Question Anna K Business & Management

What is transformational leadership, and why is it better than transactional?

What is transformational leadership and why is it better than transactional?

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Answer Internal Staff

Transformational leadership is a theory and style of leadership that is based around a leader acting as an inspirational figure to motivate followers to achieve a vision.

The style is heavily dependent on a charismatic leader who is able to persuade people to follow them. It also encourages leadership by consent, where followers (e.g. employees in an organisation) are gained through their agreement, rather than being pressured.

Many important historical figures are considered to have used a transformational style, such as Martin Luther King Jr, Alexander the Great, George Washington, Joan of Arc and even Jesus Christ. Transformational leadership is closely associated with achieving large changes, and so is not often present where an organisation wishes to remain stable in a positive position.

Transactional leadership is associated with the traditional role and style of management – where organisation, supervision and discipline are enforced using hierarchies.

It is widely considered that transformational leadership is a more powerful and effective style, because it gains far greater engagement from followers. Significant changes and achievements are more likely to occur under transformational leaders than transactional. However, a transactional style is better suited to maintaining a position over the long term, which is very important to organisations.

By looking at some of the most powerful transformational leaders in history we can see that many of them were able to achieve great change over a short time, but that ongoing management was either lacking, or fulfilled by others. For example, Genghis Khan was able to unite the Mongolian tribes under his vision to create a great army, and then conquered most of Eurasia. But, his empire was only sustained through constant expansion, and collapsed after his death. The same is true of Alexander the Great. This is analogous to business expansion and failure, showing the importance of both styles.