The transactional leadership theory is one of the most studied and thus most popular theories of leadership. The ability to translate across cultural boundaries while being applied to more situations than many of the other studied theories of leadership contributes to the popularity of this theory of leadership. The main premise of this theory is the transfer of the leader’s vision to their subordinates, which inspires the subordinates to focus on a higher order of intrinsic needs and organizational goals (Zwingmann, et al., 2013). To accomplish this goal, transactional leaders have to inspire followers through motivation to become engaged in their work, thus sharing in the vision of the organization. Transactional leaders use these four components to become an effective leader: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration.
Having idealized influence refers to a leader’s ability to provide a clear vision, and instills pride in accomplishing the goals of an organization. Subordinates will respect and trust a leader who exhibits an ethical behavior and has high morals. When a leader inspires motivation in their subordinates, that leader demonstrates the ability to communicate their high expectations goals which followers are expected to accomplish. By having been provided with such motivation, the followers become committed to the shared vision of the leaders of an organization (Northouse, 2013).
Transformational leaders stimulate the intellect of their subordinates by allowing for innovative and creative approaches towards accomplishing their work within an organization. Subordinates are encouraged to create new methods of accomplishing tasks by questioning assumptions and applying new frameworks to established situations (Bass & Riggio, 2006). The final component of the transformational leadership theory is an individualized consideration which requires leaders to take on the role of a coach or mentor to a subordinate. Managers using a transformational theory of leadership provide a climate that is supportive to their followers, and they listen carefully to the needs of all members of their team.
Because the transformational leadership theory creates a strong bond between leaders and subordinates, the transformational leadership theory leads to longer lasting benefits between leaders and subordinates. This theory is unlike another popular theory of leadership, the transactional theory, which tends to view the relationships between leader and followers as shallow and good only for a short period of time. The exchange of rewards for achievements in a transactional leadership theory often leads to resentment between the leaders and followers. Thus the bond created is not as strong as in the transformational leadership theory.
Bass, B.M. & Riggio, R.E. (2006). Transformational leadership. New York, NY: Psychology Press.
Northouse, P.G. (2013) Leadership Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Zwingmann, I., Wegge, J., Wolf, S., Rudolf, M., Schmidt, M., & Richter, P. (2014). Is transformational leadership healthy for employees? A multilevel analysis in 16 nations. Zeitschrift für Personalforschung, 28(1/2), 24-51. doi:10.1177/239700221402800103