Transformation or Reformation
How’s Your Customer Service?

Meeting The Need For Transforming Leadership

Transforming leadership 123rf.com_8192829_sIn his book, “Leadership” the Pulitzer Prize winning author, James MacGregor Burns defines leadership as, “The reciprocal process of mobilizing, by persons with certain motives and values, various economic, political and other resources, in a context of competition and conflict, in order to realize goals independently or mutually held by both leaders and followers.” When you distil this, you can identify two primary elements:

  • Two parties - leaders and followers;
  • Goals - each party wants to achieve a specific purpose.

You cannot have leadership without both these essential elements. Burns, however, expands on this and avers that there are basically two types of leadership: transactional leadership and transforming leadership.

Transactional leadership occurs when there is “A bargain to aid the individual interests of persons or groups going their separate ways.” In other words, transactional leadership occurs when leaders and followers combine to meet their respective, independent goals.

On the other hand, transforming leadership is, “The reciprocal process of mobilizing, by persons with certain motives and values, various economic, political and other resources, in a context of competition and conflict, in order to realize goals independently or mutually held by both leaders and followers.” This is a much more formal definition that needs some unpicking. Key words or phrases – reciprocal process; mobilizing; persons; certain; motives and values; resources; mutually held – however, hint at the gist: leaders and followers have common goals.  Thus the result of transforming leadership is, “A relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents.”  

Thus, broadly speaking transactional leadership entails facilitating a “bargain”, with the sense of impermanence or transience that implies, while transforming leadership entails the cementing of a “relationship” with the mutual self-commitment that signifies. You could say that all leadership is transactional but not all leadership is transforming. For my part, I would say that transactional leadership is management, while transforming leading is true leadership.

Whether you agree or not, the increasing demand for transformation or transforming change suggests that there is a greater than ever demand for transforming leadership. So, the question you need to ask yourself is, “How do I create or develop this?”

History has given us centuries of industrial conflict, rooted in a management versus worker relationship which is essentially transactional, and thus liable to break down the minute either party is dissatisfied with the bargain that prevails.  Yet to break this down you only have to find a way to make the interaction less transactional and to find a way of creating a relationship that recognises, acknowledges and addresses the mutual interdependence of both parties. You will be pleasantly surprised to learn that it may not be as difficult as you think: the ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model gives you the answer.

The model provides the catalyst that aligns the interests of all those involved in the organisation – managers and employees – and creates the alignment of shared objectives that epitomise a transforming relationship. Indeed, going back to the definition of transforming leadership, it cements a relationship “of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders” and thus offers you the collective, distributed leadership that will transform your organisation, its performance and – most importantly – its results.        


If you like what you have read contact me today to discuss how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model could help you value your people and provide the catalyst to help you create an organic culture where everyone cares and the business becomes our business, embedding continuous improvement that engenders ‘love at work’ and transforms – and sustains – organic business performance.


Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organizational culture model that helps transform organizational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.


Bay Jordan

Thanks for your comment Tom. I would, however, argue that you are far more likely as a manager to get things done if you create the common interests demanded by transforming leadership! And if you want to change the culture and/or keep pace with change and create the organisational resilience you need to do so, it is essential

Tom Marsicano

Interesting reading. To be honest I would celebrate either of the two forms of leadership. What I obsereve still, today, is the continuing problem of no or certainly poor leadership, especially in times of change. Of course, if transofrmaton is needed, one needs more than just transactional leadership. What may be of interest is to see whether one is a precursor to the other or to what extent the one could influence the practice of the other?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)