This paper analysis the two theories and eventually concludes that the transitional theory is the most suitable leadership theory in a health care system.

Transformational versus Transitional Theories


Leadership is a process by which an individual is able to socially influence and enlist the aid and support of others with an aim of accomplishing a common task.  Several leadership theories have been put forward.  Currently, there is a wide and ever-growing range of leadership theories, which tries to explain the concept of leadership and its application.  The early leadership theories focused on qualities that could distinguish a leader from the people who followed him.  The later and the upcoming theories are to explain other leadership factors like situational and skills level.  Leadership theories can be classified into eight broad categories namely, the “Great Man” theories, Trait theories, Contingency theories, Situational theories, Behavioral theories, Participative theories, Management theories and Relationship theories.  These theories have other sub-divisions (Bass, B. 1960).  This essay will address a critical analysis of transformational theory and transactional theory and their application especially in health care sector.

Transformational Theory

Transformational theory is one of the relationship theories which focus on the motivation and inspiration o f the leaders to their followers.  Transformational leaders apply ethical and moral standard in focusing at the performance of their followers.  They ensure that each of the followers have achieved their potential.  The theory advocates for a leadership that create a positive change in followers by taking care of each other’s interest and focusing on the interest of a group as a whole.  The theory have advance from trait and behavioral theories, situational charismatic and transactional theories.  James MacGregor popularized the theory in 1978 (Bass, B. 1990).

Elements of Transitional Theory

Transitional theory contains some components of its preceding theories like behavioral, charismatic and transactional theories.  The four elements are as considered herein.

First is the idealized influence in which the leader is assumed to behave in admirable way the makes his followers desire to be identified with him.  A charismatic leader is described as being able to influence the emotions of his followers by having a clear set of values, which he practices in every action.  The charismatic leadership culminates to high morals and ethical standards to both the leader and his followers (Greenleaf, R. 2003).

The second is inspirational motivation.  This refers to the ability of a leader to articulate a vision in a manner that is appealing and inspiring to his followers.  Followers need to have a clear understanding of the vision that they are pursuing.  To succeed in making the followers understand the future goals, a leader needs to have inspirational motivation.  The leader should have excellent communication skills and a persuasive attitude in order to inspire his followers and provide them a meaning for the task at hand (Bass, B. 1985).

Third, is Intellectual stimulation, which encompasses the manner in which the leader challenge assumptions and take risks.  The leader, being a role model should demonstrate to his followers the ability to confront the challenges that occur during the accomplishment of the organization vision (Feinberg, B. & Burke, W. 2005).  He should be able to encourage the creativity and innovation of his followers.

Last is the individualized attention.  A transformational leader has the attitude f respect and recognizing each of his followers and their needs at a personal level.  By recognizing each follower’s contribution, the leader will actualize his or her self-fulfillment and self worth.

Critical Analysis of the Transformational Theory

Generally, the transformational leadership is guided by ethical and moral considerations.  Coupled to the above components of transformational theory, other research and analysis have found transformational leaders to be more productive, effective, and innovative and satisfy their followers.  The theory gives a very high profile t the leader’s quality and his ability to influence his followers.  The truth in this is that the main role of the leader is to show direction and provide guidance to his followers (Yukl, G. 1999).

However, there are some criticisms, which have been put forward to challenge the theory.  First, the theory seems to emphasis on impression management.  It portrays the leader as a sole determiner of who the followers are.  It does not recognize the possibility of the followers coming up with distinct characters from their leaders, which have the potential to influence the organization’s performance (Shin, S. & Zhou, and J. 2003).  The theory does not encourage organizational learning and development through shared leadership, equality and participative decision-making.  It demonstrates the leader as being the overall in decision-making process and then influencing the followers.  The theory manipulates and persuades the followers to go beyond their personal interests by persuading them to engage emotionally in pursuit of evil ends contrary to their interest (Leithwood, K. & Jantzi, D. 2000).

The Transactional Theory

Transactional leadership theory is also known as managerial leadership deals with the group performance, the role of the supervisor and the organization.  Max Weber first expressed the theory in 1947, basing his argument on the system’s reward and punishment.  It was later advanced by Bernard M. in 1981, arguing that the performance of workers depend of internal motivation (Yukl, G. 1989).  Generally, the theory is based on four postulates.  First, it assumes that workers maximize their performance when there is a well defined and a clear chain of command.  Second, it assumes that workers are motivated by reward and punishment.  Third, it assumes that the primary goal of the followers is to obey the instructions and commands of their leader.  Lastly, it assumes that the subordinates should be carefully monitored to ensure that the expectations of the organization are met (Yukl, G. 1989).

Yates, M. (2002), suggested that, transactional leadership occurs when the leader motivates his followers by rewarding them for high performance while punishing the workers whose performance is below the set standard.  This theory comprises of four major elements namely; goal setting, performance monetary, feedback control and career development.  Goal setting is a process of creating specific targets, which are achievable and measurable.  This helps to provide direction as to where the organization is heading.  The performance monitoring process ensures that the goals of the organization are achieved.  During the execution of the goals, the organization should provide a feedback to those who are interested in following the achievement of the set goals.  This can be done by answering questions and holding meetings and conferences.

Transactional theory mainly focuses on types of behavior: contingent reward behavior, management by objective and Laissez-Faire leadership.  Under contingence reward behavior, the leader provides a clear outline of the work to be done.  If the expectations are met, the leaders will then the best performing employees.  Management by objective can be sub-divided into passive and active management by objective.  In passive management by objective, the leader uses punishment as a means of correcting the workers who deviate from the set objectives.  While in the active management by objective, the leader uses corrective methods to keep track and influence the behavior of the worker and to punish them to meet the acceptable standards.  The Laisez-Faire Leader uses the “hands-off approach” to evaluate the performance of the workers.  Such leaders do not consider or respond to the problems of the workers (Collins, J. 2001).

Critical Analysis of Transactional Theory

Transactional leadership is inherently undemocratic.  It denies workers of their human dignity in that, when there is some task to be accomplished within a very short period and there is limited time to apply rationale in speeding up the workers, then the transactional leadership would be justified.  Transactional leadership may create a situation where there is over reliance one leader.  In case of absence of that leader, the operations of the whole organization are jeopardized.  Such a situation happens because the transactional leadership does not encourage workers participation in decision-making process (Leithwood, K., Jantzi, D. & Steinbach, R. 1999).  The theory violates the norms of ethics, as it calls for obedience, which is not necessarily the most dignified behavior.  

Successful implementation of transactional leadership

    The theory is based on the assumption that workers are motivated by rewards; therefore, the management should know exactly what motivates each employee.  They should be able to link the rewards which are most valued by the employee and the performance above the standard.  The reward system should be made clear.  This is because; the workers will know exactly what they will get at any level of performance.  The reward system should be accompanied by the punishment system, both of which should be consistently applied (Evers, W. & Lakomski, G. 2000).  The system should also ensure that both the reward and punishment are recognized and executed shortly after the performance.

Comparison of the Transformational theory and Transactional Theory

The transactional theory is built on the premise that the relationship between the leader and the followers is solely dependent on the rewards like praise, financial reward or recognition.  This implies that transactional leadership is responsive as opposed to opposed to transformational leadership, which is proactive (Bryant, E. 2003).  Transactional leadership requires the leaders to set up rules, regulation and objectives, which end up forming the organizational culture to be followed.  Transformational leadership calls for a continuous change in organizational culture by implementing new ideas.  This is an indication of flexibility of the transformational leadership (Hargis, M., Wyatt, D. and Piotrowski, C.  2008). Achievement of objectives in Transactional leadership is pegged on rewards and punishments set by the leader.  Transactional leaders believe that workers have to be rewarded or punished when they do not meet the set objectives.  On the other hand, Transformational leadership emphasizes the achievement of organizational objectives by through higher ideals and moral principles.  

Transactional leaders motivate followers by alluring to their own self-interest.  Followers need to be rewarded in order to meet their own needs, through salary increment, bonus and promotions.  Transformational leaders encourage the followers to prioritize the group interests.  Workers have to stick to the interests of the group even when they are suppressing their own interests.  Exceptional management, whereby status quo is maintained and stresses on correction actions to improve the organizational performance, affects transactional leadership.  On the other hand, transformational leadership is affected through individualized consideration.  Each individual worker is expected to express consideration and support for a given behavior.  This way, creativity and innovation will be employed to solve organizational challenges (Hargis, B., Wyatt, D. and Piotrowski, C. 2008).


Working in a health care sector requires a lot of self-dedication.  Sickness does not have timing or a particular order of occurrence.  It can happen during the day or night.  This means that the workers in the health sector have to be in a position to sacrifice their own interests whenever they are called for duty at either night or daytime.  In fact working in a health care system is more of a calling than a mere job.  They should also be able to work for longer hours, at times more than they had planned since they cannot leave the sick just because it is time to leave the healthcare center (Heck, H., & Hallinger, P. 1999).  This means that transformational leadership would be more appropriate for the health care system.  The leader in a health care system should have a capacity to persuade the followers to sacrifice their interest at the expense of the group’s interests.  In addition, the workers in the health sector need to be guided by high moral values and ideals in achieving their objectives.  Finally, the transformational leadership theory calls for creativity and innovation at work.  The health care system presents different challenges which calls for a flexible way of developing ideas to solve them this can only be achieved through creativity and innovation.  The current environment in health care system, which is unpredictable and unstable calls for transformational leadership at all levels of health care institutions.  It will help in developing ways of transforming organizations through leadership.