As we know, leaders come in all shapes and sizes, but fundamentally, there are two types of leaders — transactional and transformational. While at the surface, it’s tempting to say that the world needs more transformational leaders, we would be remiss to ignore the transactional leaders who specialize in getting the job done.
Transformational leaders inspire followers to go beyond their self-interest for the greater good. They boost more incredible performance.
Transactional leaders guide their followers to the established goals by clarifying the roles, tasks, and resource requirements. They’re exceptionally good at giving directions and ensuring that the right people get on the bus and drive that bus to the destination.
That’s precisely why transactional leadership is needed for first-order change, which is a good thing, contrary to what most organizational development experts would have you believe. Think about it, the first-order transition includes the changes in structure, instituting ethical and robust management practices, and systems that enable individuals and organizations to perform.
Transformational leaders lead the second order of change by inspiring a difference in the company’s mission, vision, and strategy. They focus on leadership styles and organizational culture, which positively impacts individual and organizational performance.
But here’s the challenge — motivation isn’t permanent. And if momentum were to depend on the war cries, it would stop the moment the cries fade into echoes and eventually to silence. That’s where transactional leaders shine — they can take charge by leading interventions directed towards management practices, structure, and systems to produce climatic change, much of which was scripted/orchestrated by a transformational leader.
I don’t think organizations can survive with a transformational or transactional leader. Both are vital to the growth and sustenance of an organization. Can a person be both transformational and transactional? Sure, but that’s a skill nobody focuses on developing because we are fascinated with the transformational leader archetype.
If that’s you, and you want to progress your career, please, snap out of your fantasy and focus on the art of becoming a transactional leader. The skills you will pick up in the pursuit make you an excellent and well-rounded leader.