Monday, February 27, 2012
Many of us at OPEN MINDS have written about the importance of leadership in these challenging times, but sometimes, I also like to keep in mind the far older (604-531 B.C.) advice of Lao Tzu – “It is said of a good leader that when the work is done, the aim fulfilled, the people will say, ‘We did this ourselves.'”
Ultimately, the success of any leader is dependent upon his or her followers. The successful leader must engage, energize and inspire followers to not only implement the organization’s strategy, but to do so with a full investment of their own skills, expertise, and enthusiasm (see Do You Know How To Command Your Troops? Creating & Leading A Team In Times Of Change all members).
So how do the best leaders actively engage their followers? The theory of transformational and transactional leadership, first developed by James MacGregor Burns, identifies two kinds of leadership.
Transactional leadership is an equitable exchange or transactional process between leader and followers based on the self-interests of both (see Using Transformational & Transactional Leadership: Chamberlain At Little Round Top all members). In other words, if the follower performs the job duties according to requirements, that person is paid according to what is specified in the job description. Think of the old phrase: “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.”
Transformational leaders engage followers beyond their self-interests by arousing and satisfying higher order needs, such the need to help others, or the need for accomplishment. The source of influence with followers for transactional leadership is the leader’s position and accompanying authority. The source of influence in transformational leadership is the leader’s personality and expertise (see Do You Have the Transformational Leadership Skills You Need? all members and How Competent is Your Management Team?: New Challenges in Behavioral Health & Social Services Require a New Skill Set ).
My colleague Joseph Rutherford, CEO of Mental Health Care Inc., in Tampa gave me a great example of transformational leadership in day-to-day interactions. He said that whenever there are successes at the organization, he always says “We did this,” always giving credit to the team. If there is a problem, he speaks in the first person, and takes ownership.
The best leaders combine both styles, alternating between the two depending on the situation. In times of rapid change, transactional leadership is especially critical. Transactional leaders have a compelling vision for the future, adhere to and model the organization’s core values, build the confidence of their followers and support their growth and initiative to accomplish the goals of the organization.
To learn more about transformational and transactional leadership, and assess you own use of both, join me in Gettysburg, PA on September 12-14 for the 2012 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Institute.
John F. Talbot, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President, OPEN MINDS
For another free resource, see: Is Your Organization High Performing? all members
This is free for the next sixty days to all registered OPEN MINDS Circle members.