Skip main navigation

What is the difference?

Read this article about the difference between transformational and transactional leadership approaches
Group brainstorming at a computer.
© University of Southern Queensland

Transactional and transformational leaders have a different focus in their relationship with followers.

Transactional approaches are characterised by a reliance on the exchange process between leader and followers, in other words they view interactions on a utilitarian level, that they are only there to serve the task at hand. They tend to have a particular focus on day-to-day issues, work within established systems, seek to limit variation and use existing processes to solve problems.

Transformational leaders focus on moving followers to accomplish more than what is usually expected of them through the high-order behaviours listed earlier. They tend to seek changes to system, solve problems by seeking new ways of doing things and seek to maximise their team’s capability.

Shamir, House, and Arthur (1993) contend that leaders influence the self-concept of their followers by associating followers’ goals and collective experiences to the leaders’ mission so that “they become valued aspects of the followers’ self-concept” (Conger, 1999:155).

Thus, the transformational leader transforms followers’ self-concepts by:

  • changing follower perceptions of the nature of work.
  • offering an appealing future vision.
  • developing a deep collective identity among followers.
  • heightening both individual and collective self-efficacy (1999:155).

In the following video presentation, Dr Jim Dittmar, MSLS provides a good explanation of the different types of leadership.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Richtopia. (2016, June 30). Transactional vs. transformational leadership definition. . Retrieved from
Shamir, B., House, R. J., & Arthur M. B. (1993). The motivational effects of charismatic leadership: A self-concept based theory. Organization Science, 4(4), 577–594. doi:
© University of Southern Queensland
This article is from the free online

Transitioning From Friend To Leader

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education