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Essay: Transformational and transactional theories

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  • Subject area(s): Management essays
  • Reading time: 2 minutes
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  • Published: 30 September 2015*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 448 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 2 (approx)

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From the early 1980s the attitudes on leadership changed and the research conducted began concentrating on the ‘transformational and transactional approach’ rather than the ‘trait theory’. The personage of this theory was Burns who published his book ‘Leadership’ in 1978. He described the transformational approach in a ‘heroic’ way, as he claimed leaders should boost and assist followers by transforming them into leaders, and raise each other to higher levels of stimulation. Yukl then summarized Burns portrayal of the transformational leadership in his paper ‘Managerial Leadership: A Review of Theory and Research'(1989) as follows, ‘transformational leadership refers to the process of influencing major changes in the attitudes and assumptions of organization members and building commitment for the organization’s mission, objectives, and strategies’ (Yukl (1989), p. 269.) In 1985, Bernard Bass articulated the transformational and transactional approach and initiated mass research on the topic, which is continuing still today. According to Bass ‘transformational leadership occurs when leaders broaden and elevate the interests of their employees, when they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group, and when they stir their employees to look beyond their own self-interest for the good of the group’ (p. 21). Therefore, transformational leadership establishes ‘trust, admiration, loyalty and respect in the follower for the leader. It motivates the follower to do more than expected, to rise above ones own boundaries.’ Transformational leadership is thus described by factors such as; charisma, inspirational and intellectual stimulation. The antithesis to this is that, transactional leadership is built on factors such as; contingent reward and management by exception.

Behaviour theory

In contrast to the above theories, the behavioural theory of leadership is unique as it describes a view that draws attention to the types of behaviour of people in leadership situations. One of the most encompassing research studies on behavioural categories of leadership was the ‘Ohio state leadership studies.’ This research specifically focused on the effect of leadership styles on group performance. The conclusion of this study recognised there were two significant dimensions of leadership behaviour labelled as ‘consideration’ and ‘initiating structure’. Consideration structure emulates the degree to which the leader establishes ‘trust, mutual respect with the group and shows concern, warmth, support and consideration for subordinates.'() On the other hand, initiating structure represents the degree to which ‘the leader defines and structures group interactions towards the attainment of formal goals and organise group activities.’ Moreover, the initiating structure and consideration structure were later found not to be linked but separate elements. A high initiative and high consideration structure style appears to be more productive in terms of subordinate satisfaction and group execution. However, the evidence is not incontrovertible and much seems to depend upon situational factors.

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