Last updated: September 16, 2019
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Types of Leaderships and their Effects on their Subordinates

In a person, having a sense of leadership is a trait that is highly commendable, but leadership itself can have different types that show the true intent and the true person behind the position.  For young leaders who have started in schools and even in small communities, servant leadership is what they are trying to incorporate in their system of government in order to help as both leader and humble servant.  Such is expected of politicians of wider regions such as cities and countries, as well.  On the other hand, in the corporate world and even in several other areas such as the field of education, two other types of leadership have emerged: transformational and transactional.  Just looking at the root words of the two may give ideas as to what kind of leadership they are.  It is important to analyze what type of leadership is being practiced in order to determine its effects on different types of people and communities.  The type of leadership used can affect the relationship between superior and subordinate, and the stability of the organizational structure (Meyer, November 1975, p. 514).  However, it is to be kept in mind that “the literature on leadership is large, but the findings are few.  No simple relationship of leadership style to the performance of the workers has been found.  The link between the two is either moderated by other variables or non-existent” (Meyer, November 1975, p. 516).  For example, the type of environment must also be studied to see what kind of leadership can be effective.

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Let us look at transformational and transactional forms of leaderships first, as these two always go hand in hand.  When one is being described, it cannot be helped but to compare it to the other. “Transformational leaders express the importance and values associated with desired outcomes in ways that are easily understood, while communicating higher levels of expectations for followers” (Jung & Avolio, Opening the Black Box: An Experimental Investigation of the Mediating Effects of, Dec. 2000, p. 950).  “In contrast, transactional leadership has been characterized as a contractual or exchange process between leaders and followers” (Jung & Avolio, Opening the Black Box: An Experimental Investigation of the Mediating Effects of, Dec. 2000, p. 951).  Being so described, transformational leadership is concerned with a direct relationship between leader and subordinates, while transactional leadership focuses on a relationship that is based on what is set by the rules and regulations.  The very word “contractual” makes everything formal for a transactional leadership.

“Transformational leaders are typically described as those who stimulate their followers to change their motives, beliefs, values, and capabilities so that the followers’ own interests and personal goals become congruent with the vision for their organization. By contrast, transactional leaders are considered to be those who focus on the motivation of followers through rewards or discipline, clarifying for their followers the kinds of rewards that should be expected for various behaviors.  Transactional leaders may actively monitor deviance from standards, mistakes, and errors, or they may passively wait for followers to do something wrong” (Goodwin, Wofford, & Whittington, Nov. 2002, p. 759).

Transformational leaders and transactional leaders are aiming for the same goals, as implied by the paragraph above but they just have different means of achieving them.  Both are trying to elicit good performance from their subordinates but while transformational leaders aim to draw this out through ensuring loyalty, transactional leaders have decided to instill discipline on their subordinates.  Transactional leaders also have a rewards system that attracts good performance from employees.  Transformational leaders are able to get the same good performance through sheer force of charisma and a good relationship with their subordinates.  They give importance to their opinions and their values.

Transformational and transactional leadership differ in their set of priorities.  A transformational leader prioritizes close relationships “based more on trust and commitment than on contractual agreements” (Jung & Avolio, Effects of Leadership Style and Followers’ Cultural Orientation on Performance in, April 1999, p. 1999).  They want to be able to know their subordinates on a personal level.  These types of leaders either genuinely wants to understand their members or knows that having a good relationship with them will lead to more years of being able to work amiably and effectively together.  On the other hand, transactional leaders’ “main focus…is on setting goals, clarifying the link between performance and rewards, and providing constructive feedback to keep followers on task” (Jung ; Avolio, Effects of Leadership Style and Followers’ Cultural Orientation on Performance in, April 1999, p. 1998).  Transactional leaders are then concerned about maintaining a strict order and following a set of rules that also involve giving rewards or punishments whatever the case may be; this is of course dependent on good or bad performance by each subordinate.  It is however, good to see that a transactional leader gives out feedback to his or her subordinates in order for them to know if they are performing their job as they should.  At least, there is a chance for a subordinate to improve his or her performance and be included in the list of those deserving of reward, be it monetary or in the form of a promotion.  Transactional leadership is further described as something similar to a business deal, wherein this type of leadership “represents those exchanges in which both the superior and the subordinate influence one another reciprocally so that each derives something of value” (Kuhnert & Lewis, Oct. 1987, p. 649).  By giving the deserving subordinate rewards, the transactional leader is only giving what is fair to both parties, as they get what they need from the other.  This may seem cold-blooded, but the transactional leader is just concerned about doing what is fair.  This is therefore, a type of “mutual dependence” wherein the transactional leader has more power although he or she also needs the job to be well executed by his or her subordinates.  On the subject of fairness, the transactional leader at least makes sure that all jobs are acknowledged.  Then again, since this is about mutual dependence, “the contributions of both sides are acknowledged and rewarded” (Kuhnert & Lewis, Oct. 1987, p. 649).

Transactional and Transformational Leadership differ in motivation.  In transactional leadership, the leaders motivate subordinates through promises of rewards and the common knowledge that the best performers are to be well recognized.  This is practiced in many corporate settings where the relationship is formal, and dependent on the productivity of an employee.  Employees strive harder and do not mind extra assignments or extra hours as they know that they will be compensated for their efforts.  Meanwhile, in a transformational leadership, the relationship formed between leader and subordinate has ensured a close bond that is also the leader’s way of motivating his or her followers.  The subordinates follow with a strong desire to please his or her boss.  They genuinely like their leader who has taken an effort to get to know them as individuals.  Though they are not promised rewards or warned about punishments, they truly want to make sure they perform well because they feel empowered and know that their opinions matter in the organization or company; they are able to embrace the values and mission-vision of the organization just like their leader.

After having discussed how transactional and transformational leaders motivate their subordinates, it is important to look at the effects of these.  Though through mutual dependence, transactional leadership is able to get the work done, the rigidity of the environment may be the reason for transformational leadership’s supposed better results.    “Overall, there is evidence showing positive relationships between transformational leadership and performance; these relationships are stronger than the relationships between transactional leadership and performance” (Dvir, Eden, Avolio, & Shamir, August 2002, p. 737).  Transformational leaders’ relationship with their subordinates ensures that the subordinates share the values and passion of their leader.  As a result, they may not actually be simply following, but doing something that they truly care about.  Knowing the importance of what you are doing and sharing the same goals as your leader, do exceed waiting for a better paycheck, honors or a promotion. In a school organization setting, students join organizations mostly because they share the same interests as their club or organization president; of course, there are also those who join organizations because of the possibility of awards.  Other explanations may clarify the effects of the two types of leaderships on the performance of subordinates, such as the offer of trust by transformational leaders as opposed to the transactional leader’s offer of a reward-punishment system.

“Transactional and transformational leadership have been examined in various cultures,  For example, the top managers in several large Japanese firms rated by followers as more transformational also had higher ratings on their followers’ level of effectiveness.  ..a similarly positive relationship between ratings of transformational leadership, levels of trust, and school effectiveness for secondary principals in Singapore” (Jung & Avolio, Effects of Leadership Style and Followers’ Cultural Orientation on Performance in, April 1999, p. 1999).

The above piece further maintains the argument that transformational leadership produces more of the result that both transformational and transactional leadership are aiming for: good performance.  In the earlier example of a school organization, young people can be expected to more idealistic and therefore, more responsive to transformational leadership but an example of the leadership type’s success in a corporate setting speaks volumes.  It shows that members, followers or employees appreciate being recognized as important to the company, valued not just for their performance but also valued as persons.  It has also been said that “, transactional leadership mainly had indirect effects on performance mediated by followers’ trust and value congruence…  It is supposed that “some feelings of trust and value comparability were needed to motivate [so that the tasks can be taken] seriously in the transactional leadership conditions” (Jung ; Avolio, Opening the Black Box: An Experimental Investigation of the Mediating Effects of, Dec. 2000, p. 959).

Transformational and Transactional types of leadership can be also described as idiographic and nomothetic leadership styles respectively.  According to Willower, “in the nomothetic style, the leader expects subordinates to do things “by the book”.  He expects subordinates to behave in strict conformity to organizational requirements (Willower, October 1960, p. 59).  This description goes on to show that nomothetic leaders believe in having rewards and punishment “spelled out in organizational regulations”, thus, perfectly describing transactional leadership.  “In the idiographic style, the leader expects subordinates to work things out for themselves, each in his own way”, to “behave in ways which meet their [own] personal needs” and “ sees his authority as delegated and emphasizes that rules and procedures have to be tailored to the individual subordinate’s personality” (Willower, October 1960, p. 59).  Idiographic leadership is therefore, a different way of calling transformational leadership.  It can be noticed however, that there is an emphasis on what is written in the rules and regulations.  While for transactional leadership, rewards and punishments for certain actions are emphasized, rules are customized according to the personality of each subordinate member.

In a study on transformational and transactional leadership among school administrators and school principals in four Western New York counties, only one city district has been unable to participate.  Among the administrators, 66 are found to be transformational and 43 are transactional, while 125 do not fall under either type of leadership.  Among 109 principals, 60.6 percent are found to be transformational and 39.4 percent, transactional.  The transactional principals are slightly older, with a mean age of 47.9 years old, compared to transformational principals who average at 45 years old.  Meanwhile, female principals make up 20.6 percent of transactional principals, and 12.1 percent of transformational principals.  As for student enrolment, when a principal is transactional the average is 795, higher than transformational leadership’s 680 (Willower, October 1960, p. 62).  The study suggests that if restricted to a comparison of only transformational and transactional leaderships, more leaders in the educational community choose transformational leadership.  However, it appears that transactional leadership is able to achieve more results, as can be seen in the comparison of mean student enrolment.  The study further reveals “younger principals in both the idiographic and nomothetic groups regarded teachers as professionals to a lesser extent than did older principals in their respective groups”. (Willower, October 1960, p. 63)  This is explained as the younger administrators’ less secure in “their relationships with teachers”.  Proper orientation for the young administrators is advised.  The feelings of insecurity may have been caused by the possibility of competition from the teachers, who may be promoted to their positions.  As younger administrators, this is more of a concern for them than for older administrators, who have already proven themselves in the school community.

While there is indeed a direct relationship found between transformational and transactional leaderships in that their features can be easily listed and compared to each other, there are other types of leadership.  One such type is servant leadership, which has been mentioned in passing earlier.  Robert K. Greenleaf is the founder of the modern Servant leadership movement, and has therefore consequently published his philosophies on the type of leadership.  According to Greenleaf:

“The servant leader is servant first…It begins with the natural feeling that one wants

to serve, to serve first.  Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions.  For such, it will be a later choice to serve – after leadership is established…the best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served” (Wis, Nov. 2002, pp. 18-19).

While transformational leaders inspire, they only try to instill their values and mission-vision on their followers; servant leaders inspire and serve.  In a transformational leadership, the leader is still obviously the leader, though a truly charismatic one thus enabling his subordinates to follow at will and desire.  On the other hand, servant leaders are followed by his subordinates because of the example that they set.  They empower but not in the way that transformational leaders empower; they do this through actions and not merely words.  A transformational leader may forge a strong relationship with his or her subordinates, but they remain subordinates.  The empowerment coming from a servant leader makes others follow not because they have to or they are enticed to, but because they are also served by their very leader. Servant leaders are then vastly different from their transactional counterparts, who think of their relationships with their subordinates as a business deal.  Transactional leaders are concerned about justice, though in the sense of making the correct decisions and following the rules.  They profit from their subordinates’ work, and the subordinates profit from the reward system.  Meanwhile, servant leaders are not so much concerned about following every rule in the organizational constitution.  Instead, they are concerned about their impact on the people that they serve.   They ask questions like ““Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit or, at least, not be further deprived?”” (King, March 1997, p. 338).  Indeed, a leader such as this seems to be too good to be true.  He or she is apparently the perfect “combination of strength and heart” (King, March 1997, p. 337).  On the other hand, a leader who is used to giving orders may not be communicating with his followers emotionally.  Among the three types of leadership, transactional fits this description; the leadership type focuses more on being able to perform a well-executed job, following the rules and creating rewards-punishments schemes.  Though transformational and servant leaderships can be similar in many ways, it can be argued that each is expected in a different setting; it is easier to imagine servant leadership in educational, other non-corporate communities and in politics, while transformational leadership provides a dynamic culture so it may be the type of leadership used even in corporate settings.

For a servant leader, “when the people lead the leader will follow” (Kezar, Nov-Dec 2000, p. 732).  In democratic societies, the leader is expected to do just that; to find out what the majority of the people want and make rules based on them.  In an organization that practices servant leadership, anyone can be the leader, meaning that “individual leaders are less visible” (Kezar, Nov-Dec 2000, p. 732).  The hierarchy of positions is not as important as in other types of leaderships.  Those that have been recognized as leaders are there to facilitate meetings and encourage collaboration among the members.  The work is done due to a collective effort of leader and other members; the followers are not necessarily just followers and are therefore not to be called subordinates.

Leadership, in its different forms, is necessary in order for work to be done in an organized manner.  Someone has to lead in order that work is properly and fairly distributed; in the case of servant leadership, someone must facilitate the organization in order that it is kept on track.  Transactional, transformational and servant leadership are all working towards a common goal: good performance from the subordinates/followers/fellow leaders.  However, there are noted differences among the three.  Compared to the two other types, transactional leadership is focused on following rules to the letter by enforcing strict discipline on the subordinates and instilling a reward-punishment system.  The subordinates are given the equivalent of the effort that they have exerted on the organization.  Although this type of leadership may seem stern and cold, it has been able to guarantee high quality performance in some instances, as seen in the example of enrolment in New York City: those with transactional school administrators are able to recruit a higher number of enrollees. Transformational leadership may also be employed in a corporate organization, but it is interested in empowering the subordinates, making them feel that their opinions are heard and their characters valued.  A transformational leader, according to some studies, is able to elicit better performance from subordinates because he or she is able to create an atmosphere of loyalty, trust and commitment. Though sometimes similarly described, servant leadership despite its related desire to empower and make each person valued, is more interested in service as its name implies.  Servant leaders are not focused on being the center of attention; they are content with facilitating other members so that they can become leaders in their own right.













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