How to Make Transactional Leadership Work For You

What is Transactional Leadership?

A lot of our lives are simple action/consequence relationships that help us make decisions. Things like “If you speed on the highway, you might get a ticket.” And “If you don’t stop for the police, you will end up in a high speed chase and then in jail” and so on.

This give and take philosophy has been the cornerstone of the transactional leadership model. You do X and you will get Y. Or, just as often, don’t do X or Y will happen to you. In the workplace equation that Y is often either a raise or being fired.

How it works:

Consequence based leadership is an incredibly simple system (which is more of a reward structure than a leadership strategy.) Sometimes the protocol and policy creates a transactional model by default, and the leader just reminds his team of this.

However, some managers in this system may not choose to use much of a leadership model outside of the simple action-reward structure. Though it’s incredibly simple and understandable, this model may not produce the most effective team structure. The action-reward structure of transactional leadership can be used with more team-oriented leadership models as well.

How to make it better:

This reward/punishment structure doesn’t offer a lot for the team. It may give them really clear direction, but it doesn’t provide a whole lot for them to equip them. Fortunately, there is no hard and fast rule for leadership styles, so you can incorporate the useful elements of another style with this one.

Any strategy where the leader makes an investment in seeing that the team has the tools they need to succeed will do well under the consequence-based. The team will understand there is much for them to achieve, but they will feel as if there is support coming from on high to make sure they can.

Try to assess what you can do to make your team feel as if you are an ally in their quest for that carrot, and they will be even more tempted to chase it (rather than beating you with the stick.)


Supplement your transactional leadership style with another leadership style. Learn about them here.