Sample Essay on Transactional leadership

Transactional leadership

This literature review examines scholarly literature that different researchers have documented as pertains to leadership. Evidence indicates that contemporary scholars have introduced two styles of leadership, transactional and transformational leadership, which are commonly being used to manage organizations in the 21st century society. As argued by Gardiner (2006) in his literature, transactional leadership, which is also defined as managerial leadership, is a theory of leadership that concentrates on supervisory, organizational and group performance. It is a style of leadership whereby an organizational leader enhances compliance among the subordinate members through rewarding and punitive actions. Different from the transformational style of leadership, leaders employing transactional leadership do not focus on future but they merely intend to maintain things in their present form. Transactional leaders further pay attention to the subordinate members’ work so as to establish possible faults or deviations from expected outcomes and subsequently imply negative reinforcement as a corrective measure. Unlike the transformational style of leadership that intends to integrate innovative ideas that can transform the organization as a whole, transactional leadership can only be effective when applied in crisis and emergency management particularly when undertaking projects that need to be implemented in a particularly way.

By contrast, transformational leadership describes a style of leadership that charges leaders with the role of perpetuating change through vision creation as well as inspiring committed members of a subordinate group. This style of leadership aims to influence major transformations in thoughts and assumptions of organizational members to enhance realization of key organizational objectives (Foster, 1989). From this definition, it agreeable that transactional leadership is a style of leadership that focuses on the current situation by aiming to improve current performance without focusing on the future as is the case with transformational leadership.

Qualities of transactional leadership

            Understanding qualities that distinguish transactional leadership can help to explain the appropriateness of its application in organizational management. A study by Fullan (1999) showed that transactional leaders integrate punitive and rewarding actions to enhance compliance among the subordinate members (Bass, 1990). Leaders using this style of leadership tend to be action-oriented and they are always willing to negotiate with the subordinate members to perpetuate realization of organizational goals. Transactional leaders tend to work with prevailing systems and think within the box when addressing problems. On this note, it is agreeable that this style of leadership is merely passive as it does not integrate new ideas but it only aims to employ already exiting ideas to address issues. Two key attributes, contingent reward as well as management-by-exception distinguish transactional style of leadership. Contingent reward is an attribute that offers rewards in recognition for good performance while management-by-exception upholds the status quo and only allows for intervention when subordinate members do not meet expected level of performance (Assaf, 2012).

Comparison between transactional and transformational leadership

            A comparative study was carried out by Boehnke at al (2003) with the intention of establish how transactional leadership differs with transformational leadership. He established that transactional leaders trade concrete rewards to compliance and achievements made by subordinate members. By contrast, transformational leaders engage with the subordinate members and focus on greater intrinsic needs and raise awareness on the need to enhance certain outcomes. On this note, it is apparent that transactional leadership is a more passive style of leadership where subordinate members only aim to respond to certain types of rewards (Dougherty, 2012). Transformational leadership is however a proactive style that allows subordinate members to exhibit active behaviors intended to accomplish certain organizational goals and strategies. Transactional leadership is inclined on management-by-exception factor, which intends to maintain the status quo and only seeks to implement corrective measures when desired performance is not met. By contrast, transformational leadership is based on individualized consideration where each performance-related behavior is directed to each member of the organizational team to express consent and support (Fullan, 1999). On this note, it is evident that transactional leaders do not create room for introduction of new ideas as is the case with transformational leadership.

Transactional management in educational context in UAE

Previous studies indicate that transactional leadership style has widely been used to manage educational institutions in UAE. Educational leaders in UAE increasingly promote contingent reward by giving reciprocal reinforcements in exchange for duty from subordinate members. The contingent factor is usually promoted by school principals who create employment contracts and define agreements that would guide teachers in achieving specific work-related goals. School principals for example clarify the specific outcomes that subordinate teachers ought to accomplish and they in return receive rewards that include complements, pay increment and recognition for achieving expected outcomes (Assaf, 2012). These transactional leaders are however not interested in promoting a high degree of motivation or job satisfaction. This however is not the case with the few educational leaders that manage schools using the transformational style of leadership (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999). This is because transformational leaders in UAE tend to be more focused on future stability of the system for which they are responsible. Such leaders are not committed towards exchanging rewards for the outcomes achieved but they aim to promote innovative ideas that can bring change. At this point, it is agreeable that transformational leadership is a more desirable form of leadership particularly because there is a rapidly evolving trend in educational transformation in UAE (Fullan, 2007).


Assaf, M. A. (2012). Students Learn Best in Schools that Learn: Professional Learning Communities, in Dougherty, P (Ed.).

Bass, B.M. (1990). From Transactional to Transformational Leadership: Learning to Share the Vision, Organizational Dynamics, 18(3): 20 – 31.

Bass, B.M. & Steidlmeier, P. (1999), Ethics, Character, and Authentic Transformational Leadership Behaviour, Leadership Quarterly, 10(2): 181 – 217.

Boehnke, K., Bontis, N., DiStefano, J.J., DiStefano, A.C. (2003). Transformational Leadership: an Examination of Cross-National Differences and Similarities, Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 24(1): 5-15

Dougherty, P., (Ed.) (2012). Education and the United Arab Emirates: Perspectives from Experience. Abu Dhabi: HCT Press.

Foster, W. (1989). Towards a Critical Perspective of Leadership. In Smyth, J. (Ed.)

Fullan, M. G. (1999). Change Forces: The Sequel. Philadelphia, PA: Falmer Press.

Fullan, M.G. (2007). The New Meaning of Educational Change (4th ed.), New York: Teachers College Press.

Fullan, M. (2011). Change Leader: Learning to do what matters most. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

Gardiner, J.J. (2006). Transactional, Transformational, and Transcendent Leadership: Metaphors Mapping: The Evolution of the Theory and Practice of Governance, Leadership Review, 6, 62-76.