It was Burns (1978) and Bass (1985) who first defined the terms ‘transformational’ and ‘transactional’ leadership to describe managers who are strong on individual and group motivation and those who prefer to focus on goals, tasks and processes.
Over the last decade or so, a number of studies have tended to confirm the intuitive expectation that people generally prefer to be engaged with their work, and so a leader who facilitates this is likely to be more effective. Thus a preference for transformational styles is a predictor for leadership effectiveness. However, beyond this, studies to date have been rather vague.
In his recently accepted PhD study, Badri Bajaj (2013) from the Jaypee Institute of Information Techology, has demonstrated quite specifically, that social awareness and relationship management are the two key components employed by transformational leaders. His study was based on 156 Indian managers and involved anonymous feedback from the members of those managers’ teams. The data was subject to a variant of Factor Analysis and structural equation modelling.
Critics have always maintained that there are circumstances where transactional leadership styles are more effective, often using this to justify highly proceduralized approaches in situations where risk or safety are particularly important. Recent studies have suggested that this is not the case, but there are some where effective leaders are using both. Bajaj has helped us understand this better. He has demonstrated that social awareness is positively predictive of effective transactional leadership, suggesting that those managers capable of using transactional styles when appropriate draw on their sensitivity to social issues to allow them to do so.
Some of you may know that I am currently the Executive Lead for Research for the “BACP Coaching” – the Coaching division of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. This article may appear in their limited circulation newsletter in due course.