Our ability as leaders in any field hinges on the style of leadership we employ. Leadership that inspires and motivates, whether it be in the context of the local church, an organization, the classroom or a mission trip, is the elusive butterfly of success for every one of us in the position of working with people. While it is obvious that lack of leadership poses a problem, what is often overlooked is that wrong models of leadership can do more harm than good–dwarfing long term efforts and in many cases soiling the reputation of your organization.
I cannot tell you the number of people I have crossed paths with over the years who were bruised and battered by leaders they worked with. Some of these people have dropped out of ministry. Others have fallen from the faith. All of them have a story to tell of leadership that operated from a wrong model: men or women who thought they were doing the right thing but in fact were doing more harm than good.
In this article I want to focus on two contrasting styles of leadership and demonstrate how one style is detrimental while the other is radically effective. Whether you are leading a team, leading a family or running a business, leadership style counts!
T R A N S A C T I O N A L L E A D E R S H I P M O D E L
I will start with transactional leadership. This is a model of leadership that sets out to get people motivated to do what the leader wants by employing methods that are leader-centric and , frankly, rooted in the principles of the power and coercion. Here are some of the marks of transactional leadership:
Based on power—“a power trip.” This is a key feature of transactional style leadership. The transactional leader has one thing in mind: to get his followers to do what he wants them to do. The vision he has in his mind is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong. And since he is the leader, it is his job to protect that vision at all costs. People he leads are either part of the solution or a part of the problem—and he approaches them accordingly. Needless to say, there are serious problems to this line of thinking. If a leader views people as pawns on a chessboard, they will begin to feel like pawns on a chessboard.
Works through coercion. The question always on the mind of the transactional leader is: “How can I get the follower to do what I want them to do to meet my goal?” And the inevitable answer always comes down to some form of manipulation or coercion. Bribes and threats come into play, though these words would never be used, of course. Which exposes another problem that arises with this style of leadership: dishonesty and duplicity. Not good!
Leader gives direction and you are expected to follow it. On the surface, this doesn’t sound like a bad idea. After all, knowing how to follow orders is essential to teamwork, isn’t it? But what if the leader asks you to do something you know is wrong? Or what if, in asking for clarification, you are denied a hearing and told to “shut up and submit?” While the leader might have the upper hand and get her way, at the end of the day YOU will not feel like you want to keep following this leader, which begs the question: is this person really leading?
The mission of every leader should be to multiply himself–and that is a risky, but rewarding, exercise! What often trips a leader up in the process is the erroneous assumption that if he gives his power away, he loses something. The reverse is true: power that is clung to evaporates–and power invested expands!
Factory model. This paradigm is what drives the transactional leader. He sees himself as the owner of a factory exists with one thing in mind: to produce the end result that he envisions. Everything that happens in the factory exists to serve this leader’s vision. People are like workers in the factory who each have their part t play in producing that end result. Their work must be done in a certain way, as prescribed by the leader, and their output must be acceptable to the leader or they will risk being replaced. In return for a “job well done” the leader will give perks: money, security, recognition, a place in a society, a pat on the back, etc. Underlying everything that goes on in a transactional environment is the unspoken understanding of a contract between the leader and the “follower.”
Very authoritarian. This style of leadership tends to be very authoritarian. Unwillingness to submit to the leader is viewed as rebellion against God. There tends to be an over-emphasis on “what the leader says.” This may sound cultic, and indeed it is at it’s root. But it is a common style of leadership that has permeated all sectors of ministry and business. Even if this style operates in a civilized. controlled way, it will not be effective in the long run because at the end of the day leadership that is based on centralized power will eventually break down.
Abundance of Rules and Regulations. To keep a transactional model on track, there must be an abundance of rules and relations. Otherwise, how could the actions of “followers” be controlled by the leader?
Little tolerance for Diversity: A transactional leader does not tolerate diversity simply because in her mind it does not contribute to efficiency. The “my way or the highway” mentality sets in. Diversity is seen as an obstacle to success.
Strong emphasis on hierarchy: Put simply, in a transactional environment the “lower downs” are treated differently than the “higher-ups.”
Information bottle-neck: The transactional leader guards information as a tool to get what he wants from his followers. Decisions are made by announcement, leaving the “followers” to feel out of the loop and disenfranchised. A big emphasis on departments and compartments marks the transactional environment—and people are punished for working outside their “department.” Innovation and teamwork are squelched.
Loyalty is the Highest Virtue: A transactional leader values loyalty above all else, including truthfulness. Tests of one’s loyalty abound. To fail to comply with the leader’s wishes is perceived as disloyalty and may result in demotion or being forced to leave the group. In a transactional environment, truth-tellers feel compelled to leave. In such cases, the transactional leader “makes an example of” those who leave, and a strong appeal for loyalty is given to those who remain.
Truth-tellers are the seeing eye of any team or organization and when they leave, the organization loses its way.
T R A N S F O R M A T I O NA L L E A D E R S H I P M O D E L
The transformational model is all about teamwork. Team members are seen as the most valuable asset to the organization. While the leader has a vision, his idea of how that vision can be accomplished is not set in stone. Others are invited to participate and add strength and value to the team. In the transformational leader’s mind developing people on the team IS the vision. What is accomplished through the team is gravy. Here are some of the marks of transactional leadership:
Emphasis on developing people versus promoting a program: In John chapter 17 Jesus told His Father “I have completed the work you gave me to do.” As Robert Coleman, author of The Master Plan of Evangelism writes: “His men were his work!”
Influence instead of Power: This is a very important distinction. Power implies force–shock and awe–to bring about a condition of obedience. Influence implies imparting an inward motivation to follow and emulate someone. The spirit that drives Christian mission is to renounce worldly power and promote godly influence! These words are worlds apart! Guess which one Jesus advocated?
Personal initiative is encouraged: To have team members who are thinking outside the box, working with others to find solutions, and coming up with new ideas is the GOAL of the transformational leader. While such activity might warrant punishment from a transactional leader, it will bring promotion and recognition in a transformational environment.
Liberating and Empowering: Believing that there is no one way to get a job done, the transformational leader frees team members to stop out, take ownership and and do things in a way that puts their signature on the work.
Encourages trust at all levels: The transformational leader has a goal that each person will be fulfilled and sees every team member as having a unique set of gifts and talents that should be encouraged and developed. The more teamwork and innovation thrives, the happier the leader.
Application of principles instead of rules to follow: While rules constrain and squelch innovation, the application of principles unleashes it. Jesus, the ultimate transformational leader, showed us in the Sermon on the Mount how principles supersede rules and regulations. “You have heard from Moses…but I say…” Principles provide inner motivation and energy to accomplish a task. When the principle is understood and applied, rules and regulations are unnecessary.
The leader is not the superior. Jesus threw down the gauntlet by say “He who is the greatest in God’s kingdom is the servant of all.” and “whoever desires to be first (chief) among you, let him be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”(Matt. 20:27) But there is the clincher:
Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-27)
In other words, the leader of the team serves the team members by providing them the opportunity to develop their skills and talents. That is the goal of transformational leadership! Other traits of transformational leadership are:
Accountability at all levels…
Truth telling is encouraged…
Everybody participates in the decisions…
Structure is very flexible and adaptable…
Great respect for the individual and openness toward entrepreneurs…
Always visionary in nature…
Need I write more? It is clear that transformational leadership is Biblical, inspires confidence, and in the long run will go much further in accomplishing the task before us!