essay contrasts the benefits of transactional and transformational leadership in the context of its usefulness in organizations. It argues that while transactional leadership is most commonly used in organizations to establish goals and clarify roles nowadays, it’s transformational leadership that holds the key to long-term high performance and therefore to continuous improvement of leadership in organizations. Transactional leadership involves setting up goals and establish roles and focuses more on extrinsic motivation for the performance of job tasks. The problem with this approach is that mechanical structure seems to reduce leadership to a mundane algorithm in which there is nothing particularly special or uplifting (Haslam, Reicher & Platow 2011). Transformational leaders inspire their self- interest for the good of the organization and can have an extraordinary effect on their followers. Transformational leaders pay attention to the needs and concerns of individual followers, and therefore change followers ways of thinking, way of looking at the problems and try to excite and inspire them to put an extra efforts to achieve goals (Robbins et al. 2011). We live in transactional world and this essay focuses on importance of integrating transformational leadership into organizations. It compares the strengths and weaknesses of transactional leadership with those of transformational leadership.

What is leadership? Judge et al.(2011, p.330) define leadership as an ability to influence a group towards the achievement of a vision or set of goals. Leadership is also a process influencing activity in a group directed towards the achievement of one or several objectives (Eliyana 2010). It’s a process where multiple parties are engaged and perception of each are very important ((Haslam, Reicher & Platow 2011. There are many definitions regarding leadership, we have to realize that leadership is not about getting people to do things, it’s about getting them to want to do things. It’s about shaping beliefs, desires and priorities (Haslam, Reicher & Platow 2011). Perhaps a lot of people still confuse transactional leadership with management, while they seems to be very close related, they are two very different disciplines. Managers manage tasks and leaders lead people.

What’s the difference between transactional and transformational leadership? ‘A transactional leadership style is appropriate in many settings and may support adherence to practice standards but not necessarily openness to innovation’(Jung 2001 cited in Eliyana 2010, p.26). It involves leader telling people what to do and how. In transactional environment people do this because they have been driven by reward or fear of punishment. Transformational leadership is very closely linked to charismatic or visionary leadership (Eliyana 2010). As you probably know, charisma comes from a Greek and means ‘gift’. ‘Transformational leaders have strong moral values and goals, which lead to behaviors and decisions that promote ethical policies, procedures, and processes within their organizations’ (Zhu et al. 2011, p152). Transformational leaders are usually born, while it’s possible to be trained and learn how to act and be transformational leader, my humble opinion is that these people come across as fake. Transformational leadership can be detected at very early stage, let’s say at the age of 3 or 4. Just go to any pre-school and see which kid get the most followers and attention from other kids. Transformational leadership is much harder to achieve than transactional leadership, as it involves motivating and inspiring followers the way that go beyond exchanges and reward (Bass 1997). ‘A transformational leadership style creates a vision and inspire subordinates to strive beyond required expectations’ (Iliyana 2010, p.26). When I’m thinking...
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