Leadership Styles, Theory and Practice

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Leadership styles and theories have always been under the vehement discussion and required continuous research. The Great Man theory was the first approach, which contributed to the rise of the popularity of this sphere (Leadership theories, 2013). It implied that one is born with the particular characteristics, which help him become a leader (Leadership theories, 2013). The concept was rather simple and received criticism. Thus, it was a driver of the development of the complex notions of leaderships such as trait, contingency, and behavioral theories (Leadership theories, 2013).

As for the leadership in higher education, being an effective leader is challenging. Nowadays, the board of education proposes the standards, which one has to follow to be able to reach excellence in higher education. According to the guidelines, the leader has to use assertive communication to resolve the conflicts and seek for the continuous improvement (Ruben, 2004). Therefore, the educational leaders have to adapt to the changes and be able to transform their leadership styles to increase the effectiveness of the learning process (Abelman & Dalessandro, 2008). These concepts underline that applying the particular theories in practice is debatable and requires profound analysis of the leadership styles.

Consequently, the primary goal of the essay is to determine the differences between transactional, strategic, and transformational leadership approaches. Highlighting unique features of each style will have a beneficial impact on the understanding of the concept of leadership. Simultaneously, it is critical to apply theoretical dogmas into practice and assess whether I am a transactional, transformational, or strategic leader based on my past work experience. Finally, the conclusions are drawn to summarize the critical findings of the essay and depict new insights about the leadership.

Different Leadership Styles

Despite the clarity of the understanding of the initial goal of the leadership, distinguishing between dissimilar styles will help determine the key traits and intentions of the leader. Transactional leadership implies establishing a clear organizational structure (Leadership theories, 2013; ChangingMinds.Org, 2011). The leader uses the concept of rewards and punishments to maintain the order in the company (ChangingMinds.Org, 2011). The main benefit is the well-developed organizational structure while the primary limitation is the contingency of the reward system.

Another type is strategic leadership, and it implies influencing the opinion of different levels of subordination (Adair, 2010). In this case, the primary goal of the leader is to change the perception of the employees about a particular issue (Adair, 2010). The leader has to cultivate change voluntarily and lead the workforce towards the achievement of the organizational objectives. Consequently, it could be stated that according to this concept the leader plays a role of the intermediary and delivers vision and mission statement to the lower levels of the workforce (Allio, 2015). Its connection with the strategy underlines the impact of the company’s values on the leadership style.

Lastly, the transformational style states the leader works together with subordinates and cultivates change when it is necessary (Ozer & Tenaztepe, 2014). This strategy highly values “motivation, inspiration, challenge, vision, personal development and superior performance” (Ozer & Tenaztepe, 2014, p. 779). Meanwhile, it is believed to have a positive impact on the commitment of the employees and often pertained as one of the most effective approaches.

Differences between the Styles

It remains apparent that the leadership styles described above tend to have similar intentions to reach the common goals. Meanwhile, they apply dissimilar approaches and have dissimilar levels of power distance between the leader and different levels of subordination. For instance, the transactional style focuses on the clear distinction between the leader and employees (ChangingMinds.Org, 2011).). This fact depicts that the power distance is high, and the vertical hierarchy has a clear presence. Despite the lack of the flexibility of this approach, transactional reward-and-punishment system is often regarded as an effective instrument to increase the employees’ commitment (Ozer & Tenaztepe, 2014).

On the contrary, the transformational leadership style does not have as strong power distance between the leader and the employees as the transactional approach has. The followers of this strategy view the workforce as an important asset of the company. Meanwhile, the leader is regarded as an equal part of the team and takes the responsibility for the actions of the followers and pays attention to the development, training, continuous learning of the followers (ChangingMinds.Org, 2011). These concepts clearly differentiate it from the transactional style, as the team members are fully responsible for the failure (Cetin & Kinik, 2015).

Lastly, the strategic leadership uses the similar concepts like transformational approach. However, it is often regarded more of a managerial concept, as its initial goal is to convince the followers to prioritize organizational goals (Leadership theories, 2013). This aspect underlines its mediating nature of the approach, and this matter differentiates the strategic style from the other methods noticeably.

Choosing a Leadership Style

It could be said that theoretical aspects and matters mentioned above could be regarded as a basis for evaluating my personality and applying a suitable leadership style. In the past, I have several opportunities to discover my leader’s personality. For instance, I was teaching in small learning groups. The classes involved having a lot of group work and discussions. My primary goal was to deliver the organizational message to the students. Meanwhile, I was trying to be a member of the team and lead the discussion in the group. I respected the opinion of each team member and gave him/her and opportunity to express his/her viewpoint by using assertive communication to resolve the conflicts. Nonetheless, it was difficult for me to decrease the power distance since I was a leader.

Based on my personal experience explained above, it remains apparent that I tend to be a strategic leader. However, in my case, it could be regarded as a transition between transactional and transformational leader. My initial goal is to focus on the motivation of the followers, but it is difficult to minimize the power distance between students and me. Consequently, applying strategic leadership strategy is one of the solutions in my case. It assists in focusing on the organizational goals while being an equal member of the team.


In the end, the essay revealed that leadership styles tend to have different intentions, as they reflect the personal traits of the leader. It remains apparent that the leadership theories evolved over time and provided the profound understanding of the concepts of the leadership. The analysis of different leadership approaches such as transactional, transformational, and strategic styles assisted in determining the differences in power distance and convincing methods. Finally, the theoretical background contributed to the understanding that I am a strategic leader, and the improvement is required to become a transformational leader.


Abelman, R., & Dalessandro, A. (2008). The institutional vision of community colleges. Community College Review, 35(4), 306-335.

Adair, J. (2010). Strategic leadership: How to think and plan strategically and provide direction. London, UK: Kogan Page.

Allio, R. (2015). Good strategy makes good leaders. Strategy & Leadership, 43(5), 3-9.

Cetin, M., & Kinik, S. (2015). An analysis of academic leadership behavior from the perspective of transformational leadership. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 207, 519-527.

ChangingMinds: Transactional leadership. (2011). Web.

Leadership theories. (2013). Web.

Ozer, F., & Tenaztepe, C. (2014). Effect of strategic leadership styles on work performance: A study in a Turkish SME. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 150, 778-784.

Ruben, B. (2004). Excellence in higher education organizational checklist. Web.

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