Differences and Similarities in Leadership Approaches


Changing work environments and expectations have been critical in shaping leadership. Competitive business environments make institutions seek the most effective approach to give clients ultimate satisfaction in their services. Leaders have realized that employees give value to organizations and proper control of this asset has been prioritized. Transformational, transactional, and laissez-faire forms of leadership are divergent approaches to management with a common goal of optimal results.

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Transformational leaders act as the prime sources of inspiration to motivate individuals that look up to them in the organization. A two-way work relationship is established between the leader and subordinates, where employee feedback is considered in decision-making. A study proved that transformational leadership brings positive results for a firm; in form of learning new skills and breeding innovation (García-Morales, Jiménez-Barrionuevo & Gutiérrez-Gutiérrez, 2012) Organizational justice is a tool that transformational leaders employ as a motivation in the instance that a firm is on the verge of making changes (Deschamps, Rinfret, Lagacé, La Capitale, & Privé, 2016). Transactional leadership, on the other hand, utilizes rewards and punishment to execute the attainment of the organization’s goals. Criticism is given as a corrective measure and applause is only granted upon completion of the assigned task. The manager undertakes planning and takes no consideration to employees’ input. A study conducted to evaluate the job satisfaction of registered nurses and management models, shows that a combination of both transformation and transaction forms of leadership would be significantly productive (Roberts-Turner et al., 2014). That implies that two models complement each other’s shortcomings. Laissez-faire leadership is a definition of a lack of governance considering subordinates have no form of contact or support originating from the leader, which makes it passive (Furtner, Baldegger & Rauthmann, 2013). It is built on a belief that individuals tend to perform at their optimal when left to undertake responsibilities from personal motivation. There are no sanctions for under-performance and no external drive for the followers.

The differences amongst transactional, transformational, and Laissez-faire styles of leadership is in their approach towards achieving the firm’s objectives. Laissez-faire distinctly differs from transactional and transformational leadership due to the absence of the manager from the operations of its followers. In practice, the follower has no pressure or motivation to achieve any goals. Unlike transactional and transformational models, Laissez-faire cannot be merged with any other approach to leadership. A transactional leader uses punitive and compensative measures in pushing employees to meet institutional targets. For example, an employee that performs as expected receives bonuses, whereas failure results in the person’s file getting a negative review. On the other hand, transformational leadership employs charisma and establishment of an individualized work relationship between the manager and the followers. For instance, the leader is aware of individual employee talents and encourages them to optimize their potential as exemplified by himself. 

Despite the three models of leadership having distinct differences in execution, the goal of optimal performance is a binding factor. Both transactional and transformational leaders motivate their followers to achieve the common objective of the firm. The two have the leader being involved in monitoring and managing the subordinate’s work. Similar to transactional and transformational leadership, laissez-faire expects followers to optimize their performance in the absence of sanctions, rewards, and motivation.

Transformational, transactional, and laissez-faire embark on different methodologies of giving direction. Despite laissez-faire approach providing mediocre results in most cases, it shares a common goal with transactional and transformational leadership. Unlike Transactional leadership that disciplines or compensate followers randomly, transformational leadership influences and administers justice.

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Roberts-Turner, R., Hinds, P. S., Nelson, J., Pryor, J., Robinson, N. C., & Wang, J. (2014). Effects of leadership characteristics on pediatric registered nurses’ job satisfaction. Pediatric Nursing, 40(5), 236.

Deschamps, C., Rinfret, N., Lagacé, M. C., La Capitale, C., & Privé, C. (2016). Transformational leadership and change: how leaders influence their followers’ motivation through organizational justice. Journal of Healthcare Management, 61(3), 194-213.

García-Morales, V. J., Jiménez-Barrionuevo, M. M., & Gutiérrez-Gutiérrez, L. (2012). Transformational leadership influence on organizational performance through organizational learning and innovation. Journal of business research65(7), 1040-1050.

Furtner, M. R., Baldegger, U., & Rauthmann, J. F. (2013). Leading yourself and leading others: Linking self-leadership to transformational, transactional, and laissez-faire leadership. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology22(4), 436-449.

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