Are you a transformational leader?

Management and leadership are complimentary but very different skills.  Confusion reigns around the difference between the two. Yes, both management and leadership are about leading people. It’s in the outcomes however, we see a vast difference.  The key differentiator is one is transactional (managerial leadership) and, the other is transformational (leadership).

Transactional leading (management) focuses on the role of supervision, organisation and group performance and is based on the theory of leadership  first described by sociologist Max Weber, and further explored by Bernard M. Bass in the early 1980s. Likely both books are part of the text lists for MBA students as is evident with wide spread use in corporate organisations and most businesses.

The outcome is the company reaches its goals of productivity, profit and achievement. Putting it very simply, team members will arrive at work, complete a long list of tasks, solve problems, participate in meetings, they may even develop a few friendships along the way and then go home the same person as they were when arrived. In effect, the team member is agreeing to give you their time and produce something for you, in exchange for money.  It’s a perfectly acceptable transaction and one we are all involved in. It works, to a point as it produces a defined outcome.

What happens however if it’s not that simple and there are a few curve balls such as dwindling morale, lowering productivity and increasing staff turnover?  Most likely the manager will pick up the trend in the figures and will call a meeting with the team leaders and asks ‘why,’ in such a way that the implied threat is unmistakeable. In the meeting a rewards and consequences approach is taken to motivate and change. The team leaders go back and pass on the news and for a while the team works harder longer and there is a spike in the productivity figures. Then, it drops again and more people take stress leave. 

This pattern is evident everywhere and is a large reason why our clients call us in to help.  If a similar pattern is evident for many years, many managers will have a go at cracking the code and will most likely fail if they use the transactional approach.  Large sums of money will likely be invested into addressing the issue.  Management may unwittingly understand that this is part of the company culture and for the most part, resign themselves to the fact that, culture is hard to change and give up.

Strengths of transactional managing

Transactional leadership works in certain environments such as where followers are performing tasks and processes that are well designed and produce dependably strong results.


As our example outlined above, it does not change behaviour because it is dealing with the fruit not the root.

Transformational leadership on the other hand utilises a different set of skills. This style of leadership "transforms" groups or organisations and focuses on followers, motivating them to higher levels of performance, and in the process, help followers develop their own leadership potential.  

According to the author of the

Transformational leaders understand the key elements of motivation are connection and rapport, trust and respect, vision and communicating it with passion and enthusiasm. They inspire growth, victory and change and as a result both the organisation changes and the team members grow and change.  Because these leaders are inspiring, motivating and are championing change, they are leading by example and therefore the cornerstone of their success is their character, confidence, connection and competence.

The success of the outcome for transformational leading is determined by the level of trust and rapport the follower has in their leader and ultimately by their agreement/decision to get behind the cause. 

Transactional leadership does not demand so much of its leader-managers and I believe, is a more preferred pathway for many.

Changing culture and changing a negative behaviour pattern embedded in a team or department will take a transformation. It requires transformational leadership more than transactional management.

Strengths of Transformational leadership

Research evidence clearly shows that groups led by transformational leaders have higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders. This is because transformational leaders hold positive expectations for followers, believing that they can do their best. As a result, they inspire, empower and stimulate followers to exceed normal levels of performance. In addition, transformational leaders focus on and care about followers and their personal needs and development.


Some people don’t like change and will resist. Change can be scary to many people who like stability and consistency. A good transformational leader however will be able to walk such people through change without too much collateral damage and the core element of such leadership is rapport.

This form of leadership often comes with a visionary personality and the energy levels of such people can exhaust the team. Often also, visionaries are such big thinkers they overlook the detail and this can be their undoing.

About Ingrid Aitken Gattari, Achievers Group

Ingrid Aitken Gattari is the wife of Tony Gattari. She is executive director at Achievers Group. Ingrid has a wealth of experience across a number of industries and has worked in the fields of journalism, public relations, counselling and administration. Ingrid is highly qualified and has a degree in communication (journalism), a diploma in public relations and community services. Ingrid specialises as a trainer, facilitator and coach is the areas of team work, personal development and conflict resolution.

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