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Transactional Leadership Versus Transformational Leadership

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It is imperative that anyone who wishes to become a nurse manager or leader know the differences between the transactional and transformational leadership styles. After all, any person who plans to succeed at leading a team of healthcare staff preferably needs to figure out which leadership style works in the best interest of both the leader and the subordinate employees.

Transactional leadership is a technique of leading an organization where, through routine transactions such as rewards and punishments, tasks get accomplished. It is entirely based on transactions conducted between the nurse leader and subordinate staff members because it is grounded on the theory that workers are motivated by rewards and discipline. A transactional leader generally does not look ahead in strategically guiding an organization to a position of market leadership; instead, these managers are solely concerned with making sure everything flows smoothly today (Ingram, n.d.). The focal points of transactional leadership include:

  • The nurse leader has complete authority over the staff.
  • Employees must comply and follow directives.
  • Rewards include compensation in the form of paychecks.
  • Punishments include progressive discipline, including termination.

Transformational leadership styles focus on team-building, motivation and collaboration with employees at different levels of an organization to accomplish change for the better (Ingram, n.d.). It focuses on encouraging staff members to do their very best work by way of example and the sheer influence of the nurse leader's optimistic personality. This style of leadership operates on the premise that subordinate employees acquire motivation to perform their jobs through positive, rather than negative, incentives. The focal points of transformational leadership include:

  • Staff will readily follow the example of an inspiring nurse leader.
  • Priorities include fostering innovation and creative thinking.
  • The optimism of the nurse leader is enough to transform the staff.
  • Enthusiasm 'rolls downhill' and creates the spark to get the job done.

Both types of leadership possess benefits and drawbacks. A transactional leadership style can work well with front line supervision of low-skilled staff, such as the RN staff nurse or LPN charge nurse who directly supervises CNAs in the long term care setting. Although the transactional style of leadership may lead to compliant workers who obey directives, it can thwart independent thinking and creativity in more skilled employees.

A transformational leadership style works well because it operates on the assumption of self-motivation. Self-directed employees usually want to get the job done without the lure of rewards or the brute force of discipline, which is the reason why transformational leadership can be so effective. However, this leadership style will fail miserably if the nurse leader lacks the personality traits, mission, or energy to bring out the best in people.

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Edited by Joe V

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Please note, my intent here is to discuss the issue not be disagreeable.

"It is imperative that anyone who wishes to become a nurse manager or leader know the differences between the transactional and transformational leadership styles". I can honestly say after 15+ years as a nurse manager that I have never heard of these terms and believe myself to be relatively successful. Not sure I would call it imperative.

Your definitions are informative and although I may not have heard the terms, I have followed both styles at one time or another. This leads to my next point. My personal belief is that it can be imperative to have the ability to vascilate between the two styles based on the needs of a specific employee. For example, I have an absolutely awesome unit manager. She needs NO supervision from me. If I started handing out rewards or threatened punishments, she would likely become insulted and feel like I was treating her like a child. (Just for the record tho, I do tell her often that I think she is fantastic), I have lots of C.N.A's that respond much better with the transactional. Generally they are good workers but they do work a little harder when I spend extra time telling them how wonderful they are, passing out the occassional Dilly Bar, etc. And, occassionally, they need me to threaten disciplinary action as the need warrants.

Although I am the supervisor of the entire group, I certainly can not walk into the building and think to myself "I'm going to be an XYZ type leader today"

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Although I am the supervisor of the entire group, I certainly can not walk into the building and think to myself "I'm going to be an XYZ type leader today"
There's also the situational leadership style, which encorporates elements of both the transactional and transformational styles.

Situational leadership is one form of transformational leadership, which claims that there is not one leadership style that works in all situations.

Development of a model of situational leadershi... [J Nurs Manag. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI

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"Transactional Leadership vs Transformational Leadership".....Sorry to say, but it sounds like a managerial buzz-phrase-fest to me.

 

In my past career (chemical engineering, automotive supplier industry, supervision/management/...), we had to comply with all the latest standards (ISO 9000/QS9000/TS16949/...). One of the major, HIGHLY important (?) factors for a later quality system was the phrase "continual" vs "continuous."

Umm...yeah.

I wonder how many bright young MBA types it took at $umpteen-K/yr salary (+ bonuses!) to think that up.

All the nit-picky BS focused on phraseology suggests to me that too many dollars are going towards research studies generated by real-world-knowledge-impaired "wannabees", versus those who have been there & done that (without any excessive flair).

You are either a LEADER or merely a "manager." Sugar coat it any way you like. BS smells like BS.

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For example, I have an absolutely awesome unit manager. She needs NO supervision from me. If I started handing out rewards or threatened punishments, she would likely become insulted and feel like I was treating her like a child. (Just for the record tho, I do tell her often that I think she is fantastic)...

You are rewarding her though, telling her she is fantastic while it is not something that takes any effort on your behalf is definitely a positive reinforcer. Operant conditioning at its best :p

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