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Transformational vs. Transactional Leadership: A Worthy Distinction

At Bovo-Tighe, we place a big emphasis on moving leaders from “transactional” to “transformational”.

The distinction is critical, because a leader who is transactional gets stuff done, but does not inspire his or her followers to go above and beyond their assigned tasks to exceed expectations and sustainably improve productivity.

Our Co-Founder, David Tighe, recently had a article about our Transformational Leadership philosophy accepted for posting on eZineArticles.com. We recommend it as a great summary on why any organization should prioritize the creation of transformational leaders within its ranks, and how individual managers can transform themselves pretty quickly without waiting for the blessings of senior management.

What follows are a few highlights from the full article:

We emphasize “transformation” in an effort to distinguish “transactional leaders” from leaders who innovate, engage, encourage and motivate (the last two are not the same) their teams to perform at higher levels consistently. Not for a month, or a special project, but all the time.

  • The verb “transact” implies getting a series of tasks done. Most leaders who show up get this far. Transactional leaders drive performance. They focus on results, and “accomplish what they can” with limited time and resources.
  • The verb “transform” captures what a leader must do to create a fully engaged, highly productive and innovative workforce. Transformational leaders also focus on results, but solve the limited resource problem by unlocking extra productivity within their team, engaging fully with them to tap more of the capabilities, energy and desire inherent in each team member.

Moving from “transact” to “transform” is the hard part of leadership, and is the leap that so many assigned leaders (those in official leadership roles) fail to make.

This failure is not from a lack of desire to be the best. Most people want to succeed and earn recognition for what they achieve. But, if their organization does not provide the training, tools and permission to build a sustainably productive culture, team leaders will not make the transition from transactional to transformational.

If you want to become a transformational leader within your organization, start by adopting a more engaging communication style that is founded on personal responsibility and is action-oriented:

Eliminate the “Blame Game”:

  • Take the lead in identifying and interceding in conversations that involve blame or adopt “victim status”. Teach your team members to drop the need to assign blame and adopt instead your forward-focused mindset.
  • Redirect the energy in the group by asking “What can we do now?” We call this “keeping a next-action focus.” It is your job to train everyone to adopt that mindset permanently.
  • Publicly accept personal responsibility for any results, good or bad. Challenge your people to do the same, and never stop leading by example.

Open up Communications:

  • Stop directing, start listening and supporting. If you are always doing the talking, you will never hear about a problem, or a new idea.
  • Expand your definition of “need to know.” Engaged employees need to know a lot about the company’s goals, its limitations, and the truth behind those energy-sapping rumors. Employees work harder if they know how their piece of the puzzle fits strategically.

Communicate with a “next-action focus”:

  • In meetings, define desired outcomes for each discussion
  • Turn every discussion you have about work from cause of problems to what to do next
  • Finish each meeting with a summary of mutually agreed actions
  • Follow up based on these actions. You must be reliable and predictable in applying these habits to all your co-worker interactions.

For more details, click through to the article.

You cannot be fully effective as a manager of people or projects unless you inject passion into your work, and instill that passion to those with which you work. Adopting a transformational leadership style allows you to more clearly communicate that you care about your people and their success, collaborate more effectively with them, and therefore transfer your passion to them. A win-win all around every time!

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