Transactional and Transformational Leadership Styles

The topic of leadership is widely discussed by the researchers who operate in different spheres, including management, education, and nursing, etc. They often focus on its classical models, trying to point out those key points that can help professionals in mastering their leadership skills and reaching their potential. However, the way a great leader is perceived tends to change with the course of time because of the alterations in the organizational culture and society, as a whole. Due to this fact, it can be presupposed that even though outdated works that discuss leadership used to be authoritative, it is better to rely on those sources of information that were released in the last five years. This paper will try to prove this point of view on the example of the article that was prepared by Doyle and Smith in 2001. Its main points will be contrasted and compared with five studies that have been published since 2013. The focus will be made on transactional and transformational leadership styles, as they are often considered the most effective ones.

Doyle and Smith (2001) believed that transactional and transformational leadership styles allow the leaders to face the least amount of conflicts, making followers follow their orders and maintaining mutual respect. In their work, professionals described these leadership models so that professionals could resort to them.

The transactional leader was supposed to focus on the need to recognize what people want to get from work so that he/she could ensure that it would be obtained. This person improved rewards and was responsive to employee self-interests. The transformational leader, in this perspective, wanted to improve employee awareness of the significance of outcomes, and ways of reaching them. This leader was encouraged to put the needs of the team over self-interest, changing the need level and expanding a set of wishes and desires. The authors believed that focusing on leadership models, people would have a chance to think of what they would do in various situations so that they could respond to them as soon as they occur.

Doyle and Smith (2001) underlined that leadership theory developed with the course of time. At first, professionals were concentrated on trait theories, according to which leaders were claimed to be those individuals who knew what they wanted and were able to communicate their wishes to others to get their assistance. Scientists conducted research studies to identify additional traits that could be associated with traits of a great leader. They spoke about intelligence, responsibility, task competence, etc. But discussing the leader’s characteristics, researchers also started to pay attention to their behaviors. Grouping them, scientists identified other leadership styles. Thus, appeared talk-oriented leaders, those who focus on people, directions or even participation of the followers in decision-making. Soon, it was understood that these models include substantial gaps, and a mixed approach was developed in the framework of contingency theories. The emphasis was made on the relationship between leaders and their followers, the structure of those tasks that had to be fulfilled, and the position of power. As a result, professionals could adapt to different situations and environments, using telling, selling, participating, or delegating leadership. Finally, those leaders who appeal to their followers and encourage them to focus on universal goals were discussed. Transactional and transforming leaders were differentiated even though they had many similarities as change agents.

According to the information presented by contemporary scientists, transformational leaders focus on the current and future needs of their followers and those that belong personally to them (Eliophotou Menon, 2014). They tend to deal with long-term issues that require much effort and commitment, and interpersonal assistance. Transactional leaders determine goals for their followers and suggest ways of reaching them. Transactional leaders tend to adopt to the environment in which they operate. Transformational leadership, in its turn, presupposes innovations and changes that make the organization better.

The researchers underline that transformational and transactional leadership have a positive influence on the followers, their ability to reach goals and get satisfaction (Dumay, Boonen & Van Damme, 2013). In addition to that, such leaders tend to emphasize their teams greatly and are ready for self-sacrifice (Ruggieri & Abbate, 2013). These styles affect organizational commitment, proving their effectiveness (Sun, 2015). Even though transformational leadership tends to have more effects in this framework, both styles are appreciated. Moreover, in the current environment appraisal of change is treated as a motivator, so transactional leadership becomes less valued (Lee, 2013).

All in all, Doyle and Smith (2001) had the same perceptions of the essence of transformational and transactional leadership as current researchers have. They basically defined the same similarities and differences between these styles. Doyle and Smith (2001) concluded that transformational leadership is rarely utilized in practice because professionals tend to treat it just as leader’s participation. Today, even though the greatest achievements are expected to be reached under transformational leadership because it allows the followers to implement changes and innovate, head teachers effectiveness is better observed under transactional style. However, it cannot be denied that the tendency to give the followers more power and involve their leaders in various activities that require team cooperation is discussed by numerous scholars.

It can also be mentioned that previously the researchers were more focused on the differences between leadership styles and their constituents, such as particular characteristics of a leader. Today, the theoretical framework is already thoroughly discussed, and scientists tend to focus on practical insights, such as influences on followers’ engagement and satisfaction, team identification, organizational commitment, and change, etc.

In the framework of education, leadership research of leadership is mainly triggered by the desire to enhance teachers’ job satisfaction and improve their leaders’ effectiveness. In addition to that, professionals tend to emphasize the value of teamwork more than previously. Much attention is received by the possibility to mix subjects within one class, which requires sufficient cooperation (Agasisti & Bonomi, 2014). As a result, the necessity to have a leader who will be able to control and direct such interactions occurred. In a similar manner, teachers of general and special education often need to cooperate during one and the same class, and they require a leader to address their issues. Finally, general tendencies in society should not be neglected as they affect all spheres, including education.

Thus, it can be claimed that even though the most general perceptions of the prevalent leadership styles did not change much with the course of time, the articles in which they were discussed at the beginning of the 21st century or even earlier cannot be treated as “current” by academic standards. The thing is that leadership research (its extent and manner) altered under the influence of current trends and the necessity to correspond to new needs.


Agasisti, T., & Bonomi, F. (2014). Benchmarking universities’ efficiency indicators in the presence of internal heterogeneity. Studies in Higher Education, 39(7), 1237.

Doyle, M. E. & Smith, M. K. (2001). Classical leadership. The encyclopedia of informal education. Web.

Dumay, X., Boonen, T., & Van Damme, J. (2013). Principal leadership long-term indirect effects on learning growth in mathematics. The Elementary School Journal, 114(2), 225.

Eliophotou Menon, M. (2014). The relationship between transformational leadership, perceived leader effectiveness and teachers’ job satisfaction. Journal of Educational Administration, 52(4), 528-509.

Lee, I. (2013). The influences of school supervisors’ leadership styles upon organizational effectiveness: using organizational commitment and organizational change as mediators. The Journal of Human Resource and Adult Learning, 9(2), 105-123.

Ruggieri, S., & Abbate, C. (2013). Leadership style, self-sacrifice, and team identification. Social Behavior and Personality, 41(7), 1171-1178.

Sun, J. (2015). Conceptualizing the critical path linked by teacher commitment. Journal of Educational Administration, 53(5), 597-624.

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