Transactional Leadership isn’t about changing the future. It’s about getting the job done. For the most part, it is a directive leadership style.
Directive behaviour is telling people what to do, how to do it, where to do it, and when to do it.
Also, directive behaviour as we learn from Hersey and Blanchard — is characterised by the close supervision of performance.
And this point is key to understanding Transactional Leadership theory … and Transformational Leadership.
Here’s why …
Features of the Transactional Leader
Transactional leaders use an exchange model, where performance is either rewarded or punished, according to the quality or quantity of work produced.
In other words, the transactional leader exchanges tangible rewards for the work and loyalty of their followers.
If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. – Albert Einstein
And, they do this by closely monitoring performance. If an employee does what is asked of them, a reward may follow. If not, the leader will intervene to clarify expectations and reinforce goals.
Sometimes they will use punishment when performance is unacceptable.
What Is Wrong With Transactional Leadership?
Before answering this important question, it is worthwhile thinking about leadership behaviour.
Because the behaviour of management and their style of leadership will influence the amount of effort and the level of performance reached by employees.
So, the leaders attitude towards people is paramount.
Now it is my belief that most people come to work with the attitude of being intrinsically motivated to do a good job.
People are eager to perform well and to the best of their abilities.
What happens when the manager rules by fear and consequences?
What happens if the manager thinks people are lazy and avoid responsibility?
The answer to the question managers so often ask of behavioural scientists, “How do you motivate people?” Is “You don’t.” – Douglas McGregor
Well, according to Douglas McGregor, the style of management adopted is a reflection of the manager’s attitude towards people.
If you use rewards and sanctions to exercise your leadership position and authority, don’t be surprised when employees do not accept responsibility at work.
The Demands of the Situation
Transactional Leadership places great importance on short-term goals and the observance of standard operating procedures and rules.
The transactional leader may be effective when the nature of the job offers little intrinsic reward. Where work is predictable and repeatable. And, when ongoing performance is paramount. For example, in manufacturing or in an emergency situation.
However, as we have already learned from A Rough Guide to Leadership Models and Theories, leadership style and management behaviour is influenced by situation.
In today’s workplace, with the expectation for high performing teams, the traditional use of rewards and punishment is unlikely to result in cooperation, creativity and innovation — those things needed to propel organisations forward.
What we need is leaders who engage with their followers.
Do you create opportunities to grow leaders? Do you work toward changing the organisation’s culture?
Creative Commons image courtesy Ryan Vaarsi.