Most successful leaders have strengths in several areas. They are usually self-aware, motivated, and genuine. Being aware of your strengths can help you determine which leadership style you are most comfortable with. Before you do that, however, it is important to answer the question: “What are Leadership Styles?” Leadership styles can be defined as the techniques in which a leader chooses to express himself in order to achieve desired outcomes. Two common leadership styles are the Transformational Leadership Style and the Transactional Leadership Style. Each of these styles can be learned, however, transformational leaders are more likely to be born leaders rather than developed leaders. Listed below are the strengths of each.
The Transformational Leadership Style
By definition, transformational leaders have the ability to transform their followers. They can inspire their followers to achieve levels of productivity beyond their expectations and the expectations of others. This can be done through the following actions:
They communicate the vision. As a transformational leader, you believe in the organization’s vision and communicate that vision to your team in a clear and articulate manner. When you believe in a vision, your passion to see that vision come to pass can create a driving force. If you are passionate about something, you can ignite a passion in others.
They foster a trusting environment. In order to exceed your expectations, your team needs to know whether they can trust you and their colleagues. Encouraging each employee to take calculated risks can foster trust. This can facilitate trust in each other and increase the employee’s trust in his own abilities.
They empower their people. Once you have communicated the vision and fostered a trusting environment, it is important to empower people. Empowerment can take the trusting environment you have already created to a higher level. This is where the transformation can begin to formulate. People can become increasingly creative and excited about achieving their goals.
The Transactional Leadership Style
The Transactional Leadership Style is based upon a transaction. Its definition is rooted in the phrase: “If you’ll scratch my back I’ll scratch yours.” Transactional leaders believe that people are motivated by reward and punishment. Good behavior is rewarded and poor behavior is punished. Although this leadership style is not as popular as the transformational leadership style, it is used more often and can be effective. In order to ensure the effectiveness of this style it is important to consider the following areas:
Know what motivates your employees. Each employee will have different wants and needs. It is futile to reward someone with an office with a window, when what he truly values is time-off. If you know what your employees value, you can reward them accordingly, thus making the transaction worthwhile.
Avoid using punishment as a motivator. Although punishment can be used when implementing the transactional leadership style, it is better to avoid it. Punishment can be motivating but usually results in short-term positive effects and long-term negative effects.
Create a structured environment. As a transactional leader, you have the ability to create a structured environment. You can set goals for your employees and give them a step-by-step plan to achieve those goals, motivated by rewards for performance. If you achieve “x” you will receive “y” in return. Many people enjoy this type of environment because unknown factors are limited.
Regardless of which leadership style you choose, choose the best fit for you and your people. Recognize that both leadership styles can be learned and both can be effective.