Transformational vs Transactional Leadership

Mainak Chakraborty
4 min readOct 6, 2021
Leadership (Source: Unsplash)

All of us at some point in life have surely met some exceptional as well as terrible leaders. Someone who has truly inspired us. Made us believe in ourselves, helped us achieve our goals. And also someone who can be strictly labeled as a “Vampire”. Be it, Khaleesi, from “The Game of Thrones” or Miranda Priestly from “The Devil Wears Prada”, we are well familiar with the stereotypes. So, is there any way to classify leaders? and if so what it means for me?

Well, in this blog we will look into such classifications and how they can make us better leaders in the future and also choose the right leader to follow.

First, we will start with leadership. What is leadership?

According to Wikipedia, a Leader is

“the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.”

A more detailed inquiry into the term will lead us to the multiple qualities of a leader like great decision making, or empathy, or vision, etc. These qualities can vary enormously and also be mutually inclusive or exclusive, depending on the person/context.

So, how do we classify?

The same question troubled Richard Barrett. Inspired by Maslow’s hierarchy, Richard Barrett came up with “The Barrett Leadership model”. Also called the “Leadership Consciousness model”. It classifies each type of leader, where the managers are at the bottom of the pyramid. The model is interpreted from the bottom up. Level 4 signifies a leader, who has overcome his/her inner conflict and is beginning to focus on re-imagining themselves and looking to develop transformative visions for the future of the organization.

Let us look briefly into the model.

The Barrett Leadership model (Source:

The various categories are as follows:

The first level is a Crisis Manager. A Crisis Manager is a person who is in the pursuit of profit. He/She can manage diversity. Control the Directive and is willing to take risks. His/Her methods are authoritative and exhibit low Emotional Intelligence. A crisis manager is someone who can exploit or micro-manage things.

In level 2, we have Relationship Managers. The Relationship Manager is someone who maintains clear communication among the stakeholders, be it employees, customers, or suppliers. He/She can be prone to manipulation and also blame-game to satisfy the immediate stakeholder.

In level 3, we have Performance Managers. A Performance Manager is someone who ensures that the best practice is maintained. Someone who ensures that productivity, Efficiency, quality are maintained. This sometimes can lead to Bearuacracy or complacency. They can be highly competitive and may lead to politics and unnecessarily quarrel among the organization.

Now, from here we can start to observe a change among the leadership traits.

In which category does Michael belong? (Source: The Office)

In level 4, we have an Influencer or Innovator. An Innovator believes in continuous improvement. His/Her focus is on weeding out bad practices and create a wholesome environment that promotes learning, innovation, team building among other things.

The first category of the upper triangle is Authentic Leader. The Authentic Leader, will promote a positive, creative culture and invest in the development of the organizational community as a whole. They generally possess high emotional intelligence and intellectually are ahead of many. These traits make them confident in various difficult situations.

A Partner is someone, who will strike strategic alliances among the stakeholders and ensures that the employees are happy. They are environmentally more aware. Creates an environment that promotes innovation and knows what people are confident about. They can be coined as coaches or mentors.

The last one in the pyramid is Visionary Leader. A visionary, has a long-term perspective, to inspire and motivate future generations. He believes in service to humanity and he/she is not just bound with short-term organizational goals. On the contrary, will happily sacrifice such goals for long-term prosperity. They are confident in uncertain situations and can steer the group in such conditions.

Great!! What benefit can I possibly have from knowing this?

As you have noticed in all these categories. We can identify an overall theme for the leaders. Number 1,2,3 are more inclined towards short-term goals. They get the job done. These leaders follow the rules and make sure others do too. They may or may not make a great impact on the society or community but makes sure that the next bonus is pocketed. These can broadly classify Transactional Leaders. Although, they can help you in some situations (like getting the bonus), be aware of them. When the music stops, they are the first ones to jump ships.

A Transformational Leader, on the other hand, has a long-term approach that represents the upper pyramid of the leadership model. Their work inspires us and does not make us feel we compete. They make us believe in ourselves and extract the best from us. They can be rigid, believe in fixed principles, and will move mountains with their faith.

And Yes, You can follow such leaders or strive to become one.

Choose whom you follow wisely and always critically analyze every aspect. Since it only takes a few blind followers to convert a failed artist into a mass murderer.

To read more about leadership. Look into the links below.