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Translating Transactional Leadership

A transactional leader is someone who values order and structure. One such Example of a transactional leader is Norman Schwarzkopf. Norman Schwarzkopf was a four star US Army General, who headed United States Army operations in Operation Desert Storm. When asked how he defines leadership, he replied, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.” It is clear that he valued character. He knew that strategies fail and plans don’t always work.

In another one of his excerpts he mentions, “You learn more from negative leadership than from positive leadership. Because, you learn how not to do it. And, therefore, you learn how you do it.”

Here he intends to say that to learn it is not always to establish positives or truths, but by eliminating false information you learn better. In the battlefield it translated to the form of leadership he commanded over his peers. He valued compliance and performance. Results were heavily weighted. He would closely monitor the activities of US forces in his command and would organize the efforts of every individual unit in such a manner that maximum results would be achieved. While deployed to defeat Saddam Hussain, he employed this form of leadership that led him achieving very significant results in a relatively shorter span of time.

Definition of Transactional leadership

Now to discuss the factual side of things first we should define Transactional Leadership.

Transactional leadership, also known as managerial leadership, focuses on the role of supervision, organization and group performance. Transactional leadership is a style of leadership in which the leader promotes the compliance of his followers through the use of both rewards and punishments ( James A Odumeru Et. al.). The leaders pay attention to followers’ work and in order to find faults and deviations. This type of leadership is effective in crisis and emergency situations, as well as in the situations where the projects are to be carried out in a particular fashion.

This type of leadership finds its apt application in the scenarios of emergency management, emergency response, disaster management, evacuations and armed forces. The leaders of this type are most likely to be high up in the pecking order of large company’s operations management, productions, logistics etc. Alternatively, these leaders can be leading the large contingent of troops in a country’s armed forces or paramilitary forces and police forces. It can be clearly understood that all of these jobs require strict compliance to the set of instructions, the performances of the collaborators matters and any slack in the performance of one individual can lead to the slack in the outcome of the group as a whole.

Now, we have established the fundamentals of Transactional leadership. Let’s discuss further about the qualities of Transactional leaders.

Strengths of Transactional leadership

1.Employee Motivation is promoted:

Transactional leaders establish direct rewards and consequences for the actions of their employees. Here the personal interest of an employee is aligned with the interest of the organization. By adhering to the work assigned to the employee, he or she strives to achieve a reward over consequences.  By the help of this practice, the employee has greater motivation to stay productive and have a confidence that their quality work will be acknowledged and recognized.

2. Creating goals that are achievable by everyone.

Transactional leaders, breakdown the long term vision to short term goals and plans. This breakdown of the work helps create a continuous sense of satisfaction when the short term goals are achieved. This helps everyone experience intermediate successes before the larger long term goal is achieved. Thus the risk of the employee running out of steam is reduced and the problem of demoralization within the ranks reduces. This type of leadership therefore allows the work to be delegated easily without the need of micromanagement.

3. Elimination of confusion:

When a transactional leadership structure is emphasized, then there is no confusion within the group or team about who is in charge. From start to finish, there is a succession plan in place that gives people leadership responsibilities in specific situations. This eliminates the issue of having an employee assume a leadership role if the transactional leader is not present for some reason.

Weaknesses of the Transactional leadership

1. Reduced Flexibility:

Since the work is required to be done in a fixed and defined approach there is very less scope for the transactional leader to bend the rules and they often tend to not yield as the structures are to be executed without any exception. If a transactional leader wanted to defy the set instruction policy, he or she might risk losing the job even though the move was intended to be for the betterment of the team. Transactional leadership environments are less likely to accept complaints, insubordination, inefficiency, and feedback. This approach might even make it difficult for the organization to adjust to the changing market practices, competition and environment.

2. Reduction of creativity:

The creative equity in the company might receive a heavy setback. Since the work is required to be done in a rigid set of rules, processes there is little that an employee can do to find creative solutions for the problems. Even if there are some effective suggestions given to the leaders, the transactional leader is so set in his ways that he might simply not accept them and bring them into implementation.

3. Heavy dependence on the leader:

The organizations relying on the Transactional leaders rely heavily on the skill set of the leader to succeed. If the leader himself does not assess his qualities and weaknesses; it is very likely that the management practices he applies will not be effective. Therefore this heavy dependence on the leader might put an organization to a disadvantage in certain testing times.

Now, the strengths and weaknesses of this form of leadership are well presented. Some critical analysis of this form of leadership will be helpful in assessing their appropriateness in the real world.

Transactional Leader: Critical Analysis and Summary

Transactional leaders use reward and punishments to gain compliance from their followers. They are extrinsic motivators that bring minimal compliance from followers. They accept goals, structure, and the culture of the existing organization. Transactional leaders tend to be directive and action-oriented.

Transactional leaders are willing to work within existing systems and negotiate to attain goals of the organization. They tend to think inside the box when solving problems. Transactional leadership is primarily passive. The behaviors most associated with this type of leadership are establishing the criteria for rewarding followers and maintaining the status quo. Within transactional leadership, there are two factors, contingent reward and management-by-exception. Contingent reward provides rewards for effort and recognizes good performance. Management-by exception maintains the status quo, intervenes when subordinates do not meet acceptable performance levels, and initiates corrective action to improve performance.

Transactional leadership is still popular today. Many of the big organizations employ this form of leadership and create a definite environment for the employee to work in. Certain Bureaucracies in various countries rely on this model to help run the administration smoothly. It is obvious to say that when an effective transactional leader is in charge great things can happen and if not it can at times be disastrous even.