Leadership is a complex social phenomenon which several theories have tried to explain over the past years. Among these theories, Cox, highlights that there are two diverse but prominent leadership theories which have emerged as popular theories, these two theories are the transformational and transactional leadership theories. These theories were identified by Burns and further developed by Bass. It was Bass, who clearly developed and distinguished the differences between these two leadership theories.
This essay will firstly define the transformational and the transactional leadership theories in depth. Secondly, it will analyse and discuss the dimensions of the two leadership approaches. Thirdly, it will critically compare and contrast the pros and cons of each theory weighed against each other though examples used in the workplace to show the positive and the negative results of the theories. Fourthly, it will give examples of how these two leadership approaches can be evaluated in the workplace and how these two theories can be used in different situations for the common good. Finally, it will conclude by summarising the main points of the two leadership approaches discussed in this essay.
Firstly, according to Bass the transformational and transactional leadership theories are directly at the opposite end of each other. Although they have different concepts, all good leaders should display characteristics of both leadership skills for the common good. The transformational leadership theory is about transforming, inspiring, stimulating growth and motivating followers to achieve the vision of the organization as a whole. This theory is centred on building stronger and lasting relationship with the followers by valuing, connecting, encouraging, mentoring and couching the followers to become better leaders in the future. Hence, we can say that transformational leadership theory mainly focuses on the higher level needs of its followers. On the other hand, the transactional leadership theory focuses on managing and supervising its followers. It focuses on promoting compliance by rewarding its followers and also punishes followers when poor outcomes are achieved. The transactional leadership theory is more attentive on the followers’ needs and motivations to productivity and decision – making. This theory is centred on producing results in a short period of time, works within strict boundaries and is more concerned about making today better. Hence, we can say that transactional leadership theory mainly focuses on the lower level needs of its followers.
Secondly, looking at the theoretical framework of each theories, the transformational theory as highlighted by Bass and other scholars has four main dimensions. Warts clearly stated it as individualised consideration, idealised influence, inspirational motivation and intellectual stimulation. On the other hand, the transactional leadership theory also has four main dimensions. Bass pointed it out as contingent reward, management by exception (by active) and management by exception (by passive) and laissez-faire. Although, each of the theories has four different dimensions, the main difference between the transformational leadership theory and the transactional theory is that the transformational leadership uses a much more proactive approach compared to transactional leadership theory which uses a more responsive approach.
Thirdly, this essay will provide two different scenarios of the author’s use of the transformational and transactional theory which shows both the pros and cons of the theory used in a workplace setting. The first example shows a transformational leaders ability to lead his followers into achieving a project but was faced with a great challenge of not mastering the specific details in accomplishing the project within a given timeframe.
The author’s former employer, the Papua New Guinea National Research Institute was undergoing an organisational change in 2012. The top management wanted to merge the Information technology unit and the Communications unit under one new division called the Knowledge Management Division (KMD). The Deputy Director who oversees the KMD called all the team members from both the Information technology unit and the Communications unit together and informed them about the merging of the two units. The Deputy Director clearly laid out the goal of the KMD and how it will contribute towards achieving the vision and the mission of the institute which is to be the leading think tank organisation in the country. The team members were excited of the new approach taken and were motivated to work together. The Deputy Director hosted workshops and trainings for the two teams to fully understand the desired vision the top management would like the team to work towards. The Deputy Director also identified each member’s strengths and weaknesses and worked with each of the team members to polish up their skills and abilities. The team members were trained, couched, mentored and were praised for their skills, talents and creativities. The first project given to the team to pursue was the rebuilding of the institute’s static website to a more dynamic website. This was when the team faced a major challenge. The Deputy Director did not give a fixed deadline on when the website project should be completed, he also did not specifically delegate to the team their specific takes, roles and responsibilities in implementing the new website project. As a result the website project was delayed for a year and an external web consultant was recruited in the end to complete the project. Apart from all the team member, the Information technology unit leader was the only staff who was technically knowledgeable on creating websites thus he was put through a lot of pressure to work with the external web consultant to complete the project.
Looking at the strength of this theory, Odumeru and Ogboona confirms that transformational theory motivates the moral and performance of its followers towards achieving organisational goals. Warrilow also supports this by stating that the groups interests is pursued rather than self-interests and the leader is concerned on the followers strengths and weaknesses to accomplish new projects. This has been clearly displayed here, however, looking at the weakness of this theory, Stevens et al critics that transformational leadership theory is one sided and is always in favour of the top management. Even though followers can be transformed and motivated in their work they can become stressed and burned out. Also individual leaders can exploit followers (even without realising it) by creating a high level of emotional involvement when it is not necessary. The second example shows a transactional leaders ability to lead his followers into achieving a completed project but does not gain loyalty, trust and motivation from the followers.
The author’s former employer, the Papua New Guinea National Research Institute engaged a new Deputy Director in 2013, he was punctual, strict and was micro – managing all his sub-ordinates in working towards accomplishing set goals for the organisation. He sets out weekly milestones to achieve and would physically visit all his sub-ordinates offices to ensure they are physical at work and would follow up on the progress of their specific weekly tasks. The organisation experienced growth in its outputs over a short period of time. On the other hand, the Deputy Director laid off officers who were under performing to cut off costs and gave pay rise to staff who were achieving the organisational milestones. The sub – ordinates who remained were fearfully of losing their jobs and worked extra harder to please the Deputy Director. He also initiated a motivational program called “staff of the year” and would give out certificates and rewards to the winning staff. Although, his sub-ordinates performed well in achieving the organisational target goals, they were less motivated and felt they were not trusted and capable of performing their roles. It also led to an unfriendly working environment where sub-ordinates felt they were being controlled and observed by a dictator.
Looking at the strength of this theory, the leadership approach is very responsive to the organisational environment and emphasis is placed on performance and organisational success. As supported by Wart, transactional theories focuses on the task and people oriented domains. However, the weaknesses of this theory is that
Fourthly, it will give examples of how these two leadership approaches can be evaluated in the workplace and how these two theories can be used in different situations for the common good. Finally, it will conclude by summarising the main points of the two leadership approaches discussed in this essay.
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