Transactional or Transformational Leadership?

I just returned from the SEE Quarterly Safety Meeting where I was speaking about observing utility field personnel and then coaching them on behaviors that will assist them in being more safe.  The major point that I wanted to get across to everyone is that if our front line supervisors are truly transformational rather than transactional in nature, you will not have to worry about the behaviors of your front line employees.  Focus on the behaviors of your leaders and the rest will take care of itself. 

The father of transformational leadership is considered to be James M. Burns.  Burns has this to say about transformational leadership in his book Leadership:

Transformational leadership occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality.

WOW! That is a powerful statement.  So how do you know if your leaders are transactional or transformational?  Here are a few clues to examine:

  • A frontline employee complains about a policy and the leader says, “Yea I know, I don’t like it either but that’s what they’re telling us we have to do”.
  • You overhear a leader coming out of a meeting complaining that it was a waste of time.
  • It’s the end of the month and your leaders are scrambling to monitor their employees to meet their numeric quota.
  • You don’t see the leader advancing or growing in their matruity as a leader- just staying stagnant and doing the same thing day in and day out.
  • The focus is on completing a task but not interacting with people.
  • A leader stays to himself and does make a point of reaching out of his bubble to connect and join people together in community.  (This is one of my hot buttons.  We tend to teach “respecting diversity” but the real goal should be “proactive inclusiveness”.)

Do you experience any of these behaviors going on in your organization?  If so, your leaders are tending down the path of transactional rather than transformational.  So what’s the problem with being transactional?  Why should transformational leadership be the real goal?  Come back for a future post to find out!

Are you extending yourself beyond yourself to become a more effective leader?  OR are you stuck in doing the same thing day after day?  What’s your goal for transforming yourself? 

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